Friday, 13 August 2010


Hello everyone firstly I must apologies for not keeping this as up to date as I would have liked. Things have been very busy as of late and my time has been pulled in many directions.

So i suppose the best start is to give you an update of what I have done from the last time i posted until now ! Our degree show opening night was very successful and Grays was crammed to the rafters so a very positive night for all. The following week was also successful and although maybe not as busy as we had all hoped (although now I think our hopes may have been a little unrealistic) but all the same very positive and I would like to thank everyone who came.

I was also lucky enough to be awarded a first class for my project – something which I don’t think I can ever put into words how pleased I feel about. As you all know from this blog this project has been something very personal to me and strongly relates to personal and social issues which are very close to my heart so after all the late nights and endless hours of work it is a fantastic feeling to see it being recognised.

But just because university is over does not mean that my work stops here and I have decided that the knowledge that I can offer and my approach to design is too much to turn my back on. If anything I owe it to not only myself but to every other patient and medical professional that I have spoken to and worked with over the past year to peruse this further. With this in mind I am pleased to announce that I have started up my own company so watch this space !

So where from here ? I still have a long road in my recovery process and although this is not a position I would like to be in, I would rather make the best out of the situation as I can. My partner has also had to go through several surgeries as of late and so I intend to use his personal experiences as well to not only get a male perspective but to also broaden my range of specialism and injuries. This is what I am now going to use this blog for as a continual documentation of my research and experiences.

I am also keen to expand my knowledge further into the psychological side of trauma as well as the physical and want to show other people in my age group that there is hope, a way forward and how to turn their negative situation into a positive one. If anyone is interested in talking to me about any of this please feel free to contact me.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Isla the PA Bunny

I have been extremely fortunate to have had a lot of publicity around my product and the degree show. Including some airtime on the radio via North sound (I will try and get clips up when I work out how) and also in the press including the evening express, the Sun and the Press and Journal.

I received a lot of phone calls from my feature in the Press and Journal, in particular those contacts that I have in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire where I was fortunate enough to be featured on the front page. It is certainly very bizarre to have people recognising you in the street and I have had several people contact me wanting to buy one, which I take as a massive compliment. It is also good to get feedback from real life patients and I hope that through expanding my contacts that I can build on and refine my designs further.

I have a meeting with ARI and their orthotic dept later this month so fingers crossed that all goes well but needless to say I see wonderful things to come from this project. I have also been approached regarding looking into the design of a neck brace so watch this space!! I am looking for new projects and to expand on this one.

Degree Show Ho !

As our degree show fast approaches we are manically trying to get everything done in time to ensure that we put on a good show for you all. I have some finishing to do on the material covers for my panels as there was a last minute change in presentation set up so no doubt I will be sewing like a crazy person all day Thursday to get them done ready for final set up on the Friday.

We open for the VIP viewing on Friday with the show opening to the public on Saturday which runs for a week until Saturday the 26th so I do urge you to all come and look forward to seeing you there !

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Its all about the Brand.

Blurb Books

As part of my hand in I have chosen to condense my years work into a small book using Blurb and their Book Smart software. As a class we are all using this format to communicate essential elements of our projects for the degree show whether it the processes that you have used the research which you have conducted or a bit of both I think it is a wonderful way to condense a years worth of work in a much more appealing format. I also think it’s a great keepsake for when you leave for the same reason.


To reflect the focus on psychological pressures and addressing social stigma’s in the products design I have chosen to name the final product Embrace.

This reflects the philosophy behind the product. The ‘Em’ stands for emotional to reflect the psychological consideration in the design of the product and its impact on a patient rehabilitation process.

However it also works as a whole, through encouraging the patient to embrace their situation. This reflects the attention to aspects such as the promotion of greater patient independence and better mental well being with minimum social stigma. The logo is also intended to reflect this.

We have also been incredibly busy this week promoting not only ourselves but also our products as well. This has manifested itself very positively for me and I have received a lot of positive feedback about my work so watch this space !!

I have also done a new video as a brief comparison between exiting designs and my new one so I hope to get that up sometime this week.

recognition of the specialism

Orthopaedics as a specialism has often been neglected as a specialism even though it is an area which holds some of the most exciting and dramatic developments in medicine. There have been huge steps made in the treatment of orthopaedic problems with the development in areas such as medical implants and orthobiologics but there has still been very little regard for what happens to the patient once they leave hospital which is the area I am keen to address.

I think this has also been from a growing interest in things such as thr media and society. The Independent recently that road traffic accidents are the leading cause of disablement and death for those aged 45 and under. It is also said that 1 in 2 of us will have some form of orthopaedic problem in our lifetime which means that around 50% of the UK population will be directly effected although through the rule of 7 degrees of separation this will probably impact everyone to some extent whether it is through helping a family member to helping out a college at work.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Not long to go

Our degree show and hand in are fast approaching so its all go here as we rush to get everything done in time. The space is now painted the plinths are n the middle of construction and we are putting the finishing touches to our models. Thanks to the incredible help that is Fraser I am fortunate enough to have my model and mannequin finished. Although unfortunately this does not mean that I have no work to do, I am now at the point of refinement so it’s all about crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s.

