November 2012 Workout with the NY State Dept. of Health AIDS Institute

The Design Gym projects are often pretty diverse – in industry, in scale, in the knowledge needed to find interesting solutions.  We’ve worked on building physical pods that house materials for pop-up stores. We’ve developed strategies for creating greater responsibility around consumerism. This Weekend Workout provided a new dynamic and intensity that had not been experienced thus far. It instilled equal parts excitement, enthusiasm, and somber reality.

“Individuals adherent to an ART regimen (drug cocktail) can expect to live fifty years after a diagnosis of HIV whereas those not taking meds have been seen to only live six to nine months after diagnosis.”  – The Center for Disease Control

Sunday morning we were joined by Megan Haseltine of the NY State Department of Health AIDS Institute. The design brief she presented to the class was around improving medication adherence for HIV sufferers. Armed with merely a 30 minute presentation, some rapid interviews, and summarized secondary research, teams quickly began developing pointed and pertinent questions to start driving towards initial insights.

With the remainder of the day, students were tasked with using the 5-phase design process they learned only a day prior and crank on full tilt to deliver powerful solutions for their presentations that evening. Students used user-personas to identify gaps in their limited data sets and conduct follow-up interviews.  Journey maps assisted the students in understanding medication rituals and the complexity of coordinating pill intake around meals.

In the midst of madness, we like to ensure people get the nourishment to keep their bodies moving and brains ticking. Thanks to a fantastic spread of food from the Jump Kitchen, we made sure to take a break and swap stories over homemade cranberry sauce, a roasted sweet potato and kale salad and baked tofu that you need to eat to believe. We believe strongly that the quality of the ideas is in direct correlation to the quality of the food, so we shoot high.


After lunch, students pull out every last drop of energy they’ve got to crank out ideas. And lots of them.  From simple yet non-existent ideas like an analog toolkit helping sufferers avoid common pitfalls, to more complex systems of self-tracking via gamified mobile apps, student concepts cast a broad net and left our client judges wildly impressed.

There is no doubt, healthcare topics and especially ones around life threatening diseases is no easy topic. It’s big, ambiguous, and draining. The end of the day brought congratulations, relief, and some well deserved beers, but it also brought a new sense of awareness to a very real topic. These problems are the ones that need some powerful minds and a strong process more than any, and the client’s praise affirmed every last bit of it.

Here’s a quote from one of our students summarizing the weekend:

”Extremely challenging, mentally and physically exhausting but in a very worthwhile and rewarding way.  Something you should try if you want to push yourself and your thinking”

Daniel Stillman
[email protected]
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