I am a Final Year Student Designer Looking for Feedback on a Prototype

Discussion in 'Researchers, students and professionals' started by douglasbrand, Oct 27, 2015.

  1. douglasbrand

    douglasbrand Registered User

    Oct 20, 2015
    Hey Guys,

    I am a Product Design student at Robert Gordon University currently working on my final year project. The subject area I have chosen is dementia care, as I have been told on separate occasions by different dementia carers and nurses that not enough products are available on the market that engage the user into a more social setting, so I aim to address this in my research and development. I am only at the initial stages of my project, but have already began prototyping methods to make current available solutions even better. I have made a prototype entitled the “House of Memories”. The idea here was to combine two existing products in a manner that improves the positive aspects of them while also getting rid of some of the negative. The images can be found here: imgur .com/a/lsbWx

    I focused on the lockbox as this is a popular product that engages users on a sensory level and keeps them engaged, however the issues I identified with this were that its quite insular, leading to very little interaction with others during its use, and also that it was unrewarding due to the locks all either leading to the same interior or in some cases nothing at all.

    I decided to enclose reminiscence cards under each of the doors. These are another popular product that can boost social interaction, but from speaking with nurses the success of these types of products are quite particular, as it can be difficult to engage the user’s attention and entire sessions can go by where no memories are recounted by them.

    By combining the tactile locks with the rewarding memory cards, the users brain is wired to engage with the lock so that when the image is revealed, the user is more likely to recount the memory as they are already in a cognitive mindset. Colours were also used for the different doors so that memory games could be utilised during it’s use, and user’s will grow to associate certain colours with different sets of memories with time.

    I am looking to receive any feedback at all on this design, any improvements suggested will be greatly considered and I will take any criticism on board. This is an initial design for a world I am still a little unfamiliar with so I would actually like feedback to be as critical as possible, this is just a prototype so I’m not attached enough to it to take anything to heart! If anyone wishes to contact me with further information or suggestions, drop me a message and I’ll be more than happy to communicate in whatever manner suits you. I am doing this project for an entire year so will be looking to gather as many contacts as possible!

    Regards, Douglas
  2. garnuft

    garnuft Registered User

    Sep 7, 2012
    Sadly I think this snippet from your post shows naivety about dementia.

    My point is, people with dementia have extreme short term memory loss and time will only exacerbate the problem.

    I bought my mother a couple of 'dementia focused' products...a book about family life and a jigsaw.

    At no stage during my mother's dementia were they suitable.
    She would always have felt insulted at their introduction.
    I realise this is particular to my mother but a catchphrase on this site is...
    When you have seen one person with dementia, you have seen one person with dementia.

    Lots of others relate stories about their loved ones liking to have rummage boxes, tactile blankets...with buttons and different textures etc., not suitable for my mother.
    She had no insight into her condition and was never amenable to this sort of therapy.

    Sent from my iPhone using Talking Point
  3. Juliem61

    Juliem61 Registered User

    Oct 13, 2015
    #3 Juliem61, Oct 27, 2015
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2015
    Hi Douglas,
    I've had a look at your product and these are my thoughts. I've got two family members with dementia, one mid stage vascular dementia and altzheimers and one severe altzheimers.
    I think that they would both find your locks too difficult. Perhaps, if the locks were more like simple fastenings such as laces, Velcro, buttons etc.
    Also, If possible, I would consider putting the hinges on the inside of the doors as they would probably confuse them as to which is the lock and which the hinge.
    I have got memory cards very similar to yours and have found that the ones that are photographic scenes, rather than photos of items, are more successful in prompting memories. The ones of items seem to be a bit random, whereas, the person may think that they are in the photographic scenes and feel more keen to talk.
    Also, the user is extremely unlikely to become familiar with the colours but I do think colourful appealing decoration is a good idea.
    I think it needs to be a bit less childlike, maybe not a house, looks a bit like a kids toy.