I am currently working on refining how I want to present my work and putting together so display boards to show my progression of work. I am also working on a video which compares the current design to my design in aspects such as weight, lifestyle impact and ease to get on and off so keep your eyes peeled for that coming soon.


I was asked to present at TraumaCare last month which was a fantastic experience. TraumaCare is an international medical conference which encourages a multidisciplinary approach in medicine. I was presenting on the Emotional Trauma of Rehabilitation and the Patient Perspective.

TraumaCare have done a lot of work to raise awareness of trauma as a specialism and I would certainly recommend that you check out their website at:

This was a fantastic experience and something which I really enjoyed, The presentation went very well, regardless of the tech gremlins and I have received some very positive feedback about both the presentation and my work which is such a confidence boost. I just want to say a huge thank you to Professor David Alexander for being my travel companion and putting my name forward to present, it is something which I thought I would never be able to do without his support and guidance.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Material Choices

I have chosen to keep the material choices quite plain and simple for the material outer. I am using fleece for the inner lining and then a cotton linen mix for the outer lining both of which will be neutral colours of white/cream.

The intention is that this is the piece which would be given as standard with the patient but that there would also be a subsidiary option where the patient can buy other covers in different colours and designs. By keeping the materials plain I also wanted to encourage the element of customisability. I made my brace my own and acceptable to me by having friends and family sign and draw on it which is something which I want to encourage other patients to do in whatever way they please whether it is to stitch on additional details or by using fabric paints.

More than just a Product Designer

The one thing I love about being a product designer is the ability to span into other specialism’s so that you can approach your work with a lot more of a multidisciplinary approach.

For example for this project I have covered everything from fashion to medicine and engineering. For me this is the best way to work as you develop a much broader perspective on your work. At the moment I am focusing on developing the material outer for the rigid panels to be put in. I have taken inspiration from corsetry design for this and have been working with a seamstress to develop this further as although I did the prototype myself I have taken it to them for the final to ensure it is a more respectable standard for the final presentation.

Pannel Prototypes

We are closing in fast on the final stages of the project and it is all about the refinement now of the panel shaping. Now that I am using the custom made mannequin it has made the moulding of the panels a lot easier. The final shape is very similar to that which we originally started with but with more refinement.

The structure of the panels is focused around complimenting a females curves and being sympathetic to that. Although a large number of females can be a dress size 8 there body shapes and measurements can be very different. By curving around under the bust and then around the stomach the panel aims to support the back and the curves of a female without limiting or being too constraining. For example existing designs consist of a solid form which provides quite a lot of pressure on the stomach which can make deep breathing difficult and you certainly wouldn’t be able to eat a big meal !!

Mannequin Me !

I have been experiencing a number of problems using the traditional mannequins for moulding the plastic panels. To overcome these issues I combined my work using the 3D body scanner and the CNC machine to manufacture my very own mannequin….of me!

This allows for a lot more accuracy when it comes to the shaping of the panels and also provides a very good visual platform on which to display the final product. By doing this process it also allows me to get a good idea of the forms I am designing for and can be a lot easier to see possible problematic issues when moulding the panels which may not be identified when on a less realistic form or when being worn and physically tested.

By having this mannequin it allows you to physically step back as not only a designer but also a patient. A combination of being able to wear the product as well as see it on another form is ideal. This is because they pick up on different areas of the design and by being able to perceive in on another form allows to see it from societies perspective

I am an Entrepreneur

Last month I was awarded a bursary through Materials KTN to attend an Entrepreneurship conference in London which was held on Monday the 19th of April.

This was a fantastic opportunity for me and a real eye opener as to where to take my project next and possible next steps. Throughout the day there were several presentations from people who work in the patenting office to current entrepreneurs to presentation coaches.

Key points which were highlighted during the conference included the essential aspects of intellectual property rights and financial funding alongside support networks and routes to help you take your product further.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Lace me up!

I have been looking at fixing mechanisms again for the brace and am still very taken with the Boa system which seems to be used in everything from running and cycling shoes to snowboard and motorbike boots. It is spoken very highly of on most forums and many professionals are singing their praises. They have also started to be introduced into medical design form tourniquets (see above right) to forarm casts.

Boa specialise in wire lacing system, they use a combination of titanium wire and plastic crank twist casing. You always have to be careful with you use of metal in rehabilitation products, especially products such as the medical back brace where the subject may have to go into MRI’s etc. However this would not be an issue with Boa due to their choice of materials i.e. titanium which is not only incredibly strong but also not magnetic and so would not interfere with equipment such as MRI’s. It would still interfere with any form of X-ray however any choice of metal will do this. With this in mind there are alternative manufacturers such as Sidi who use a plastic form of wire. There are also other systems such as speed lace by a company called Burton. This acts more like a toggle where you slide the toggle along the lace to the base of the foot and locking into place by releasing a spring mechanism. Although this system is possible I am concerned about the reliability of it and so would like to see if I could get some more information on the Boa and Sidi systems first.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Tried and tested

I have realised that I have shown you very little images of what I am actually redesigning so here are a few images so you can see the issues that I may have and the want to address.

