Human-centred design builds health tech with heart

28 August 2018

Some of the world’s brightest minds are working together in Melbourne to make human-centred design ideas a reality.

Leah Heiss – a designer with a passion for health and nanotechnology – shared some of her work with the community at Melbourne Knowledge Week 2018.

She has created an array of health technology innovations including jewellery to administer insulin through the skin for diabetics, biosignal-sensing emergency jewellery, and swallowable devices to detect disease.

Recently, Leah worked with Blamey Saunders Hears to design Facett, the world’s first self-fit modular hearing aid.

The acclaimed design features an intuitive magnetic charger, and its form is inspired by the mineralogy collection at Museums Victoria.

‘Real empathy and deep engagement takes a lot of time and effort.’

‘My goal is to humanise wearable health technology through engaging with users to really understand their experiences of using these devices,’ Leah said.

‘Many people who wear hearing aids feel shame, stigma, embarrassment and isolation. We wanted to bring those emotions to the foreground of our design-thinking rather than simply focussing on function.

‘In short, we wanted to move hearing aids from disability to desirability.’

The Facett hearing aid

The Facett hearing aid
Photo: Matt Harvey, courtesy Blamey Saunders Hears

Leah and the Blamey Saunders Hears team showcased Facett’s design process at Melbourne Knowledge Week’s Future Hospital event, offering the community a unique insight into the extensive, iterative design process.

Museums Victoria has since acquired 130 of the prototype models – alongside drawings and the final product – for their heritage collection, recognising Facett as a great example of Victorian innovation.

‘It is critical that human-centred design doesn’t just become a buzz word. Real empathy and deep engagement take a lot of time and effort,’ Leah said.

‘We need to evolve products that actually resonate with people’s lives. For this, designers need to be at the table for longer than just six weeks at the beginning of the technology development.

‘Melbourne is a great place for this work because art and design is so fundamental to our city. This mindset is the perfect foundation for our biotechnology industry, business incubators and start-ups.’

For more information, visit A knowledge city.

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