Thursday, 25 February 2010

Modular panneling is the word

I have started to look into modular design in particular as a way of overcoming the issue of different body sizes. This way with interchangeable panels the patients body shape can be taken a lot more into account. I have also started encompassing material panels within my designs not only to provide more comfort and add flexibility to the wearer (so you can actually breathe or eat a decent sized meal!) but to also free up fixing mechanism designs so you are not trying to bend metal and plastic. By doing this I hope to maintain the original structure with more solid structured panels in key areas with material panelling in others. With this approach hopefully it should make the task of putting on a brace individually easier as there will be more flex in the design for fastening rather than trying to pull together 2 edges of a solid piece of plastic.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Quote of the Week...

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”

Henry David Thoreau

I quite like this quite as I feel it can be used to reflect how we should perceive those with disability. At the moment we tend to see their external appearance, we see their impairment, we see everything they can’t do and we judge them on that initial appearance and impression. This is often made worse by the cumbersome and stigmatised products which they are forced to use. Instead we should be seeing the person, we should see who they are not what they look like! I think that we can take steps towards this goal by improving the products which they use, helping them integrate better within society but still encouraging them to embrace their situation. I don’t believe with the concept of making them ‘blend in’ to what we consider ‘normal society’ but I do believe in promoting quality of life and allowing the user to go through their everyday lifestyle without being judged by those around them.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Understanding stresses on the body.

I have used a mannequin to mark key areas where support is required and identify key areas of either negative or positive pressure. For example the area near the underarm currently is subjected to quite a lot of pressure and friction due to the chest bar. With the help of the mannequin I can look into the effects of removing the bar and possibly transferring its function to another area of the body such as the shoulders.

Friday, 19 February 2010

All shapes and sizes

Something that has struck me throughout this project is the affect of variations in body shape and size and the design and structure of the brace.

I want to try and address how this works. People come in all shapes and sizes whether it is a larger bust and small hips or a wide waist and smaller upper half. From what I understand of how the brace works on a patients body all these factors can have a huge affect on issues such as pressure points and how well the brace actually fits/how much support it can provide.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

The tactile factor

As young children we all have something material which we carry around with us whether it is in the form of a security blanket, a favourite teddy or item of clothing there is always something which we find comforting to smell or touch.

I have noticed when I get nervous or anxious about a situation I tend to sit and play with my hands or stroke an area of my clothing such as a sleeve or end of a scarf. If I know I have a rough day ahead of me I have found that I deliberately pick out soft clothing for me to sit and play with. This has become almost like a form of security blanket for me and I am quite interested to see if anyone else does the same!? I find it quite interesting to see if the tactile aspect of the brace can be comforting emotionally in the same way a ‘blankie’ is for a young child.

In particular I am looking to explore how this can be incorporated into the design of the back brace so that there is material panelling or some form of pocketing where keepsakes or items with a comforting purpose can be kept.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

PTSD - what can be done to help ?

So how do you treat PTSD – what can be done to help. Unfortunately this is a very individual thing to the patient. There are many forms of medication which are out there to help although sometimes they may have a more detrimental effect. For example with some varieties you cannot drive while taking them which could have a resulting knock on effect to your ability to work.

Sometimes I think medication is not always the best approach either. As a society we seem to think that tablets can solve everything however I believe that with issues such as PTSD all the medication will do is treat the symptoms not the actual problem. It’s almost like sweeping your problems under the carpet. Out of sight doesn’t always mean out of mind.

There are many new techniques out there which help the patient to actually process the traumatic incident with the help of a psychologist such as EMDR. EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing and involves stimulating other senses to help encourage the brain to process the traumatic memories. Techniques like these help with problematic areas such as flashbacks and nightmares which medication do not have an effect on. It is not until you can process the traumatic event that you can deal with the consequences of the incident such as your injuries and their impact on lifestyle.

