being a patient

I am obsessed with service, to borrow a phrase from Richard I think I am as close as it gets to being a service junkie. This means that  I spend my days devouring every tweet, article and policy about the health service, patient experience and the role design can play in that. In the early hours of Thursday morning I woke up with unbearable pains in my stomach. To cut a long story short, I phoned the NHS 24 hour help line twice, on the second phone call they referred me to the out of hours GP, who then referred me to casualty who then took me to a ward.  They kept me in for two nights and I had an ultra sound scan, blood tests, all kinds of other bodily tests ( ! ) and the conclusion is they think I had an infection in my appendix that has sorted itself out.

I have never been a patient before so there were many things that I noticed, appreciated, felt could be better, even when poorly those " design lenses " picked up detail and feeling.

It was the absence of communication that increased my anxiety. The taxi driver drove us to the hospital in silence - which made me think of Barry Schwartz's talk on our loss of wisdom and the way he describes the role of a hospital janitor. I've just moved into a new flat and had no idea where we were, if he had let me know we were only five minutes away it would have made the journey a little easier.

When I arrived I was asked to put a gown on, and my first instinct was why? Then being moved to the surgical ward, my first thought was does this mean I am going to have surgery.

And at shower time... where was I meant to go? are there towels and shampoo in there? well I didn't want to ask, what if they thought I was treating the place like a hotel! Alice, in the bed next to me filled me in , there is only hair mousse ( or moss as she called it ) so I asked another long haired lady for some shampoo ... the nurse gave me a towel.

Walking in to all these things for the first time, in pain, in a strange place, was the time I needed that extra bit of reassurance. I'm sure when you work in this environment all of the time you can take for granted the normality of it, and also the pressures of being emotionally attentive to people must be tough. But an explanation of the simple things between each new experience would have made a difference.

After those first few hours though, and into the rest of Thursday, Friday and Saturday, I was able to immerse myself more in to the ward. My bed was straight across from the desk so I could eavesdrop and watch all the goings on.

The staff seem like best friends, constant winks and giggles brought sunshine into the ward and I knew they were happy to be there. They come to work every day and genuinely laugh out loud, I don't think there are many people who are lucky enough to feel that way at their work.

The last experience I had with the NHS in Stoke Mandeville Hospital was horrific and inspired me to write an article on why the NHS needs service design. This experience was totally different and has inspired me to make a thank you card for all the staff in ward 16!

The NHS help line was particularly good and they helped me so much. Simple things like reassuring me they would call me back if our line got cut off and telling me they would make sure I got the attention I needed.

It's all about people, from how we communicate to how we smile. The staff in ward 16 are faced with people who are bored, stubborn, tired and anxious. Yet they see past that and go out their way to make sure you are comfortable and as at ease as you can be. The doctors really explained what was happening to my body and why and the nurses really cared. You can't buy that, or teach it. That's what I call true service.

Berlin Beckons

The  Service Design Network Conference Agenda was released this week. I went along to their first event in Amsterdam, November 2008, I couldn't afford a ticket on my student budget so I asked my university to buy me a ticket instead of paying me for the teaching I was doing at the time. Like many others I decided not to go to the event in 2009 primarily because its location, but it did spark a huge debate amongst the community about what the next conference should be!

So, here we are in 2010 with the "next conference "only months away! I'm feeling pretty proud of myself because I have been invited to be a keynote speaker on the second day and my partner in crime, Sarah is lecturing on the first day. I am also initiating a design challenge around Making Service Sense. A hat trick for the Snook team !

I can't wait to meet new people and put many faces to twitter names! This opportunity has really got me thinking, I want to make an impact. I re-read the post I wrote about the event in 2008 and the journey I have been on since then has been pretty incredible.

I can't wait to share it with you.

Fresh insight

I spent this morning exploring the ethnographic insights from first year students. After their introduction to ethnography last week, the class were asked to capture an insight over the weekend. After much discussion, Giorgio and I decided upon the best two entries. This entry is from Design Studies student Gavin Borthwick. This photograph is impressive, the lighting has a remarkable effect.14698176_7c44839711

Gavin chose to look at the unusual tradition of using old newspaper as a wrapping/ packaging for chip shop foods.

"To notice something infront of your eyes is a process that can be processed in a very short period of time. Before your mind can begin analyzing information, it searches for anything that stands out or seems a little more unusual than anything else. In my case, the newspaper clipping used for the packaging for a deep fried food seems almost ridiculous. When the object or thought is identified, the unusualness of the item is emphasised until it cannot be taken to any further stage. As the newspaper is and has always been designed to present news and information to the reader, the connection between news and food is non existent. Although people may identify that they are recycling their paper goods and 'saving the trees', their is no reason to combine the overall idea together."

This entry is from Design Studies student Douglas Wood. His insight concerned the traditional cooking pot. This conveys excellent use of text and imagery to vividly describe a product adaptation.


"Not only a utensil for suitably cooking foodstuffs in but when next to a sink, a useful place to store cutlery waiting to be washed or if the pot is clean, a place to store clean cutlery needing to be dried and/or put away. One of the main reasons why the pot is used is because there is a lack of storage space in the kitchen area for the individual to put their cutlery and other utensils. This does however make more sense than leaving forks and knives etc lying about were someone could injure themselves. Some other uses for the pot (not shown) include a helmet or hat and a low value drum (both of these are mainly practiced by children)."

* All the photos of the Design studies class are published with the consent of the pupils concerned.

I am encouraging the students to use this space to have a conversation about the work above.

Consider this:

The application of critical thinking?

The portrayal of the 'moment of noticing'?

The impact of photography?

The approach used to describe the insight?

How the two pieces of work differ?

Do you have a favourite?

Introducing Ethnography

Today I spent the morning introducing the first year product and media designers to Ethnography.We sent them off on a 'quick and dirty' task for thirty minutes to take a photograph or make a sketch of an observation. dsc01698

The key focus of today was the notion that observation sharpens our minds and lets us see what is happening; but it is the interpretation of the insight that is most important!


This exercise was designed to encourage the students to be 'visual listeners' and think critically. The students have to produce a photograph and insight over the weekend; the best one will be posted on this blog!


Cultural Probe Plant

Today I was asked to be a cultural probe participant :) I am very interested in cultural probes and find them a fascinating way to gain unique insight into people and the world around us. Probes were a big part of my research in my Honours project, find out more about how probes informed Douceurs here. Thank you to product designer Steph for including me in this little experiment. Learn more about her here.

This probe is focusing on establishing insight into how to make people's living environment healthier.

So my new plant is to become a part of my home for the next week. Its 'writeable' flower pot is a canvas for me to doodle my experience. I must say I am already a little attached :) My initial thoughts are this... I would never buy a plant for myself for various reasons, mainly because it is something I unfamiliar with and would feel very guilty if I neglected it. But, as someone has given me this little plant ( and the fact it is only little is important too) has made me like it much more! I will be documenting my week with my new plant.