Design Academy Eindhoven
The Landscape Blanket fulfills a simple and universal need. I felt an immediate empathetic connection to the product creator. The product itself seems to be somewhat underdeveloped and has the potential to benefit greatly from further development and product planning. – Chris Gadway
This is an great example of the power of design to make a potentially large positive impact quietly and with existing tools. We all loved this entry right away and we would love to see it further refined, detailed, and productized. – Michael DiTullo
A winner in overall concept, the Landscape Blanket re-thinks the importance and function of a blanket in the healing process by integrating humor and creativity. – M Coleman Horn
The Landscape Blanket brings humor and warmth into the hospital environment, a place where both are typically lacking. – Greg McNamara
Landscape linen aims to change the sickness experience. Able to be used at home or in the hospital it incorporates distraction, humour and social interaction to positively impact the wellbeing of the patient and their visitors. Playful at its core, it prompts for people to fill it in, individually, collaboratively or competitively. Aiming to help pass the time during recovery and spark conversation during visits. Fashioned from soft, naturally-dyed bamboo fleece the blanket begins blank and over time and participation a unique, colorful landscape begins to form on its surface enveloping the patient with traces of well wishes.2. The Brief: Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the context for the project, and what was the challenge posed to you?
The landscape blanket is one of the outcomes from a project titled ‘Designing Health’ which explores ways of incorporating mental, and social health into contemporary medical practice. It is not another healthcare project.
Founded on the World Health Organization definition which states that “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. This product is part of a discussion of what holistic design within healthcare could be.
Many of the outcomes of the “Designing Health’ project may seem small or simple, but throughout the course of this year long project I found anecdotally that in many instances small things can make a big difference in how we feel when we are unwell. It is all about changing the sickness experience. Although it cannot be fully explained or measured, there are strong links between the physical, mental and social aspects of any person. So although it may seem trivial, medical science backs up concepts such as Landscape blanket, that how we feel, makes a difference when it comes to the body healing. Today in medicine we tend to concentrate on the body during times of illness, but often there is a lot more under the surface.3. The Intent: What point of view did you bring to the project, and were there additional criteria that you added to the brief?
In its own way, the project aims to address health holistically empowering patients to take charge of their experiences of illness. It also hopes to create an environment where both the patent and the visitor are comfortable to converse or spend time with one another.
The product puts patient in the center, and allows them to dictate how it is used. They can choose if, how or when to use it and who to share it with. On a very simple level it allows for personal expression, and for something ‘out of the ordinary’ to occur during a period of illness. Easily manipulated it allows for touch and warmth.
Although illness etiquette exists, often visiting hours are filled with taboos and awkward silences. Commencing in the passing of the flowers or chocolates, often little is done other than flicking through television channels together. Despite this limited interaction, friends and family visiting can have benefits to a patient’s wellbeing. Things like humor, distraction and the support of a social network have an impact on recovery. The landscape blanket hopes to provide a common activity when communication is difficult, or perhaps is nothing left to say. A distraction for the patient when they are on their own or something they can invite others to fill out.4. The Process: Describe the rigor that informed your project. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc., as applicable.) What stakeholder interests did you consider? (Audience, business, organization, labor, manufacturing, distribution, etc., as applicable)
The landscape blanket used Phenomenology as a design research tool. It provided me with the richest insight into the world of illness. I started with the belief (which I still believe now) that I couldn’t be expecting to create new sickness experiences without having any base experiences to build upon.
Over the course of a year, I compiled a collection of experiences, both my own and those of others. I started this collection with a review my own sickness experiences. This included things I did (or my parents did) during my childhood illnesses and accidents, my hospitalizations, and all my most recent illnesses. The prompt for looking into healthcare was the not-so-trivial Chickenpox I contracted at 26. I analysed what worked for me and what didn’t. Armed with this I could compare what I had experienced to the experiences of others, to an extent I created a baseline.
I approached asking others in a more novel way. Talking about health was generally awkward enough, so I tried to see if I could change the experience of talking about it a little. I created an interview kit, to take with me for one-on-one chats. Armed with this kit and my questions I talked to pharmacists, doctors, scientists, acupuncturists, Ayurveda practitioners, medical designers, people with chronic illnesses, as well as, anyone I knew that was sick at the time. Apart from fully filled questionnaires I gained a notebook full of personal stories, which not only inspired me but motivated me throughout the design process.
What they shared with me was often very insightful and personal. And although they had deferring opinions on how to cure a cold, I found all of them agreed that the experience of being ill can have more than a physical impact and that social support can be a precursor for a speedy recovery. Social support came up a lot in conversation, everyone mentioned that it was their family and friends that they would rely on to help them in the event of illness. These findings, although common sense, supported my literature review findings, and gave me real world examples to design for. Currently there is an increasing amount of research being done on the relationship between social health and physical health outcomes.
As well as interviews; the product was tested in homes and hospitals in the Netherlands and Australia, It tested particularly well during visiting hours in hospitals. The simple paper prototype seemed to enable an easier flow of communication. One tester which was pregnant, really enjoyed having the product when her younger child visited, giving them something to do while the whole family waited. The atmosphere around the prototypes seemed a little lighter; this was noted by the staff. Another tester, Lucy a 79 year old woman dying of breast cancer and in the Palliative care Unit at St. Johns of God Hospital in Geraldton, spent three hours with her daughter and son in law completing a prototype. They said they enjoyed doing something together.5. The Value: How does your project earn its keep in the world? What is its value? What is its impact? (Social, educational, economic, paradigm-shifting, sustainable, environmental, cultural, gladdening, etc.)
The landscape blanket is a product to complement medicine today, with an emphasis on the social and mental sides of health. It is a small intervention to alter the sickness experience. The inspiration for the blanket is from Complementary medicine’s metaphor ‘Body as a Garden’ in which the body needs ongoing maintenance and time invested in order to grow and flourish. This is reflected in the design, not only by the choice of graphics, but the way it is used. Starting with an almost blank sheet, with textured print, with time and effort the landscape is formed around the body.
Using textured inks the blanket has natural fold and fault lines that could are discovered on touch. The blanket is made out of naturally dyed bamboo fabric which is remarkably soft, warm, naturally anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and sustainable. How it feels on the body is essential, texture is added to complement the cashmere-like bamboo fleece. Natural dyes provide soft pastel tones without the additional use of chemicals.
Using washable markers (allows for multiple uses) the patient can colour in and fill out as many activities as the wish. They can use it to reflect how they are feeling, and provide an escape from the world of sickness they are immersed in. The repetitive action or colouring, and the distraction of games, can create a relaxed mind set (mandalas are currently in use therapeutic oncology). The landscape blanket makes passing the time more comfortable, and potentially a little less anxious or frustrating.