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Over the centuries, science has accumulated a massive arsenal of ways to combat and prevent disease, not only through good nutrition and a healthy living environment but also through sophisticated technology. Designers have always been closely involved in this process. What can we learn from the past? And how can art, applied games, apps, 3D printing and robots help us to solve problems we face today?

Designing Health showcases work by designers, artists and scientists spanning the era from the 15th century to the present and ranging from the pearl-and-lace-bedecked human specimens of the famous Dutch anatomist Frederik Ruysch (1638–1731) to the infant body modifications proposed by the artist-designer Agatha Haines in her recent Transfiguration project.

Design: part of the cure

Curator Wildevuur says the medical system needs new ideas fast. “In health care today, everything seems to be about cost management – health care needs to get more efficient and cheaper. Traditional systems and paradigms are changing. The welfare state as it was introduced in the 1960s cannot be maintained in the current era.” Meeting today’s medical challenges requires a holistic approach, she says: “In the public debate, we must focus not only on innovative design solutions and technological improvements but also on behavioural changes, prevention and quality of life.” She says there’s a growing need for “Do-It-with-Others” care, in which people work together to solve problems. As examples, she cites Fab Labs, which provide high-tech machines that allow individuals to make prototypes and products, and Buurtzorg, a home care organisation in which nurses and assistants work in small, independent neighbourhood teams.

Wildevuur, head of the Creative Care Lab at Waag Society and a guest researcher at VU University in Amsterdam, studies the ways health care, design, art, technology and science work together. She studied medicine and communication at the University of Amsterdam and has worked for the United Nations, the Royal Dutch Medical Association and the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. She co-authored Connect: Design for an Empathic Society (forthcoming in September 2013, BIS Publishers), a book on designing for the elderly, and wrote Could Science Learn from the Arts? (2009, Bohn, Stafleu van Loghum).

Designing Health is a joint project with the city of Eindhoven.

21/09/2013 – 05/01/2014