Q&A with Sheng-Hung Lee, B.S., National Cheng Kung University, R.O.C.
Accessibility is a key element of designing a solution intended to be used in emergency situations. First aid kits, as one example, need to be as accessible as possible. A group of students in Taiwan recognized that Taiwanese families needed first aid kits to be more accessible and more universally designed. So they created Nursing Kit to solve for those things. For their troubles, they took home a Gold IDEA. In the following interview, we learn more about how they did it:
What solutions do Taiwanese families use instead of first aid kits?
We observed that the concept of a first-aid kit is not familiar to typical Taiwanese families. As we researched, we found that hospitals in Taiwan appear in such high density compared with nation area that there is no need to have a comprehensive first-aid kit. All a family needs at home is basic equipment like scissors, saline, tape, plastic tweezers, adhesive bandages and so forth. The box Taiwanese families call a first-aid kit contains this equipment.
Why does this also need to be a decorative object? What’s the benefit to that?
We discovered that users at home in Taiwan usually put the equipment in drawers or lockers and not in a first-aid kit. So it’s hard to find them in an emergency condition. We think the benefit of making a first-aid kit also a decorative light is killing two birds with one stone. The result: Easy to reach, hard to forget.
Were there any tools that had to be left out of the kit?
Clearly, personal medicines are not recommended to put in the first-aid kit. For users in emergency conditions, we are not sure of their needs or requirements or even the environments they stay in. Therefore, the equipment inside should be the general medication stuff not for the specific purpose like medicines, drugs and pills.
What concessions did you have to make to the universal design principles? Was there an earlier version that was more beautiful, but less usable?
This is a tough question for designers because we always make concessions to get the balanced point for achieving a better solution. We invested ourselves in the first-aid project so much without noticing the gradual transforming. Only through the sketch books and the videos can we understand the design modifications bit by bit. The interesting part is the earlier version is neither beautiful nor useful. It is just a design process for practicing the ideas and evolving the product.
It is common for design students to see the textbook as the Bible or unbreakable rules. That’s because seldom people will act it out by conducting the experiments and tests. We simply did the observation experiments such as one-hand test to simulate an emergency condition for how users or patients respond when facing a situation where they can use with only one-hand—either left or right. By videotaping, we noticed—and designed so that—users can open the kit by pushing down on it and turning. After opening the kit, the users can also clearly know the container is separated into three sections: Sterilization, Medication and Dressing, and they can follow the steps by themselves. The challenging part of process is observation. If designers cannot observe the core problem that means solution does not make any sense.
The form of Nursing Kit is gradually changed from a geometric shape like a cylinder to an organic streamline form. The looks do not really affect the fundamental functions. That's because we constructed and defined the features at first and then came out with the appearance later. Actually the exterior is based on the characteristics that we viewed it as the decoration lamp and the upper lid as a flashlight in the beginning. We think form design is a rational thinking instead of emotional drawing work on the premise of setting the fundamental features at first. In our case, the forms did follow the functions.
In what ways is the form factor of the kit and its component parts familiar to Taiwanese families?
We didn't attempt to emphasize the form factor itself. All we want to reach is the essential, universal product design, and form is just one of key factors. We found that the form of the product is not just considering the users' views, but also the engineering perspectives and the manufacturing costs. That is to say: it's hard to describe the one way to weight the form factors in different realms.
Its component parts—Curvy Scissors, Tape Dispenser, Tweezers Clip and Medicines Cap—are all based on the universal design principles. Each or them is not a brand new design product, instead the components above are redesigned the regular things to create a rapid, complete and easy-to-use first aid kit.
How have Taiwanese families responded to this prototype?
After Nursing Kit was awarded in gold in the category of product design and showed on the International Young Designers’ Exhibition (YODEX) two years ago in Taiwan, we’ve gotten lots of feedbacks and suggestions. The good side is that, in addition to Taiwanese families responding, we received users' judgments, companies' insights and other people who cared about the design. They were all impressed by our user-center design in every single detail. The Nursing Kit adds a breath of fresh air to the mundane. If they were to mention the two most innovative items, it’d have to be the Curvy Scissors and the integrated flashlight.
Take Curvy Scissors as an example. By using the sociology design method ANT (Actor network theory), we defined the problem through transforming the frame of the reference when users tried to pick up the scissors from a limited space inside the emergency kit. Normally we pretended using our eyes only but now we were in the eye of object by camera installation and recorded from the user’s action. The object’s views told us the solution: With a curved handle about six degrees, no matter which side of the scissors, the curvature makes it much easier for us to lift and fit our hands better. The down side is mainly for the manufacturing costs and business model. Duo to the undergraduate student project, we didn't think about both parts seriously. On the contrary, manufacturing and business are two curial reasons for letting Nursing Kit on the market proudly. And we are still working on it hoping that one day Nursing Kit can bring real benefits to the human kind profoundly.
To learn more, visit http://www.coroflot.com/sheng-hung.