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Northeastern University Experience Design Graduate Students Recognized as Winners of 2019 Health X Design Challenge

Estefania Ciliotta (MFA in Experience Design), Deirdre Nichonaill (MS in Experience Design), and Houjiang Liu (MFA in Experience Design). Photo by Brandon Farrell.

A team of Northeastern University College of Art, Media and Design (CAMD) graduate students in the Experience Design program has won the 2019 Health X Design Challenge in the “reimagine a system or space” category. The competition asks the health and design communities to envision solutions that would reshape everyday life to be healthier by default. Northeastern students Estefania Ciliotta (MFA in Experience Design), Deirdre Ni Chonaill (MS in Experience Design), and Houjiang Liu (MFA in Experience Design) were recognized for their project “Smooth Commuting.” Their work envisions a way to mitigate the negative health effects on “extreme commuters” – those who commute 90 minutes or more. The Health x Design Challenge was issued by Mad*Pow’s Center for Health Experience Design (CHXD) and Health 2.0 Advocates, with prizes funded by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWFJ).

The Northeastern team’s solution includes a major system redesign that would provide transportation that is more reliable, easier to navigate, and more comfortable. Read more about their project here. Their project was chosen as a winner for its efforts to understand how to turn long commutes (something that is generally hated) into something more desirable. To start, the team thoroughly researched how and why long commutes are detrimental to commuters’ health over time.

Commuter Experience Influences. Captured from Smooth Commuting.

The team understood the current problem and thought broadly about all the pieces of an extremely complicated puzzle, using a systems-thinking approach. They looked at people’s journeys from their home to their office doors in an effort to understand what their overall experiences were like, and identified many opportunities for improving the commuter experience, and positively impacting their everyday health. Below are examples of the team’s “Journey Maps” that consider and connect stressors and emotional state. 

The project reflects Northeastern’s Experience Design program’s approach to design, which focuses on the quality of the human experience in concrete situations. It embraces research-driven design thinking for entrepreneurship and innovation, focusing on today’s important, relevant challenges.