Design method with user in mind

Rebecca Cain, Elisavet Dimitrokali, Jamie Mackrill

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Introduction: The physical design of healthcare environments has been shown to influence the emotional, cognitive and behavioural response of the occupants in both positive and negative ways. Occupants (staff, patients, visitors) have a unique experience of the design of the spaces and have a valued opinion to be captured. Design methods have a part to play in translating this experiential understanding of clinical environments into concepts that designers understand (see Bate and Roberts, 2000). Objective: This paper reports on a multidisciplinary research programme aiming to understand the importance of stakeholder participation in healthcare environment design. The essence of the research was to use design research method and design thinking in clinical environments with non- designers to create effective dialogues that create positive healthcare spaces. These methods are the focus of this paper reporting the results from three case studies in the UK including the redesign of an emergency department, the design of a bespoke wellbeing centre and staff feedback on design characteristics of a general practice health centre. Methods: Methods ranged from design workshops (including sketching and 3D modelling), digital situated crowdsourcing, interviews, stress walks and questionnaires to gather insights into each case study. 145 users consisting of staff, patients and visitors took part the in the research. Results: Despite nuances in the research question of each case study the methods proved successful in gathering experiential insights into the design of each space. Workshops, interviews and questionnaires enabled effective communication of stakeholder’s views drawing upon natural dialogue whilst using activities to facilitate creative thinking. More novel approaches such as ‘stress walks’ to discover environmental attributes causing stress were equally effective and enabled the contextual elements of space to be appraised first hand. Using digital technology via a bespoke situated crowdsourcing tablet computer offers opportunities for future participation to be made feasible due to benefits of perceived informality and security. Importantly using these approaches enabled designers to interpret research findings to inform initial design concepts of positive healthcare environments in an iterative process. Conclusions: The programme highlights the importance of participation in terms of drawing on the experiential understanding of stakeholder groups in developing positive healthcare environments. Challenges remain particularly in correlating the process of participation to objective measures of recovery, for example, to provide weight to the importance of participation. These future challenges and opportunities provide an exciting future research agenda in an effort to deliver positive healthcare spaces. Keywords: healthcare environment; participatory design; methodology
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2015
Externally publishedYes
EventDesign and Health: the 11th World Congress and Exhibition - China, Hong Kong
Duration: 24 Jun 201528 Jun 2015


ConferenceDesign and Health: the 11th World Congress and Exhibition
CityHong Kong


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