The future state of health and wellness

Stephanie Yung
Design Director

Health and Wellness is top of mind for many of us as we experience a global health crisis first-hand. In this context, it was particularly rewarding to contribute to the judging of the 2020 Core77 Design Awards. My fellow jurors and I have been reflecting on the core themes that emerged, and what they tell us about the state of healthcare design today.

For me personally, COVID-19 has highlighted longstanding issues that existed well before the pandemic: making healthcare accessible to all, having a robust system in place to deliver that care, and engaging and empowering individuals in their own well-being.

This year’s entries spanned a wide range of user needs and problems from enhancing existing experiences to literally saving lives. They concerned all life stages from preemies to an aging population. Some entries featured more tangible products—like furniture, devices, or wearablesand other were less tangible—like information design, service design, and everything in between. The jury panel used these simple criteria to guide our decisionmaking: Does the entry solve for a true human need? Does it have design integrity? And does it offer the potential for positive impact?

Core77 2020 Design Awards - Health and Wellness Winners Video

Based on our deliberations, I invited my fellow jurors, Emilie, Clay, and Gina to share a theme to consider when designing in this category today:

Designing for interdependencies

Emilie Lasseron
Independent strategy director

“Health and wellness is notoriously complex and riddled with tensions —biology and behavior, systems and stakeholders, context and controls. 

In this space, the most powerful solutions are ones that embrace the interdepencies. Design needs to act on multiple levels and pull on many levers to create meaningful impact. For example, by recognizing that maternal health is just as much about racial disparities as it is about postpartum depression.

As we get better at integrating soft tissues and software or bringing healthcare home with remote testing, design needs to stretch to accommodate emerging dependencies. Designing information, designing behaviors, and designing DNA are all part of this new frontier.”

Collaborating to avoid blindspots

Clay Wiedemann
Head of design at ZocDoc

“We are seeing design teams more frequently ask who are we designing for, who is designing, and how we respond to who is left out. Designers must continue to ask these question, but also focuses on how solutions and systems shift or reinforce those gaps.

One growing approach is to include doctors and nurses on the design team, and not only as subjects of research, but as contributors. Their value obviously comes from their experience, what they do, but also what they see. In the age of big data, we need the people who spot nuance and bring focus in ways that quantitative data doesn’t encourage. But the success of this approach depends on what they see, and it is hard to ask about what we’re not seeing and why.

For example, because of the pandemic, telehealth is booming. This is wonderful: people can ostensibly get, or give, care from anywhere. But it also a reductive channel. It doesn’t have peripheral vision, and doesn’t encourage serendipity. And to the degree that it extends the reach of the successful, it risks of reducing the voices and varieties of care, and introducing new exclusions. Every solution alters behavior and creates new problems, and it’s often these effects that are the hardest to spot.

Designers always need to ask what they might not be seeing because teams are not inclusive enough, because systems have blind spots, and because each intentional change creates unintentional side effects.”

Finding creativity in chaos

Gina Reinmann
Industrial design manager for wearables at Google

“Design is all about solving problems. We are witnessing a time when humanity is being challenged with a global pandemic. From chaos, however, often comes collaboration, innovation and creativity. 

A collective hyper-focus has resulted in many innovations improving lives of front-line workers (e.g., a teenager’s design for a simple clip to prevent masks chafing ears). Amateur and professional designers are sharing creative solutions, building upon existing designs, using materials in smarter, more efficient ways, and reaching broad audiences who can easily access and replicate. The design and manufacturing process has effectively been compressed by a network of designers and makers. People at home have realized how to contribute to our collective safety in these ways.

My hope is the contributions of everyone involved will lead to lasting positive systematic changes in the health and wellness design industry beyond 2020.”