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Meet the team at Cambridge Design Partnership – a brief profile of the experts, engineers and interesting people that work here. This month we’re talking to Lucy Sheldon, usability and human centred design specialist, who’s been at the company for almost 2 years.
Why did you join Cambridge Design Partnership?
The first thing that attracted me was the diversity of the projects – you get the opportunity to work across different sectors in a variety of disciplines at CDP. I think this allows space for creativity and means that you don’t get pigeonholed in one particular area. I also found the atmosphere very friendly and welcoming, and the office is a great place to work.
What background do you come from and how do apply this knowledge to your current role?
I studied Product Design Engineering in Glasgow. The course was taught between Glasgow University’s engineering department and world famous art school and so was truly cross disciplinary in nature. This taught me the importance of ‘joining the dots’ between disciplines, to discover the spaces in-between where new ideas and opportunities often reside.
Following this, a Post Graduate degree in Design Manufacture and Management at the University of Cambridge introduced me to the Cambridge technology hub, where I’ve since championed Human Factors and worked to ensure that design is people centric in technology heavy companies. Projects have included a range of medical devices including a ventouse extraction product for childbirth, drug delivery devices, patient monitoring and triaging systems, an emergency wrist fixation system and consumer products involving emerging technologies primarily within cleantech.
What interesting projects are you working on at the moment?
I’m currently working on a number of projects, from the interaction design of a home medical sampling kit to undertaking unmet needs research which involves observing the installation of domestic appliances. I’ve also been involved in the development of a first-of-a-kind, low-cost vital signs monitor for emergency response teams which enables the real-time monitoring of respiratory and heat rate. For this, I had to interview front line military medics to identify opportunities where technology will actually enable them to save more lives.
What do you see as hot trends in your area of specialty?
For medical organisations, the influence of payers and patients in their own care continues to put increasing value on the financial efficiency of health-outcomes and user experiences. As a result, medical device companies will need to increase their capability to deliver step change value by applying methodologies which validate the commercial attractiveness and appeal of new devices ideas in a thrifty manor.
It’s a subject I find interesting which I cover in my presentation next week at MedTec Europe in Stuttgart, Germany, where I’m speaking on “Concept validation: How, why and when to make and test interactive prototypes”.
Another interesting trend to watch is consumer companies that are now moving into healthcare needing to navigate the complex maze of medical regulation before they can inspire a health system update! A great example recently was Google-backed 23andme who ceased selling its $99 DNA kit in the USA after an FDA clamp down over fears the test could prompt patients to take unnecessary surgery.
In a general sense, I firmly believe that the latest technology trends shouldn’t just be included in new products on the unproven assumption that it’s what consumers want. A product, or piece of clever functionality, is only valuable if people can actually use it, want to use it, and do use it! It sounds simple but without these considerations, it’s really just a silly science project, and usually a waste of time and money!
I start work later this summer on a life-saving medical device - it’s not a new technology, but the product being given a user centered design revamp for use in the developing world. Exploiting developing markets is a key strategy for many of our customers, and one I’m excited about getting more involved in.
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