Technology evolution let us miniaturize medical devices once impossibile not to notice, but did almost nothing to make them aesthetically pleasant. Right, functionality must prevail over aesthetics - who would use a beautiful device that doesn't improve health at all? - but when the first is granted we can do something for the second. More and more technical designers are working in this field, now that the components they need are more freely available, sometimes even open hardware (do you remember Bitalino?).


Leah Heiss, photo (c) Narelle Sheean

Australian designer Leah Heiss has been working at the crossroad of design, art and medical technology (and much more "tech" stuff) for many years and therefore she's a very good example to take inspiration from. Her projects mix technologies coming from different endvironments and result in medical "objects" that are both fully functional and aesthetically pleasant, or at least not conspicuous, so that who's using them is not immediately indentified as "sick" (in the broadest sense) and nonetheless gets the same benefits of conventional devices.


Hearing Programmer protoypes

Leah's most recent commercial project is called Hearing Programmer. It's a little jewel working as a remote control for an hearing aid. The jewel "talks" wirelessly with a smartphone app or a computer software which actually changes the device's hearing profile. Touching a jewel to optimize your hearing aid's amplification is much more "private" than fumbling with a conventional hearing aid remote.

Another project - Diabetes Jewellery - is somewhat more interesting because it drastically changes a consolidated practice. People who must get a dose of insulin generally use disposable syringes: an effective but, at least in some situations, stigmatizing solution.

Diabetes Jewellery

Diabetes Jewellery

In Leah Heiss's new system, developed with a nanotechnology company, a little patch with an array of micro-needles is applied on one finger and takes the place of the conventional needle. A metallic ring keeps the patch hidden and in the right position. Insulin is contained in a wearable applicator designed as a necklace pendant: when you need to administer an insulin dose, you apply the pendant on the ring and (again, discreetly) press it.

You can find other projects on Leah's website. All of them are, we believe, examples of "good design": design studied to solve people's problems and not for the sake of it.

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