young adult women wearing diabetes technologies
Hanky Pancreas™ is a series of design solutions for women wearing diabetes technologies such as insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors. The products transform the devices into fashion accessories to make them more wearable, instigate new conversations about health, and bring more awareness and social acceptance to living with diabetes.
HANKY PANCREAS, LLC
Jessica Floeh, Designer + Founder
We all felt this was worthy of a notable mention. The idea of embellishing a necessary medical tool brought a sense of optimism, awareness and potential confidence to this illness. The only aspect we didn't love was that it had such a crafty, DIY approach to the style, and it felt too narrow for personal expression beyond the created look. Great idea, just needs more refinement.
1. Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the challenge posed to you? Did it get you excited and why?
For a person living with diabetes, the social and psychological impact of the illness can really affect day-to-day management. Individuals who feel more social support living with the disease tend to be in better health than those who do not. Studies show that patients with diabetes are more likely than their non-diabetic peers to develop anxiety, depression, and disordered eating behavior. While insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors serve as significantly better alternatives to multiple daily injections and finger sticks, most people are concerned with how it will make them feel and appear to others. Women, specifically within the range of 15 - 35, are less likely to use these treatment options as it is more difficult to integrate the devices into their clothing. Through Hanky Pancreas, the socio-psychological issues that women face when wearing diabetes technologies become less of a burden. The challenge was to design a new way for women to interact with wearable diabetes technologies in order to provide social support and positive reinforcement in everyday environments. When determining that Hanky Pancreas could be a fashion line, the possibilities were endless and it has brought nothing but excitement to my life.
2. What point of view did you bring to the challenge? Was there anything additional that you wanted to achieve with this project or bring to this project that was not part of the original brief?
I met this challenge with about 21 years of personal experience living with diabetes, sensitivities as a user-centered designer, dedication as a researcher, and training as an interaction designer.
As we become more technological advanced and integrated, my point of view is that it is important that our devices are designed using a social model.
In addition to achieving improved health for women with diabetes, I also hope that Hanky Pancreas will allow me to be an integral part of the conversation about better design for health. I want it to launch me into positions with other companies and individuals working toward improving and innovating experiences for those living with disability and illness through design.
3. When designing this project, whose interests did you consider? (Discuss various stakeholders, audiences, retailing, manufacturing, assembly, distribution, etc., for example.)
The interests I have been most sensitive to since the beginning of this project are the individuals who are living with diabetes and specifically, those most in need of social support and acceptance. My mission is to improve the social health for these individuals in order to improve overall physiological health.
In addition, I been influenced by the feedback from large medical corporations such as Medtronic, non-profit organizations such as JDRF, ADA, and ACT1 Diabetes as well as renown designers from Parsons The New School For Design. In developing the products I strive for simplification in material and construction so that when ready to produce on a larger scale, I will be able to communicate my goals effectively to manufacturers and retailers alike.
4. Describe the rigor that informed your design. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc., as applicable.) If this was a strictly research or strategy project, please provide more detail here.
The work comes from a deep body of personal experience, primary research on a focus group of women with diabetes in New York, and secondary research of work by medical experts, psychologists, sociologists, and designers.
I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at age 4 and was hesitant to use an insulin pump until I was 21 years old. Always a creative person, I conceptualized new ways to hide the device once I became part machine. Curious as to why this device impacted me so much, I enrolled into Parsons The New School For Design to pursue graduate work in the field of Design and Technology.
While there I focused on design projects that addressed health and wellness. My final year at Parsons consisted of heavy research and prototyping of solutions to improve experiences for those living with diabetes. I worked with a focus group of women from ACT1 Diabetes Young Women's Support Group and conducted surveys within the diabetic communities online. At Parsons I was fortunate to be connected with leading experts and professors that guided my design process. Since graduating I've continued to make contacts with experts in the field of medicine as well as fashion.
5. What is the social value of your design? (Gladdening, educational, economic, paradigm-shifting, sustainable, labor-mindful, environmental, cultural, etc.) How does it earn its keep in the world?
Gladdening and educational - my designs change the conversation about diabetes from medical and awkward to social and positive. They provide an opportunity for the person with diabetes to be complimented on something that is improving their health, thus opening up the possibilities for diabetes awareness and education.
6. If you could have done one thing differently with the project, what would you have changed?
I would have started selling my designs much sooner!