Design4Health 2015 – Participatory design and participatory making in a FabLab: challenges for users and designers

This article explores self-fabrication by novice participants in a FabLab for a Participatory Design (PD) research project ‘Bespoke Design’. We developed bespoke tools for self-managing diabetes specifically related to one person’s everyday experiences. Instead of the strictly medical top-down approaches, combining bespoke designs with PD and self-fabrication is more in line with the fact that people with diabetes use these tools 24/7. Being experts on using these tools we involved three participants with diabetes in the design of bespoke prototypes for each of them. To facilitate re-designing these tools to other people’s wishes and needs, we shared documentation of the prototypes development and conducted these processes in a FabLab. In this way participation of the participant extends to the concrete making or fabrication process (Seravalli, 2013), instead of restricting participation to the exploratory, conceptual making phase (Ehn & Badham, 2002). While this sounds promising, we experienced that involving novice users in the fabrication of prototypes is challenging. We describe the development of a series of prototypes for one participant and inventory the related challenges to start a discussion about the FabLab as a place for participatory design and participatory making and how this affects the role of a designer in a project.

Design4Health – 2015

Authors: Dreessen, K., Schoffelen, J., Leen, D., Piqueray, O.