From Designing for the Patient to Designing for a Person

  • M. Annemans
  • E. Karanastasi
  • A. Heylighen
Conference paper


Research on inclusive design stresses the value of user experience as a resource to design with respect for the diversity in human abilities and conditions. So far, however, relatively little research has been conducted on how exactly user experience benefits design processes and their outcome. How is it introduced into the design process, what kind of knowledge do designers get from it and how does it inform and direct their design process? The study reported here addresses these questions in the context of a design studio in which student architects designed a Maggies Cancer Caring Centre. After briefly discussing the role of (user) experience in design processes, we sketch the context of the Maggies Centres and introduce the assignment and procedure of the design studio. In order to analyse how different sources of information about user experience feature in students design process and outcome, we rely on documents students handed in, notes taken and audio recordings made during conversations with patients and care givers and students presentations. Four sources of information about user experience were addressed explicitly or implicitly by various students: direct communication with cancer patients and with people working at a day care centre; the person of Maggie Keswick; the architectural brief and exemplary projects of user-sensitive buildings. Despite its limitations, participation in this studio clearly increased students' knowledge on specific users. Many students mentioned the fact that a Maggie's Centre should not be designed for the patient but for a person. If only this insight remains, it will already contribute to them becoming architects who design with more than just functionality in mind. Additionally, the existing Maggie's Centres provided students with examples of exceptional architecture. The studio assignment thus drew their attention to the possibility to create extraordinary buildings, appealing to users and specialists alike, designed for the well-being of everyone involved with them. By doing so it opened students' eyes to designers ability to really transform the daily lives of the people engaging with the spaces they conceive.



This study received support from the Institute for the Promotion of Innovation through Science and Technology in Flanders (IWT-Vlaanderen) through a PhD grant of the Baekeland programme, osar architects nv, and the European Research Council under the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013)/ERC grant agreement n° 201673. Thanks go to all involved in the studio, including Mauro Poponcini, Hans Verplancke, the guest lecturers, TOPAZ, Stichting tegen Kanker, the user/experts and the oncologist.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Architecture, Research[x]DesignUniversity of Leuven (KU Leuven)LeuvenBelgium
  2. 2.Osar Architects nvAntwerpBelgium
  3. 3.Department of ArchitectureUniversity of Leuven (KU Leuven)LeuvenBelgium
  4. 4.Department of Architecture, Research[x]DesignUniversity of Leuven (KU Leuven)LeuvenBelgium

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