In early September two industrial designers for Bayer Healthcare, Raymond Yao and Lauren Bock, met with Center for Design Research students to launch a new sponsored-research project. It is the third Bayer has done with the CDR in as many years.
Bock is no stranger to the CDR having studied there with Gregory Thomas, professor of design and director of the CDR. She received a BFA in industrial design from KU in 2013. After graduation she interned at Bayer and now works as one of the company’s user-experience designers.
The students are enrolled in the Department of Design’s ADS 560 advanced design research topics class. In it students work on design problems that have been proposed by a sponsor company, in this case Bayer. After the student has successfully addressed a comprehensive set of issues presented by the problem statement, the result will be an innovative new product design.
“The benefit for a company such as Bayer is that the students take a fresh look at everything involved in the design of a new product, with no preconceptions,” said Thomas.
Robert Hurtz, the head of Bayer Diabetes Care Product Engineering and Thomas, developed the problem statement last semester.
“This problem is called ‘Design for Diabetes Disabilities: Exploration in Mechanical and Mobile Applications,’” Thomas continued. “The students are focusing on the design of what we hope will be a new generation of products and services geared toward diabetics with disabilities.”
Bock added, “The Center for Design Research has worked with Bayer Diabetes Care over the past several years to conceptualize care and maintenance products and services to enable diabetics to better manage their health. In this project the students will develop new products and services that will aid and enhance the mobility and lifestyle of disabled diabetic patients.
“We want to create devices that will help provide these patients with a higher level of self-reliance than they currently have,” she said.
The brief is a challenging one requiring that the students understand diabetes and the many complications its patients might develop, as well as being good problem solvers.
“What we’re looking for are easy-to-use devices that can address the problems that arise from any of a number of disabilities a diabetes patient might develop,” said Yao. He is the head user-experience designer for Bayer Healthcare Diabetes Care.
“These devices must be user friendly, and clearly present information to people who may have glaucoma, hearing loss or other disabilities,” he continued. “Also, today’s users can draw from a broad range of devices such as smartphones, tablets, wearables and more.
The class will present their projects to Bayer representatives in December.
Bayer Diabetes Care was the first corporate sponsor when the CDR moved to its new complex on KU’s West Campus in 2011. “Bayer’s annual fall sponsored-research projects offer real possibilities for problem solving that are very important to our students,” said Thomas.
Bayer’s support of the CDR has been important over the last several years. In addition to sponsored-research projects that have helped fund the center, it initiated offering internships for two students each summer, which has lead to permanent employment.
And, Bock is not the only former CDR student to find employment with Bayer. Kent DiasAbeygunawardena, a 2014 BFA graduate from the Design Department’s industrial design program, interned at there and now works for Bayer Radiology & Interventional in Pittsburgh.