I think it is very important when designing this sort of product to try it out to walk move bend and stretch in it. User testing although subjective, I believe, is probably one of the most reliable and thorough forms of product testing. It is also the most sensible, if not only, approach when using a user centred design methodology to help ensure that your product stays grounded and objective while meeting both medical and patient needs.

The process

The process that I have been using for concept testing has certainly been a labour intensive one but I believe it is the best way to approach the task.

Starting out with the mannequin it s then marked up with key pressure points and negative contact areas. From here I use strips of paper and masking tape to transform 2d sketches into 3D visualisations, altering any key areas which interfere with function or will apply negative pressure. This results is an outline which is then bulked out and developed into a solid 3d panel. These panels are then taken off of the mannequin and deconstructed enough so that it can be interpreted into a net/template.

I allow a minimum of 1.5cms around the edge of each template to allow for human error in the translation process and also to take into account shrinkage of the plastic during the warping and moulding process. The template is then used to make a plastic version which is then heated and moulded with the help of a heat gun and the mannequin

Quality of Life/Fixings

This has been a particular issue for me personally. I have found it incredibly infuriating the need to rely so much on others for everyday tasks. This has also been compounded by further frustrations over the current fixings of many back braces. By this I mean the love of Velcro, which although is useful and ideal in terms of adjustability I have found simply just not reliable enough!

I have had to have the Velcro straps on my brace replaced twice now and have now resorted to adding extra bits of Velcro and padding to try and extend the life of the ones I am currently wearing. However I also had an ulterior motive in my behaviour by adding these sections almost like a back up system. This is something which is not very reassuring when you rely so much on a back brace for support and your safety. As a result this area looked to address any areas which have an impact on quality of life issues such as independence but also looked the ease of getting the product on and off as well as utilising various different forms of fixings to develop a more reliable product


By examining panelling I am aiming to introduce a more modular approach. Focusing on greater inclusively while optimising comfort for the patient this should also be a lot more cost effective for the public medical system. This methodology should also make the structure much more universal….or least provide a more universal basic structure which can then be adapted/customised to the patients individual requirements.

I was also inspired by an almost clip and lock structure. This would mean that instead of having varying sides there would be a basic back and front panel and the joining panels are interchangeable and simply lock into place. This should eliminate the need for hospitals to store piles of braces in different sizes and shapes but instead to have a stock of modular panels which they can pick and choose from and assemble to fit the patient. These panels can then be adjusted to custom fit the patient with little fuss.

Wednesday, 31 March 2010


I have been working away developing my concepts so here are a few scans and snippets to show the progressions I have taken.

Most of the concepts evolve around 3 key areas. These were:

*QoL(quality of life)/fixings

The corsetry influence was looking at what was already socially acceptable in current social society for the age group I am focusing on. Corsets are often seen as a desirable object to wear for 16-25 yr old females, which is something which I would like to transfer to the medical back brace.

Just as crutches are deemed more acceptable and ‘cool’ than two walking sticks. This negative back lash can act as a deterrent to the patient to use the product, this can result in the patient rejecting the product and so putting their rehabilitation/recovery at risk. I want to try and install this acceptable youth culture onto other rehabilitation products to address social stigma’s and encourage the patient to embrace their situation and use the product.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

The importance of a good mannequin !

I have been using Doris/Gladis quite a lot recently not only to use to visualise 3d sketches with paper but to also mould with for the plastic prototyping.

I rely on a mannequin quite a lot for the development process. As a result it has also been very important to me that I get a realistic idea of shapes and sizes which is why Doris and Gladis have been so hard to find.

Their measurements are near enough anatomically correct which is an achievement in itself. So many mannequins now have unrealistic body shapes which would distort the design too much if I were to use any mannequin I could find. It has to be remembered they are predominantly used to hang clothes on and so are altered in any to best display the product. What I find interesting is the comparison between the new mannequins you see in Top Shop’s front window and one you find in your mums attic (or an art school). It is a scary reality of the impact of the size 0 fashion trend.

Another important factor was the posture of the mannequin. You may think this is irrelevant as they are all straight backed, however many have over exaggerated posture such as rotated hips which result in an extenuated curve of the lower spine rendering it useless for back brace design where the function of the product demands a ‘tucked in’ tail bone and spinal stabilisation.

Just something which I thought I should explain so you understood my obsession with Doris and Gladis

Monday, 22 March 2010

Ladies and Gentlemen I introduce to you......Gladis

I may have lost my lovely Doris but I have talent spotted her replacement in the form of Gladis who Fraser very nicely helped me ‘borrow’ from another department.

I have also been lucky enough to get an amazing workshop helper in the form of Fraser an ex grad who has come back to aid my workshop needs (seeing as I am not allowed/not able to do much)

Either way it is onward and upward from here, prototyping is cracking on so expect photos soon and more updates.