A user-centred approach to the design and evaluation of a patient information manual : this thesis supports a practice-based research project for the fulfilment of a Master of Design Degree, College of Design, Fine Arts and Music, Massey University
In our current technological environment, designers are encouraged to identify, define and meet people's needs by undertaking user-centred research, working with experts in other fields, and by becoming 'producers' of their own designs. In this thesis the designer has taken on these roles to address information and communications issues in the health sector. This research study seeks to improve the heath care and healing processes of adolescent patients by a practical application of visual communications design. The research takes a holistic approach by considering the social, therapeutic, and creative needs of adolescent patients as they relate to the use of typography, illustration, colour, and packaging design. Information design, communications theory, and play therapy inform the approach taken. Educational and recreational resources designed for adolescent patients are virtually non-existent in New Zealand hospitals. Instead, most of the information relating to the hospital services and the patients' conditions and treatment is communicated verbally by the hospital staff. This can disadvantage adolescent patients who tend to dislike communicating with people in positions of authority. Because adolescents have been found to be highly visually literate, adolescent patients needs can best be addressed by innovative visual communications design solutions. The designer used both quantitative and qualitative research methods to investigate the complexity of adolescent patients' needs. Because the questionnaire survey of adolescent patients and the interviews with health professionals were conducted in hospitals in Auckland and Wellington, the designer was faced with the daunting task of getting approval from three separate ethics committees and from the related clinical boards before the research could be conducted. However the many administrators and hospital staff approached willingly gave their time to help ensure that the resulting design would be both appropriate and relevant. With the research findings, the designer succeeded in developing a comprehensive communications system involving informative pamphlets, games, and activities that addressed the needs identified in the research. The designer also developed a packaging system that contained and displayed its contents in an appealing and innovative way. This thesis must be read in conjunction with the practice-based component of the research study described in chapter 5 (page 65-91). Ongoing evaluations with health professionals and adolescent patients have suggested modifications to improve the design and have also confirmed that the resulting Patient Information Manual (PIM) is both highly appropriate and extremely helpful in addressing adolescent patients' needs. There has already been widespread interest and offers of support to help ensure that this design is available for use in public hospitals in New Zealand.