For my Final Master Project (FMP), Qwiek was my client. Qwiek is a company which innovates in assistive care technologies to improve the overall experience of care for older adults and people with cognitive disabilities.
In collaboration with them, I have designed Qwiek.book. Qwiek.book is an interactive album for people with dementia, which allows curating, collecting and reliving personal photos and audio fragments.
During my FMP, I have tried to implement as much knowledge gained by the courses and projects throughout the Master program.
I already had already obtained an understanding of conducting design research within residential care facilities in my M1.2 and M2.1 projects. However, for Qwiek it was very interesting to look at ways to expand their market to the home care environment, as their currently available products are already in almost 1 out of 3 residential care facilities. Moreover, there are way more people with dementia who are still living at home, than there are living in residential care facilities.
Informal caregivers are vital for the home care environment, and in a lot of cases, they depend on external help to reassure good quality care. A dementia case manager can be seen as an important link between informal caregivers and other caregivers, which is why contact was sought with a case manager.
A person with dementia, together with their informal caregivers go through several phases over time, in which they are introduced to new people and new environments in each stage. Through the contact with various experts in the field, a stakeholder journey map was constructed to identify typical activities, feelings, thoughts, and needs of people with dementia and their informal caregivers in each phase.
Stakeholder journey map throughout the phases of the dementia continuum
From the moment at which a person is recognized to not be able to live at home anymore, they are likely to move out of their house to a residential care facility. In this instance, information from the person with dementia has to be transferred to formal caregivers. By designing a product that can help this transition, we can support communication from formal caregivers to new residents, and stimulate them to get to know the person behind the resident. By further delving into how the social layers in the home care environment are built up, typical situations in which personal information is transferred were made clear.
Typical situations of information transfers
The table shows various situations in which personal information of the person with dementia is transferred to other parties. By talking to various experts in the field, a better understanding was gained of how this information was saved and shared. The personal information that is gathered by stakeholders such as dementia case managers, day care staff and residential care staff is not always easily, or not at all times accessible to trusted related parties. Also, the privacy of people with dementia should always be insured, which is one reason that this information may not be accessible at all times.
This led to the initial concept of Qwiek.book. By using scenario based design, a clear idea was gained of how Qwiek.book should be introduced to people with dementia and their caregivers, and what functionalities it should have. Then, a user evaluation was set up using the co-constructing stories method. Participants of the user evaluation were able to tell their own story, and were presented with the scenarios, so they could comment on the features of Qwiek.book.
Envisioned users commented on the recognition in the presented scenarios, added value of Qwiek.book, their retrospective envisioned use, and other design-related comments. Then, a final concept sketch was made, and by creating a low fidelity prototype, the final concept design of Qwiek.book was further illustrated the video below.
The final concept design of Qwiek.book was also presented to the directing board of Qwiek. In this presentation, the value of Qwiek.book was made clear, and how it could help Qwiek to take the first step to expand their product portfolio to the home care environment, enabling more people with dementia and their caregivers to enjoy Qwiek’s products.
An insightful lesson I gained during this FMP was the fact that making and acting out several scenarios of a concept design can help a lot to find out whether it makes sense or not. It helped me understand my own design better and let me think of better ways of implementing different features. Making scenarios felt like a must in this project, as there was no possibility to physically test the design. Through discussions that occured during acting out these scenarios, I got to know my own design, and I was able to find ‘leaks’ in the concept design.
After some time, it became clear that I would be unable to implement the Technology & Realization competency within the FMP, as prototyping becomes hard when the university’s labs are closed. However, I have shown in previous projects that I am capable of creating functional prototypes. Instead, I focused on creating a high quality video for Qwiek to offer them a starting point for broadening their market to the home care environment.
Completing my FMP during times of corona sure was a challenge. Drastic changes were made to my environment, which made it hard to get things done. For example, recruiting participants for my user evaluation was very hard, as I was unable to physically meet with people and ask them to participate. It is very understandable though, as people have other things on their mind than helping out a student. I am grateful for the people around me who have helped me and motivated me throughout these times. Changes had to be made my initial plans, but I have tried to shift my focus into other activities. In the end, I am proud of the result that I have been able to put together.
As far as competency development is concerned, I can say that I have developed in each competence during the Master’s program. I have focused especially on the competencies User & Society and Creativity & Aesthetics. I feel that I have really excelled in my academic and research skills, rather than my design skills throughout the years. Though, the designs that I have made really represented my vision and identity. I want to help people in the best way possible, and I have shown that I am able to do that by my user-centered approaches.
I have developed the least in the Math, Data & Computing competency, which I think is a pity. During the Designing Intelligence in Interaction course I have really dove into machine learning and artificial intelligence. I really have learned a lot about this, but I feel that this area is just not meant for me. As a design researcher, I gain way more insights through qualitative means, rather than quantitative means. However, this does not mean that a basic understanding is lacking. I think that within a multidisciplinary team, I will be aware of what is possible and what is not.
The same holds for the Technology & Realization competency. I am able to create functional prototypes, and I am also capable of identifying what technologies might be needed or feasible for a given design concept. However, on a high fidelity level, I would not be the right person to do this job. I would be better off finding out whether the design choices made are the right ones, by evaluating this with the envisioned users.
Regarding the Business & Entrepreneurship competency, I have had the chance to cooperate with Qwiek, but during times of corona our collaboration was not optimal. Instead of going to their office once every two weeks, I was stuck at home and had to figure out how my design could help Qwiek by diving into the context in which the concept design would be used. I am glad that I have been able to work as an intern during the Bachelor program, as I would otherwise have no idea what I look for in a job.
During the Master’s program, I have overall grown as a design researcher, but also as a person. Due to all the experiences gained, I think that especially my professional communication skills have developed. I am able to work together well with external parties, which is essential for my professional career that will start very soon. My research will always be driven by design, and vice versa. I will always be up for a challenge, and I am willing to learn anything in the field of design.