The Singaporean designer helping dementia patients with her award-winning ‘memory tool’
When I graduated, what made me different was that I was a jack-of-all-trades. Also, the exposure I gained helps me to be critical of my future projects and to be more open-minded about how I see things. Finally, what I liked about the design course is that it allowed me to translate my imagination into an actual product.
YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF AS A DESIGNER OF SOCIAL PRODUCTS. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? HOW ARE YOU DIFFERENT FROM OTHER PRODUCT DESIGNERS?
“Social” here means interaction with people. I’ve always believed that design should be inclusive and that inclusive design, for me, extends to creating a system that makes it easy for almost anyone to contribute. For me, design is about including, involving and connecting people. In doing so, they become empowered to make a change themselves.
Through my creations, I hope more people realize how easily they can connect and help improve the lives of others around them.
In reference to my Rewind project, an element of inclusivity was introduced in a system that allows anyone to contribute content, so that older people from different cultural backgrounds can relate better.
TELL US ABOUT THE CATALYST AND INSPIRATION FOR REWIND
It all started when I was looking for a thesis topic to work on. It was a valuable opportunity to deepen my understanding of patients with dementia, a subject that is undeniably close to my heart.
Even though a member of my family suffered from dementia, I was never really able to understand the nature of their actions. Sometimes it seemed like they were acting to get our attention; at other times there was no warning for their emotional breakdowns.
And although it is almost impossible to understand or solve all the problems associated with the conditions of dementia patients, I started designing in the hope that I could improve their quality of life, even a little.
HOW WAS THE REWIND RESEARCH PHASE?
This project began with preliminary research online as well as attending seminars and sessions at daycares and nursing homes to understand the conditions and key concerns of patients with dementia. It was followed closely by first-hand observations, photographic ethnography, and informal interviews with older people and health professionals.
A problem-solving and co-design framework was applied throughout the process. By actively involving seniors and therapists in user testing and feedback sessions, this information enabled the development of more realistic prototypes after each design iteration.