My name is Mariska, and I want to become a designer in healthcare. I am an Industrial Design student at Eindhoven University of Technology. Recently, I worked on my final bachelor project, where I created a conversation tool for elderly who experience loneliness. Furthermore, I am working as a concept developer at MedApp, a company that helps chronic medicine users managing and ordering their medication. At this company, I gather input from potential users, and translate these insights into better user experiences for our platform. I love to sketch, brainstorm, visualize ideas, talk to and co-create with users, solve difficult problems, and work closely with a team. I am passionate about drawing and painting, in which I like to strive for perfection. This perfectionism displays itself into thinking of every detail within a design process. I like to use visualization to model processes, communicate new ideas, and better understand complex relationships. My strengths as a designer are that I am observant, I will empathize with the user, and I am curious about people and their experiences. I am collaborative, and I am passionately interested in improving the quality of life. My goal is to develop myself into a designer who is able to create meaningful solutions within healthcare, and who involves the user in every step of the process.
I believe that good human-centered design allows us to create healthcare innovations with the power to transform healthcare and the experiences of people struggling with health issues. As a designer, I think it is our responsibility to provide innovation that brings good to the world, by helping those who are vulnerable or not able to help themselves. A combination of industry knowledge and human-centered design is essential for creating good design for healthcare. I believe that this knowledge of the clinical landscape can only be achieved by close collaboration with healthcare providers and the willingness of the designer to place themselves into the situation of the patient.
Furthermore, I believe in the power of visualizations together with collaboration between expertise, to create good design. From my experience in the healthcare sector, I have come to see that ideas and systems such as company processes and relationships between people can be complicated and hard to grasp. Visualizing this information, could help extend cognitive abilities and makes the invisible visible. I believe that in the business world, the concept of creating visualizations, mind maps and drawing is quite new and takes a while to get used to. We as designers can introduce these kinds of methodologies and use this power of visualizations to create meaningful products together.
During the past three years of studying Industrial Design, I have contributed to several bigger and smaller projects. These projects reflect my vision as a designer, and how I approach design challenges. One of my first projects was Sketchy, where I gained experience in designing for children. Other projects include designing a cup holder for disabled people, research about the artificial womb, and designing for loneliness among elderly. During my internship, I gained experience in UI and UX design and in working with the Design Thinking framework.
This was a group project that was aimed at making children learn something by playful experiences. We went through an iterative process which included low-fi prototyping, expert validation, user-testing and experimenting with different technologies. The final outcome was Sketchy, a product that stimulates children’s fantasy and imagination and keeps them away from screens on mobile devices.
The concept consists of a box where children can see a hologram projection of their own drawings with the use of light boards, which would stimulate the children to use their own imagination. The values of the product are that it is playful, it learns children to develop and discover their creativity and fantasy, it is physical and it could even be used as a social device when the children are playing with a friend.
Sketchy, was my first big design project during my bachelor of Industrial Design, during which I got familiar with the steps of a design process. This project made me understand the value of making during a design process. I was involved in making several prototypes during this project and it surprised me how valuable feedback on lo-fi prototypes can be. I also gained experience in user-testing with children and I loved to see their honest reactions to our prototype. I focused the most on the competencies Technology & Realization and User & Society.
Together with a team of four people I did a project for the healthcare organization Severinus. The objective was to design a technical solution for a disabled man, which would help him to drink independently without the assistance of his caregivers. Through an iterative design, including regular visits to Severinus and testing the prototype, we would strive for a good technical solution for one the clients with sensory processing disorder.
We worked in several sprints after which we would visit Severinus to test our assumptions and gather feedback through user-tests. We came up with the concept of a cup holder that follows the vertical movements of a person’s head, and moves the cup towards him. Eventually, we created one working technical prototype and one separate 3D model of the design, giving the cupholder a modern and friendly look.
This project was the first project that I did in collaboration with a real client at a professional company. I learned how to design for a client, while taking into account the experiences of the end-user. User-testing within this company taught me the value of involving caregivers into the design process, especially when working with vulnerable target groups. Caregivers can give you valuable information about their patient’s behaviour, even if patients can not express their opinions themselves. The requirements of Severinus, involved using difficult technical solutions, which boosted my knowledge in working with electronics/programming and made me gain skills in Technology & Realization. I also used this product for developing in Business & Entrepreneurship, by making a business plan during a course I followed.
Together with a team of three people I did a research project on the artificial womb for premature children. The chance of survival of extremely premature children is very low and there are many complications. A possible solution for this could be artificial womb. However, there is a need for research about the human implementation, such as the appearance, functions and acceptance. Therefore, the goal of this research was to find out which requirements the artificial womb needs to have for the different stakeholders to be approved.