A lot of the time how well a person overcomes PTSD is dependant on the individual. Many will never fully overcome their demons but all will be able to find techniques and ways of coping to gain control and as 'normal' a lifestyle as possible.

Monday, 15 February 2010

PTSD - how well do you cope ?

An issue that arises when designing rehabilitation products is that 2 people can react totally differently to the same trauma. But why is this?

A person’s recovery and how they deal with things is affected by a factor called ‘Adjustment’. This is basically how well a person can cope with a situation. Many would think that this would directly relate to the severity of a person’s injury or level of PTSD however this is not true. A person can have a high level of PTSD but a low level adjustment.

A patients recovery rates can be influenced by their personality traits. For example if they are prone to giving up or quitting on things then their recovery is more likely to be slower because their way of thinking will be reflected in their approach and feelings to rehabilitation exercises etc .

There can also be the association of how the injury impacts a person’s life. For example a professional golfer who broke his thumb may be absolutely devastated due to the consequences of this injury as it could result in him not being able to play and so not only does he loose his lively hood but also his favourite hobby.

As a result of all these variable factors how successful a person’s rehabilitation is can be partly dependant on the individual. With this in mind it is even more important that a patient is met with good, efficient and effective design to ensure they have as much of a possible experience as possible. If the patient has a positive experience they are more likely to want to keep using the equipment/products and so should make a better recovery

The evils of sugar coating !?

How can a small white lie affect a persons recovery?

Would you rather have all your cards laid out on the table and be given the bare facts or would you rather have a more positive outlook and be told only what you can handle? For example:

If patient A was told:

“You have a very serious break. This will heal in time however it will take many months and you will continue to have various problems for the rest of your life with this area. You may have to face surgery in the future”

Would they have the same recovery rate a patient B if they were told:

“You have a break, we are going to treat it conservitably but are hoping you should make a good recovery”

When you look at these 2 statements they are for the same injury but the patient is being given different levels of detail although they are saying the same thing. Patient A is given a very realistic if not slightly negative outlook where Patient B is given a positive and though possibly unachievable perspective.

With this in mind would each patient recover at the same rates or to the same level? Patient A could adopt a defeatist attitude and so not work as hard at their recovery feeling that there is ‘no point’. On the flip side they could choose to prove the consultants wrong by working extra hard throughout their rehabilitation to make the most of what they have and are able to do by aiming to exceed the consultant’s expectations.

From this is could be argued that patient B would be expected to make a better and quicker recovery. However it should be considered how the patient may react when they find out the full scale of their injuries. This could have a detrimental affect on their recovery/give them a set back while they try to process the new information. If they are given false hope and targets it can be disheartening when they are not able to meet them.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Quote of the Week

“I didn’t get into design to be an artist. To me, an artist creates things to evoke emotion. Being a designer goes a step further than that, not only trying to evoke emotion but trying to make a reaction. It is very objective-driven and that’s what makes it interesting.”

Mike Davidson

Monday, 1 February 2010


I am quite interested in looking at traditional corsets for inspiration when it comes to the shaping and design of it. There are many similarities which can be drawn between a corset and a back brace including shaping, structure and in many ways function.

A corset is intended to enable the wearer to gain as small a waist as possible, a back brace is intended to stabilise the spine by providing support and tension to the torso of the patient.

In particular I would like to look more at the structuring, the way they use panelling and fixing mechanisms. One thing that fascinates me is their influence on society. In the Victorian era the use of a corset was basically mandatory for woman and also openly accepted and worn by males as well.

There were corsets for all situations including children and maternity wear. It has been well recorded the negative effects a corset can have on a pregnant woman (something which was sometimes capitalised upon by women to induce a miscarriage). At the same time it had a positive impact socially allowing the woman to stay working and actively engaging with society (although this says a lot about the cultural views as they were basically concealing the fact they were pregnant!) In some ways I think this mirrors cultural attitude now, with respect to the fact that in order to ‘fit in’ or be engaged with society people with impairments have to conceal who they are or issues that they have.