Michael is a brilliant architect (possibly even a starchitect) and product designer, recognized throughout the world for a list of nearly 160 important buildings spanning a nearly 50 year career. A serious infection in 2003 left Michael paralyzed from the chest down (he joined us in an iconic Dean Kamen-designed iBot wheelchair that can raise him up to standing eye level for conversations), a story that he very candidly shared with us as a lead in to the work he’s been doing on hospital design.
Michael shared a story about the first day he was able to get out of bed, dress, and transfer himself to his wheelchair, a critical step on the path to being released from the hospital, only to find that he couldn’t shave or even reach the taps in the bathroom while in his chair. He has since invested considerable time and intellect into designing a furniture series for hospitals, starting with an overbed table, a side table, a chair, and a dresser, all beautiful and highly functional.
Their work has been highly focused on both of those attributes, unwilling to sacrifice form for function or vice versa. The handles turned out to be critical elements, focusing attention not only from patients and their families but also from the all important cleaning staff, who have obvious targets to draw their limited attention. I was particularly fascinated by their approach, which essentially amounts to bringing the User Centered Design (UCD) toolkit to play in the industrial design field. Klick follows a similar approach in designing all of our experiences, with our crack UX team taking point and ensuring that the whole process is centered around the target users. That’s not always the case in the physical world, where cost cutting often hacks the finer points out of a design before it sees the light of day.
Kudos to Michael and his team for making sure they stay in (although he did let all the Bauhas fans in the audience know they would be disappointed by all the rounded corners), and kudos to Stryker for helping to commercialize and launch the project.