Aaron Ganci, Indiana University, IUPUI
Rebecca J. Bartlett Ellis, Indiana University, IUPUI
James Hill, Indiana University, IUPUI
Euzeli C. dos Santos Jr., Purdue University, IUPUI

Modern research endeavors that originate in STEM fields, especially those that overlap with healthcare, are increasingly multi-faceted and involve a complex network of interconnected roles and activities. As STEM continues to intersect with medical research, there will be an increasing need for designers to use their skills to also improve process rather than design artifacts. However, design’s involvement in these environments can still be somewhat trivial, being reduced to simple graphic design or artifact generation in service of more serious, scientific inquiry. To advance design’s position within these collaborative research engagements, researchers need to proactively inquire about ways to have more influence. This paper will detail one such inquiry through a case study of a recent collaborative project. In this study, design activities are used to both produce artifacts for a STEM-centric healthcare intervention and, more importantly, used as a way to organize and focus the research team’s process and activities.

The research project at the center of this case study is titled “Development of InterACT Intervention (mHealth) to promote medication adherence and blood pressure control in CKD.” (PI: Bartlett, Ellis). This project aims to develop a system where designed artifacts (a ‘smart’ pillbox and connected  mobile app) and in-person interventions are used to improve the way patients take medication. A design researcher was initially invited into the project to design the intervention artifacts. However, this design activity was only one small part in a much bigger endeavor, involving a complex network of input from colleagues in Medicine, Pharmacology, Nursing, Electrical Engineering, Computer Science, mHealth Communication, and Design. Because so many people were involved and it was impossible to work in tandem with each other constantly, the team started to experience a breakdown in communication. Specifically, there was confusion about how each researcher’s individual contributions connected and the final data collection experience. In their focused production of individual components, the team began to lose sight of the cumulative aims.

Upon investigation of this problem, it became apparent that journey mapping—which is traditionally used to describe consumer experiences—could serve as way to plan and synchronize research efforts, thus enabling researchers to simultaneously see micro- and macro-level details. This case study will reveal how the transdisciplinary team utilized a design-lead exercise to plan their intervention and data collection processes. Outcomes from this investigation will be shared and include a detailed experience map and insights on how to replicate the process in other STEM and healthcare intervention projects. Design researchers are constantly exploring ways to situate themselves within academic research. The findings from this case study will provide one more outlet for them to utilize and build upon in the future.

Interaction Journey Map. View full-size PDF.


Aaron Ganci is UI / UX designer and an Assistant Professor of Visual Communication Design at Indiana University’s Herron School of Art and Design (IUPUI). With professional experience in graphic, interaction, and user experience design, he is an expert in both the visual design of digital interfaces and in the translation of user needs into useful, usable, and desirable experiences. He is a frequent consultant on the design of websites and software interfaces, most recently for the IU School of Medicine, the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC), and The City of Indianapolis. In addition to professional creative activity, Professor Ganci also studies contemporary industrial practice and the use of technology to personalize design artifacts.More information about his practice and research can be found at aaronganci.com.

Rebecca Bartlett Ellis, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor in the Indiana University School of Nursing (Indianapolis). Her research aims to produce new knowledge to reduce the complexity of medication self-management and improve adherence in people managing multiple chronic conditions. Her research interests lie in the use of sensors and mobile health (mHealth) technologies to measure the socio-cultural contexts and biobehavioral mechanisms related to medication-taking behaviors, adherence and treatment efficacy, and intervene to improve clinical outcomes.

James Hill, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Computer Science in the School of Science at IUPUI. His primary areas of research include heterogeneous software system composition and integration, real-time software instrumentation, software performance analytics, and static code analysis, and its application towards the early design and engineering of large-scale networked software systems. He has extensive experience working with a wide-range of open-source and commercial software systems, integrating with such systems, and designing and implementing data collection systems from the ground-up.

Euzeli dos Santos, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering in the Purdue School of Engineering and Technology, IUPUI. His research interests include power electronic, renewable engird systems, energy efficiency, and power converters. He has expertise and a broad background in building prototypes with integrated sensors to successfully carry out the goals of collaborative research projects.