The Tower at STAR - 7th Floor 100 Discovery Boulevard Newark, DE 19713
Fashion and science are two completely divergent things
“Fashion and science are two completely divergent things. It’s an oxymoron to a lot of people. Using ‘fashion scientist’ as my job description helps me start the conversation around what I do in a way that people can understand.
I had no interest in going into a health-related field. I had the very traditional, ‘I want to go to New York and be a rockstar fashion designer’ – just like every other fashion student. And I had done that for a little bit. I worked in childrenswear. I always really loved costume design and fashion as an art form, like the craftsmanship of clothing and historic clothing, so I went back to school to get my master’s in what's called ‘fashion curation,’ looking at fashions in museums.
My first semester in school, I was taking a creative problem-solving class and my professor said, ‘You’ve got to do an unusual take on fashion, so let's do – oh, I don't know, fashion and health.’ She just completely made that up and she was purposely picking two topics that had nothing to do with each other.
Working with kids with physical disabilities or intellectual disabilities and trying to find out their needs was how I started. I fell in love with all these kids. I just got obsessed with wanting to help them - the way the families really brought me into their life and into their home. I very much embraced: ‘The user defines what the project is,’ which now is a huge mission statement for the Innovation Health & Design Lab. It's not me saying, ‘I’m gonna make jeans for kids!’ It's, ‘I’m gonna go out to the community and find out what the kids, or whomever I’m talking to, what they want.’
Now, with this lab, my role has changed quite a bit. I’m not the maker anymore. I’m the facilitator to the students being makers, so that's been a big shift. But I’ve realized by having that shift, I’ve been able to mentor these insanely cool projects the students come up with. Then they’ll go right out to the community to make sure it’s a real need.
Every time I meet with an end-user or I talk to a caregiver or I test something out with someone who’s had a stroke and it's useful – it may not be perfect, and we’ll get to perfect down the road – that’s the addicting part. Once you make something that helps somebody’s quality of life, this is addicting. I can’t go back to cocktail dresses.” - Dr.Martha Hall, Director of Innovation Health & Design Lab
Category: Innovation and Design, College and University
The primary mission of the Innovation Health & Design Lab is to improve health outcomes and quality of life for various patient populations through design. Our research starts with patients and empathy – we meet with members of the community to design, develop, and test wearables that will enhance patient health and overall wellbeing. Wearables include clothing, wearable technology, protective equipment, and rehabilitative or medical devices. Our goal is to design wearables that address the broad spectrum of patients’ needs and to highlight the importance of patient-centered design in health sciences.
OUR PROCESS - We work with many patient populations, from children with disabilities to patients post-stroke to professional athletes. In every case, we begin our research studies with trying to understand the needs of the target patient population. We follow the Stanford d.school user-centered design process.
Establishing empathy is the key – we use qualitative methods to identify needs from the patient’s perspective, then define the design problem based on these results. We validate the problem with a larger sample of patients and related stakeholders (caregivers, health professionals, and industry experts). We ideate for potential solutions with our interdisciplinary team of researchers from the domains of occupational therapy, medical diagnostics, kinesiology, behavioral health, mechanical engineering, electrical and computer engineering, prosthetics/orthotics design, and fashion. It is through this unique lens and a participatory approach with our patient populations that we innovate, prototype, and test new wearables for health.
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