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DSI Sara Cornish, ’14, on Taking What She Learned from DSI to Her New Job at Microsoft

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MFA Design for
Social Innovation

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136 W 21st St,
5th Fl.
New York, NY 10011
(212) 592–2205

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Tina Park. That’s why.
Among other things, Tina Park was the Global Design Research Manager for Johnson & Johnson, and is the founder of Diagram, a consultancy that combines design and research techniques to deliver better healthcare. And she teaches Thesis at DSI.

DSI: What’s design for social innovation, and why is it important?

It’s design that creates scalable, positive change.

DSI: Could you talk a little about Diagram, and the work you do?

Our central belief is that design can change healthcare. One of the challenges in healthcare is that design is often brought in at the end of projects, often to pretty-up an interface or to make a product look nicer. At Diagram we bring design in earlier in the process, working with businesses, hospitals, and doctors in the very early phases of their projects. In this phase, we translate ideas into prototypes for pilots or co-creation research with end users to improve patient experience. In a world where a lot of efforts focus on the providers, doctors, and nurses, we’re giving patients a voice and a larger role in their healthcare.

DSI: On your website you talk about being a bridge between ideas and experimentation. Can you give an example?

We did some work with teenagers who were transitioning from glasses to contact lenses. We were brought in to improve their adherence. Through several rounds of research and co-creation with teens, we developed a deeper understanding of their experience. A key learning was that often there was an 8-10 hour gap between the time teens were going into the doctor’s office to learn how to insert and remove their lenses and the time that they would actually have to take them out. This lead to a lot of non-compliance – they would sleep with them in, for example. We designed a mirror cling, with clear life-sized diagrams to which they could line up their hands and eye to insert and remove them correctly. The teens liked it very much. Considering all of those things is what a designer does. They not only consider where it goes or what it looks like, but it’s also thinking of where it falls into a teen’s day, where it falls in their list of priorities, and how they behave.

DSI: Are the projects you work on typically long or short term?

It depends on the project. Healthcare is a very long runway, and people are often nervous about change. That’s shifting as we speak, which is great; providers are starting to understand the need to change and improve. Some projects are just a few weeks, others can be studies that are one or two years long. When we’re working to improve patient engagement, we like to build in time for patients to reflect on their experience — with a comparison of data at two months, at six months, at eight months, etc.

DSI: Any advice for incoming students?

A masters program is what you make of it. Everyone should do their homework on each and every faculty member and figure out which ones they want to get close to. In my graduate program I ended up being very close with one of the instructors and she opened so many doors for me — those are the things you keep forever.

Photo Credits:
Tina’s portrait: Aubrey Hays
136 W 21st St,
5th Fl.
New York, NY 10011
(212) 592–2205

SUBSCRIBE