This research focused on three stakeholder groups: parents, healthcare professionals and student. Through a sample test, interviews and literature research, this study resulted in four valuable themes that should be implemented in the artificial womb, which can be the foundation of future research. Familiarity and natural resemblance, safety and health of the baby, involvement of the parents and workability for the medical staff.
Through this project, I gained experience in doing scientific research and writing papers, mainly focusing on Math, Data & Computing. Using low-fidelity prototypes during interview, made me experience the added value of researching through design. Focusing on Creativity & Aesthetics was a key factor while doing this research, since it involved the look and feel of the artificial womb. I liked that we would do face-to-face interviews with different stakeholders, from which I learned how to formulate questions for qualitative research. This project also made me consider the ethical perspectives of design and how important it is as a designer to critically think about how innovation would affect society.
In my third year of Industrial Design I did an six month internship at the company MedApp. MedApp is a company that helps chronic medicine users managing and ordering their medication. At this company, I worked as a concept developer. I helped developing the customer journey of the MedApp Pharmacy Service and developed concepts for a future version of the app. I made use of the Design Thinking framework during these activities.
I regularly talked to users via phone, face-to-face, via email and on MedApp’s online forum, after which I translated insights into concepts together with the team. Some of these concepts are already implemented in MedApp. Next to these activities I had some additional tasks including designing promotion material, making visualizations for presentations and creating customer journeys.
It was a very valuable experience for me to work as a designer in a professional environment. I gained experience in UI and UX design, by designing interfaces in the app and learning from professional app designers and developers. Working full time at MedApp taught me how the company is structured and what kind of responsibilities a designer has within the company. I also gained knowledge about the business aspects of design, by working with the founders of MedApp. The competency areas in which I developed the most during my internship were Business & Entrepreneurship, User & Society and Creativity & Aesthetics. Talking to the customers/users and seeing them being so grateful for this app that helps them in managing their medication, gave me a lot of satisfaction. This internship experience was for me a confirmation that I want to become a designer in healthcare.
My final bachelor project was about loneliness among elderly. Loneliness among elderly is becoming a big problem in the Netherlands. Chronic loneliness can cause health issues such as higher blood pressure, increased stress level and a higher chance of depression (Nationaal ouderenfonds, 2020). Many initiatives are available to provide activities and help elderly connect with each other. However, these activities are often just focused on social contacts, without having personal conversations about loneliness.In this project, Musical Conversations was designed, a game that helps elderly start conversations about their experiences with loneliness.
Starting personal conversations about emotions, can help elderly feel encouraged to do something about their loneliness. Sharing memories from the past and increasing awareness of emotions, can have positive short-term effect on depression, psychological well-being, and loneliness. In Musical Conversations, music is used as a starting point of a conversation, because it is a very powerful tool to evoke emotions and memories. Listening to music can even be used as a solution for decreasing elderly depression, often caused by loneliness. The focus of this design project was on literature research, expert validation and user validation. In the literature research, the causes, effects and solutions of loneliness among elderly was studied. The expert validation sessions were conducted with experts on loneliness from the organizations: Eindhoven in Contact, Ontmoet & Groet, and GGzE. Due to the limitations caused by the coronavirus, the design could not directly be tested with the target group. Instead, phone interviews, online surveys and user testing at home were used as input from potential users.
My final bachelor project taught me, among others, to be flexible as a designer and how to quickly adapt to unforeseen situations. Due to the coronavirus, the standard user testing within a design process could not take place. Instead, I explored ways of remote user testing, which could be a valuable skill for in the future. I developed mostly within in the competencies User & Society and Technology & Realization. Through doing this project, I learned how to include experts in a design project in a way that is beneficial for both designer and the expert. It taught me to listen to the underlying argumentation from experts and to draw conclusions even from contradicting information. My previous knowledge acquired by doing my internship, was used in designing the app and were further developed during this project. Designing for a vulnerable target group, such as lonely elderly, gave me satisfaction because helping people to be happier in life, is the way that I want to contribute to society.
As a professional career, I would like to work in a smaller design company that is user-oriented. I like that in a smaller company, you get to work closely together with people from different expertises. Preferably, I would like to work for a company that designs for healthcare, but as long as the user’s needs is put first, I could also be a company within a different sector. Next year, I am going to keep working as a concept developer at MedApp and I want to gain working experience at another design company that focuses more on design consultancy. I want to find out what kind of a designer I want to be, by gaining more working experience, before I choose a master program. I know that I would like to design for healthcare, but I am not yet sure if I want to focus more on research, design & development or strategic product design. I hope the design activities that I will do next year, will help me make a good choice for my future career.