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Designing Something Meaningful

SEPTEMBER 14 2016 • BY JASON LUK

Jason Luk is an experience designer who has been working for a strategic innovation agency for over 3 years and recently transitioned to Healthcare Human Factors embedded at the Toronto General Hospital.

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“I want to design something meaningful!”

This is a phrase you will hear often. That last word “meaningful”, is a loaded word for designers. Designers chose a career that is in service of other individuals. They put all their creative effort and energy in making services, products, interfaces easier to use for people they will never meet.

The culture at my last workplace, an innovation agency, was fun, exciting, unique and at times can be almost intoxicating. Fun team building days, ping pong tables, dart boards, the fun things you can do while you’re there is long. But, they are great for what they are, perks, but you don’t choose where you want to work for the perks. The work can be just as exciting, you get to explore music players, self-driving cars, virtual reality, and the list goes on and on. But as time passes and the gloss fades, I really started to go back to that word “meaningful” and how that applies to what I’ve been designing professionally for the past few years.

Coming from an agency and going to work at a hospital isn’t exactly what most people might have in mind when considering where to go next professionally. That said, I count myself lucky to be where I am today. Designing in healthcare isn’t that much different from working at an agency. You explore, you ideate, you work collectively, but most importantly, you have fun finding solutions to problems in something that affects everyone, health.

Health problems or opportunities are complex and can be difficult to articulate, but they are unique and varied. How often do you need to design for a 65-year-old male as your primary user? When will you be able to regularly meet a variety of users who express their personal stories to you one-on-one? How likely will you in your career design something that All that coming from just one project.

Meeting people with real personal stories and how the decisions our team make can influence their experience really began to redefine what was meaningful in our output. This places a different lens in our practice that isn’t necessarily taken into account when designing for a music player, for example. Designing with empathy, and truly understanding the difficulties people face as they are diagnosed with possibly a fatal disease is something a designer here at Healthcare Human Factors is always thinking about. It is a crucial characteristic that every designer here needs to be successful.

While the design work remains similar, that are fundamental differences that every designer should learn from. Client relationship and management can be elaborate. Healthcare has ties with research, grants, the government, these stakeholders result in a myriad of communication and holds in a project, but learning how to navigate them is a skillset you can take well into the future. Because of the nature of a grant, you may not get the chance to release a beta and take user driven data to make the appropriate changes. How will that change your process? It may be difficult, but learning and having creative solutions to circumvent them is part of the fun in working in healthcare.

If you have ever uttered the words “I want to design something meaningful,” think about what your definition “meaningful” is. When you think about it, how does a well-designed music player change lives? For me, “meaningful” is putting my creative energy to help people have a better experience in their care. It is fulfilling, fun and there is no question in my mind who I am helping.

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