Not anymore pills, just pure (and actual) design thinking.

We can easily affirm that healthcare will play a central role in the time to come.

But how do we handle healthcare complexity and increased numbers of operators and specialists?It sounds like a wicked problem that design thinking can solve. Despite the complex terminology that is need in this field(see picture 2), healthcare can be seen through the design lents.


Tom Brown, CEO of the worldwide design firm IDEO (, wrote an interesting article on Harvard Business Review (Brown, 2008) about design thinking and design capabilities. There he brought into light some examples of complex system in the healthcare that were successfully solved thanks to design thinking (see picture 3).


Fabrique, the Delft born design agency, has worked with the hospital system ever since. Lately, it has developed a new system for the hospital recovery of ill children, making their hospital room a new wonder-world, literally a dream world (

Medisign, design applied to healthcare,is a buzz that goes all around. It is powerfully claiming its important role. That is why the University of Tehcnology in Delft has opened up a special track on medicine&design (medisign,

I personally carried out a research project for six months about e-health, another hot topic in the broader universe of “decentralized patient person care”, together with the Sahlgrenska University Hospital (see picture 4). The topic we choose was indeed how to combine Design Thinking and Lean Thinking in order to prevent obesity. Although I the research was insightful and interesting, I am not in the medisign track,that is why, to clarify any doubts that might have risen so far in your mind, I had a chat with a colleague of mine (Valeria Pannunzio).



What designers do (and why they do so).

Ciao Vale, I am wondering if you can give a small description about medisign.

Medesign is a possible specialization with the Industrial Design Engineering at the TU Delft. While doing your Master’s, students can also focus on specific topics in Healthcare. The curricula is integrated with specific electives such as biomechanics or design of product in healthcare. It basically gives you the opportunity to steer your studies towards healthcare-oriented design.

What triggered you to chose such a topic?

For quite a set of reasons! I’ve always been into making tangible products and studying the interaction with the users(focused on physical ergonomics, anthropometry, digital human modelling).Furthermore, I expect healthcare to became a very popular field to work in the future due to forecasted societal and political changes (such as society ageing, healthcare systems reforms, etc.). But that is not enough I believe.There should be a strong passion in order to embrace a medical-related profession. Such as empathy towards human basic needs.

What do you think is the main value that designers can add to the healthcare system that engineers cannot?

So much! The problem with the engineering perspective alone is that the specific needs of the patient are often left aside,as if the care delivery was a battle between doctors and diseases. On the other side, focusing on the patient involvement and empowerment, such the patient centred care, is demonstrating to be more effective, cheaper and faster ; and this is something that only designers can do.

How Medisign projects differ compared to a typical design project?

Not much, I would say. I can see how some designers could probably feel frightened or dismayed in dealing with a Medisign project for the first time, but indeed there’s nothing in the project structure, methods or mindset that changes compared to a “standard design process”. Specific medical knowledge is not required.


Take away.

There is still a lot to uncover out there. This is just the beginning of a world trend, especially in the industrialized world, whereas prevention will be the new keyword for healthcare. Design is playing an important role, where Design Thinking and Human-centred design are the foundations for a new dictionary. I once assisted to a Tedx presentation, where one of the presenters illustrated a project made during the Medisign track. A system of “fake stairs”, as the one familiar to the street art (see picture 5), painted on the house’s floor, to help dementia and alzheimer patients to freely walk around their home. Yes, a design student researched it, studied it and designed it. It worked. I was amazed. Will you be the next one?



Author: Giulia Fioravera