    I hope this is helpful. If not, ignore me, what do I know?
  4. Mrsbusy

    Mrsbusy Registered User

    Aug 15, 2015
    I haven't looked at the design, but from what you have said and I apologise if I am wrong, but this is based on a dementia sufferer learning to unlock a box etc. personally I think a lot of people of this site wouldn't encourage their dementia sufferer to learn about undoing locks, as a symptom of some sufferers is they become obsessed with escaping, and in some cases with tragic conclusions. Carers have to remove keys, buy door monitors and have gps tracking devices to keep them safe so unlocking activities seem to be the wrong idea to me. Sorry but just my opinion.
  5. douglasbrand

    douglasbrand Registered User

    Oct 20, 2015
    Thanks so much for all this guys, I found a lot to consider in each of your posts. Garnuft, I think the point about me being naive about dementia hits the nail on the head, I am still very much an outsider to this topic so feedback like this allows me to get a more human perspective on matters rather than just what I'm reading in textbooks. I found your quote 'When you have seen one person with dementia, you have seen one person with dementia.' extremely relevant in particular, as I am still trying to get away from the idea of dementia as a disease with clearly defined symptoms, when it's more of an umbrella term that the sufferers of this disease find themselves under for a variation of reasons. When you say your mother had no insight into her condition, I find this to be the biggest hurdle of all for design in this area as it is not only difficult to measure the tangible benefit a product has, but also to create something that will appeal to users in a manner that they feel open to interact with. Thank you so much for sharing this information with me, its been invaluable.

    Juliem61, I found your feedback incredibly useful also, as it's made me consider more deeply the physical design of this product. It's opened my eyes to the idea that every design decision made in this field must have a reason, and even the smallest thing, such as the hinges, can lead to a total failure of the product. The comment about it's childlike appearance is also crucial to me, as this is definitely something I am noticing about a lot of products on the market for dementia sufferers and is something I definitely want to get away from.

    Mrsbusy, I found the comment about locks being unsuitable extremely interesting, as the use of these was based on an idea that is not only available on the dementia market but quite commonplace. This is the same feedback I received from someone else I know familiar with dementia and has addressed a major issue with design in this field; that people don't consider the wider impact their designs can have on peoples lives.

    For me the stand out quote in terms of my personal approach was 'the person may think that they are in the photographic scenes and feel more keen to talk'. I have previous experience designing for children's hospitals wherein I designed a projection system that allowed for children to draw and interact with projected imagery on the ward's windows, in a manner that allowed them to be part of the scenery they created. Do you think designing a system that literally put the user in a certain place and time by means of photographic manipulation or visual and physical cues could improve their interaction and communication with others?

    Regards, Douglas
  6. cragmaid

    cragmaid Registered User

    Oct 18, 2010
    North East England
    #6 cragmaid, Oct 28, 2015
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2015
    Sorry...more negative feedback.
    . Perhaps I could point you towards Ann Mac's posts on the " So Bizarre" thread.
    Ann Mac's MIL has severe Dementia. She lives at home with her son, Daughter in Law Ann and their family. She attends a day centre daily. Mil ( as we call her) has great difficulty living in real time. She is at school, work, in a hospital or an office. She alternates between being married to her own son, and being a schoolgirl. She is convinced that she has a "babby" several dogs, and a daughter in law who beats her ( not) and lives in Ireland ( which she did as a child).

    Now imagine putting this lady in front of a screen at the Care Home and playing her a film of ...for example, a trip to the sea side at during the 1950's. By the time she gets home that evening, she will have been to the sea side and her parents must have left her there because , well they haven't come home with her, and where's Mum or when is Dad coming for her, and we live at the beach, and you are keeping me here locked up, a prisoner!! She has a very tentative grip on reality and would not be able to separate pretty pictures from real life.

    I have no doubt that this scheme might work with some people, but not for the more severely disturbed. Books and Pictures may be less disturbing than moving images.
    By the way, My own, late Mum, carried her own pictures and images in her mind and could share them with anyone, whenever she chose.

    Good luck, Maureen.
  7. garnuft

    garnuft Registered User

    Sep 7, 2012
    Good point, Maureen.

    My mother was well able to tell her own stories, indeed she loved to do so, to the point where all she needed was an attentive person, sitting next to her, listening.

    She stopped responding to the stimulus of family photographs, no matter what decade they were from and even as an accomplished writer, failed to see the point of any 'story' whether real-life or fiction.
    The only story she wanted to tell was her own and she needed no physical prompts to do so.
    Just a captive audience.

