It's a Charmr: A Vision for More User-Friendly Diabetes Management?
Project HealthDesign's blog points out the Charmr: a Design Concept for Managing Diabetes. The Charmr was designed by the San Francisco firm Adaptive Path, known in Web circles as a trendsetter with clients as diverse as Blogger, CNN and Crayola. To me, this concept development exercise is fascinating because Adaptive Path does not normally work in health or medical products but wanted to see if they could promote greater style and user-friendliness in medical devices. Take a look:
As the Project HealthDesign post notes, Adaptive Path took up the challenge posed by blogger Amy Tenderich of Diabetes Mine. In an open letter to Steve Jobs, Tenderich asked Jobs to apply his design genius to the devices people with diabetes depend upon every day:
If insulin pumps or continuous monitors had the form of an iPod Nano, people wouldn’t have to wonder why we wear our "pagers" to our own weddings, or puzzle over that strange bulge under our clothes. If these devices wouldn’t start suddenly and incessantly beeping, strangers wouldn’t lecture us to turn off our "cell phones" at the movie theater.
As far as we know, Jobs and Apple continue to focus on the iPod, Mac computer line and the iPhone (although the cell phone’s personal health potential has been noted by both Susan Promislo and Project HealthDesign). Yet, over the summer, Adaptive Path took up the challenge. They interviewed and observed people with diabetes, drafted people-focused design principles (such as making a device "discreet, elegant and comfortable"), and created concepts for stylish, functional and easy-to-use tools to continuously monitor glucose levels and manage an insulin pump.
Adaptive Path is not the first group to put the needs of people using a health technology at the center of a project: many of the Pioneer Portfolio’s grantees follow user-centered design principles every day. And it's a concept, nowhere near a functioning product. But the Charmr has definitely become a conversation-starter (I recommend skimming the comments at the Adaptive Path blog and Diabetes Mine). Will it stimulate new ways of thinking, and designing, that might affect the technologies that people use to manage their health tomorrow?
(Full disclosure: Adaptive Path has previously conducted research for RWJF.)