Designers, researchers, and scholars at the University of Michigan will work in teams this month to generate creative responses to critical areas of the ongoing Ebola crisis in West Africa.
The campus-wide charette which takes place January 16-18, kicks off at the U-M School of Public Health and will include the School of Public Health, Medical School, Department of Afroamerican and African Studies, College of Engineering, and School of Nursing. The issues to resolve over the three days include design of personal protection equipment, health communication across cultural and linguistic barriers, and transportation of infected and diseased bodies. The charette is hosted by the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design. Dr. Dr. Eden Wells, clinical associate professor of epidemiology and director of the U-M Preventive Medicine Residency, will provide introductory remarks.
“Such multidisciplinary collaborations provide exemplary models of engagement for our students where they exercise their responsibility as global citizens, apply their creativity and impact the world around them,” said Dr. Guna Nadarajan, dean of the Stamps School.
Industrial designer Dr. Jan-Henrik Andersen, U-M associate professor of art and design, is spearheading the Stamps charette effort. “Like many of us, I have been following the Ebola story on the news and feeling quite helpless,” he said. “As a designer, I can see that many of the problems that health officials are dealing with are design problems—from effective biohazard gear to transportation issues. We are a part of a public university. We have a responsibility to respond in whatever way we can.”
Dr. Andersen is not alone in understanding the impact that design can play in the Ebola outbreak. Other schools and organizations, such as the Rhode Island School of Design, the U.S. Agency for International Development and IDEO.org are working to generate ideas that address the crisis in West Africa, as well. He wants to employ the wider expertise of the university in the Stamps design charette.
“I don’t think that we fully understand this problem. That’s where our advantage as a major research university comes to play,” he said. “An intensive workshop involving teams of designers and experts from public health, medicine, engineering, African studies and more is a powerful think tank for generating practical solutions to this epidemic.”
Dr. Andersen intends to offer any design solutions that come from the workshop to USAID, Doctors Without Borders, and other organizations involved with controlling the outbreak. At the conclusion of the charette, results will be shared publicly through a website and exhibition.
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