    As a mother of an adult (28) child with severe disabilities, I wonder Douglas, that you are confusing the therapy needed for children, the therapy needed for children with disabilities, the therapy needed for adults with congenital disabilities and the therapy needed for adults who develop dementia.

    I would say your best chance of designing for adults with dementia would be to spend substantial amounts of time with people who have dementia and NOT when they are in the care of care workers.

    In their home environment, though of course your presence will affect the result...then you will discover what the possibilities are for the equipment you want to design.

    Best wishes, I fear the reason there is so little suitable equipment is simply because there is so little understanding about dementia and certainly no 'one-size-fits-all' solution.
    But I wish you well and hope you rise to the challenge it presents.
    One day someone will, perhaps it will be you?

    Sent from my iPhone using Talking Point
  8. douglasbrand

    douglasbrand Registered User

    Oct 20, 2015
    Don't worry Maureen, negative feedback is very welcome! At this point the negative is far more important than the positive as it helps me identify the problems anything I make will have early on rather than when it is reaching the final stages. That's an excellent point you made, I think my mind still a bit lost in my last project so I'm still a bit caught up in that headspace and forgetting about key differences between the people I'm designing for.

    I think what the eventual outcome I'm looking for is a method of triggering the recall of memories and stories from patients, and then having something in place that will allow then to communicate these in a clear, engaging manner that will benefit both the person with dementia and the person they look to interact with. Garnuft, I think you're bang on when you say about interacting with adults who have dementia. I think a big problem with designers, myself included, is that we tend to force our own thoughts and beliefs into a project in a way that can cause us to be a bit blind to what the actual problems the user faces are. I've contacted my local Dementia resource centre in order to arrange some further information and guidance so hopefully this will steer me in the right direction!
  9. canary

    canary Registered User

    Feb 25, 2014
    South coast
    Douglas, I admire your reasons for your project, but please, please dont just request more information. Information is good, as far as it goes, but nothing beats personal experience, especially if you are designing something novel. Go and actually spend time (and not just 10 mins) in a day centre and/or a dementia unit so that you can actually see how people with dementia interact with their world.
  10. Beate

    Beate Registered User

    May 21, 2014
    Memories don't just get triggered by pictures but also by sounds and smells. It is said that music is the sense that leaves last. A lot of people living with dementia who can't remember a thing anymore, can still sing along to songs from their past. That's why Singing for the Brain is so popular. Not every song will mean the same for everyone but it might be an idea to play snippets from popular old songs when a lock is opened?
  11. joggyb

    joggyb Registered User

    Dec 1, 2014
    I'd echo Canary. My father has been in a care home for a year, and over the time that I have visited him, I've watched and learned so much about dementia that I never had even the faintest inkling about previously.

    Dementia is so often not just about memory - as so many people seem to think. It's about cognitive functioning (and its breakdown) generally.

    For example, my Dad has a picture of me and him on his bedroom door - but he doesn't make the link between that and the fact that it indicates that it's his room.

    You can hold out a shirt for him to wear, but he'll do anything but understand that it's for him to put on, even if you try to show him what to do. I once tried to get him to change some too-small trousers he'd put on by mistake. Even though he couldn't do the wrong pair up, and was getting frustrated by them, and even though I was holding out in front of him the right trousers - there was nothing I could do to get him to understand what to do.

    Those are just 2 examples. Each resident in his home presents differently, with different symptoms, and with different levels of understanding and awareness.

    As others have said, do go and spend time with people living with dementia. Not just one hour, but lots of time. Just go and watch, observe, as well as interact. The experience(s) will inform your thinking and project much more than you might ever anticipate.

    Good luck.
  12. redsox

    redsox Registered User

    Feb 28, 2015
    I think it would engage some people, some of the time.
    My mother has vascular dementia. She has no language skills, speaks random words that make no sense. At times she can be very engaged with photos and likes to hold them.
    Not much chance of building any connections, the brain is dying and not just the memory part, but no reason why colours can't be visually pleasing!
    I have just started work in a care home, there is a lack of any stimulation for the residents, your work is worthwhile. Good luck with your studies.
  13. onlyme1

    onlyme1 Registered User

    Sep 10, 2011
    dementia friends

    might I suggest you become a Dementia Friend ?

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