Interview with designer Ian Thompson (IT), regarding views on design, and for the award-winning design Intelligent Care Healthcare Taps & Showers.

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Interview with Ian Thompson at Sunday 5th of June 2016: DI: What is the main principle, idea and inspiration behind your design?
IT : The aim was to communicate the unique functionality of the taps and showers by using a healthcare equipment approach to create a design that would elevate the range beyond utilitarian plumbing products normally found in healthcare.

DI: What has been your main focus in designing this work? Especially what did you want to achieve?
IT : The products are packed with technology employing the most advanced digital thermostatic water control valve and it's one of the key features of the design in the fight against infection control in healthcare. Challenging ourselves to balance the high technology valve with a user experience that is approachable and intuative to first time users was a big focus. For the taps we created a new interface that is both touchless and touch activated to accommodate all the different user scenarios I found in the field.

DI: What are your future plans for this award winning design?
IT : The Intelligent Care has attracted some really good attention from healthcare suppliers in the UK, Europe and the US. It great to get such good feedback and I have plan to leverage the technology in new configurations to solve further healthcare challenges.

DI: How long did it take you to design this particular concept?
IT : Designing this range started with a program of global research 5 years ago and that's when design starts and it doesn't stop until the product is packed and shipped. We are constantly learning and improving the design at every phase of feedback and development, we take as many opportunities as possible to refine the design and improve the solution.

DI: Why did you design this particular concept? Was this design commissioned or did you decide to pursuit an inspiration?
IT : Rada has been a leader in digital water control for healthcare for a number of years. They constantly innovate to improve products and reduce risk to patients and healthcare professionals.

DI: Is your design being produced or used by another company, or do you plan to sell or lease the production rights or do you intent to produce your work yourself?
IT : Rada is producing the designs in the UK and will sell into key global markets.

DI: What made you design this particular type of work?
IT : There is a huge problem in healthcare today, an estimated 6 million Health Care Associated Infections occurred in the US and Europe last year alone, 136,000 of those resulted in death. However, the real tragedy is that a full third of the fatalities were preventable. Hand washing is considered the most important way of reducing HCAIs, but infections associated with environments involving water and patients are spreading, infections such as Legionella, MRSA and Pseudomonas Aeruginosa. The water outlet is only one component of a safe water system but we took the challenge to create a leading solution to make sure that taps and showers played there part in the fight against infections.

DI: Where there any other designs and/or designers that helped the influence the design of your work?
IT : As a designer I constantly look to improve the human experience and create unique innovative products but I think you have to acknowledge other design work as I think artefacts around us set expectations of how we interact with products, the built enviroment and even other people.

DI: Who is the target customer for his design?
IT : Healthcare suppliers like the NHS in the UK or the SSN in Italy are a key target for the Intelligent Care range.

DI: What sets this design apart from other similar or resembling concepts?
IT : There is really nothing close to the Intelligent Care range. Our advanced digital thermostatic valve, the advanced interface design and a number of other innovations mean there is nothing similar.

DI: How did you come up with the name for this design? What does it mean?
IT : It's simple, our product range has the capacity to carry out a number of intelligent operations to reduce the risk to patients from water borne infections when they are most vulnerable when undergoing treatment in the healthcare environment. Intelligent Care really captures what the product does for those patients.

DI: Which design tools did you use when you were working on this project?
IT : In the early stages of a project I employ a number of mapping tools to organise user insights and customer needs and align with business strategy. In this case clear project direction allowed the development of visual brand guidelines that inform the design phase. Ideas and form creation starts with pen and paper before refining digitally in Sketchbook pro to communicate clearly to business stakeholders. For this project we went on to use a combination of Rhino and NX CAD to develop designs and engineer a number of new technologies.

DI: What is the most unique aspect of your design?
IT : The tap design has the greatest impact combining a refined chrome body form and advanced manufacturing used to create the unique touchless interface.

DI: Who did you collaborate with for this design? Did you work with people with technical / specialized skills?
IT : This project has been one of the largest tackled by Rada and would not be possible without the belief and collaboration across the teams. Marketing, Approvals, Technical Publications, Purchasing, EXP, Test, Engineering and Industrial Design have all had there part to play in bringing this unique product range to market.

DI: What is the role of technology in this particular design?
IT : At its core the range is based on our most advanced thermostatic water control valve, it's our smallest and most intelligent valve and is key to delivering the healthcare solutions the range offers. We combine that high technology with experience and interface design to create a usable product that delivers what our customers need. There is a lot of work making our high technology simple and usable.

DI: Is your design influenced by data or analytical research in any way? What kind of research did you conduct for making this design?
IT : At the beginning of the project I led a global research program to understand our end users and listen to our customers needs. From such a large data set its possible to look for patterns and form a direction, this formed the foundation for developing the range. I like to use research repeatedly during the design phase, testing prototypes to improve the experience and to refine the design. The App which controls the set up of the product is a key element in the range managing a number of configuration settings and managing all the smart data the products track. During its development a number of user interface prototypes were developed to test with internal service engineers and with hospital facilities teams. Without the level of research employed on this project it would not be the award winning range it has become.

DI: What are some of the challenges you faced during the design/realization of your concept?
IT : The challenges started even before the design phase. Gaining research access to key people was challenging but was key to a good foundation. Once we overcame these challenges the scale of creating a global product with such impact became clear. Although highly technical it's still fundamentally a plumbing product and plumbing standards and codes around the world differ from country to country. Clever thinking has been engineered into the product to allow the greatest compliance and global stretch. Where simple innovation has not been possible we have employed high technology behind the scenes to deliver a simple and intuitive experience for users. We have also used very new and innovative manufacturing methods and although challenging to refine to the quality we demand the outcome has delivered a truly unique product fit for healthcare.

DI: How did you decide to submit your design to an international design competition?
IT : International design competitions allow us to share our work in the wider design community, gain feedback that allows us to grow our skills and methods and hopefully inspire both new and other designers. It also established credibility for our brand and the work we do and it is finally a celebration of all the hard work all of the team has put into developing the range.

DI: What did you learn or how did you improve yourself during the designing of this work?
IT : I enjoy when an opportunity for innovation is found in even the most simple of products. Intelligent Care is testament to how great design can differentiate in established catogories offering a company the potential for brand building and business growth.