Designing in new directions

Design is moving in new directions. We know this, we’ve seen it adapting, shifting and transforming in different sectors and in areas that our Industrial Design (with a capital D) predecessors left untouched. I’ve been lucky to be included in this movement, swept up in it in fact, but it can sometimes be difficult to explain why design is now operating where it is.

Never has this fact hit home more than it did on Friday evening; I was on the phone in Preston station, waiting on a delayed train to take me on my homeward journey from Manchester to Glasgow and explaining to my father why I had spent the day in the dialysis unit in Salford Royal Hospital.

Snook were invited down to Manchester to take part in an ongoing project with Martin Bontoft and Janet Hegarty, a Consultant in Kidney Medicine. This relationship is about Dialysis patients better understanding/managing the levels of Sodium and Potassium in their diet through effective yet simple means that can later be reproduced by the team in Salford.

The next step is a collaboration bringing together departments from all over the hospital to concentrate on issues that raise problems across their various fields. Snook were brought in to help in the area of blood pressure, in particular helping to visualise what it means to patients and how important managing your (invisible) blood pressure is when you are on dialysis.

We’re going to be mocking-up ideas quickly and testing them out with staff in Salford soon.  My day in the hospital with Martin brought lots of ideas to the surface that we will be bringing to life with paper, scissors, glue and cardboard (our favourite type of prototyping!)

I met a lot of amazing people, who deal with A LOT. The nurses who work on the units, with 170 patients coming in to the thrice-daily shifts, the technicians who maintain these complex machines, and can show you a variety of interesting and informative data with their combinations on the buttons and the dietitians (who I should be spending more time with in trips to come) who help to shed light on the intricate balance that your diet rests on between dialysis cycles.

Speaking to some of the patients was eye-opening and, if I am honest, not entirely what I was prepared for. Watching one particular patient having his needles set up it became apparent that although I had been completely fine with the amount of blood on show; pumping and hissing around the spinning and bleeping apparatus, I was very quickly uneasy when witnessing the pain that was caused by the insertion and subsequent maneuvering of the needles.

Sitting at the nurses’ station, clearing the fog in my head and getting my hearing back it seemed that, at times, I can be a little too empathic (I wonder if I’ll lose this?) I really hope that the work and ideas that come out of this project will do something to make the patients lives even a little easier. It’s a tough life when you are on dialysis, spending up to 4 hours, 3 times a week hooked up to the machine – and having to manage every portion of food and every drop of liquid intake in between.

Design is capable of transforming, and it is places like this where it’s needed. That’s what I told my Dad on the phone in the station on the way home.

Look after your kidneys.

Kj x

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