Design for Sustainable Practices - Oral Healthcare
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- Institutt for design 
The following report describes an oral healthcare project within the context of design for sustainable practices and fuzzy front end (early phase of the design process). The project was carried out at Philips Research Eindhoven and conducted by Gøril Storrø, with support from the Department of Product Design at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). Design for sustainable practise is partly based on the insight that environmental impact of products and system is often greatest during use. Researchers within the design for sustainable practice field also argue that designers can reduce the impact of use by purposely shaping behaviour towards a more sustainable alternative through product and service development. To do so there is a need for frameworks, methods and tools to support the design process. The project had two goals. One was to explore oral healthcare practices and how these can be done in a more sustainable way. The other goal was to explore methods and tools to design for sustainable practices. The following research questions were examined: A. How can Philips help people do oral healthcare in a more sustainable way? a1. Concerning practices directly connected to oral healthcare, what are the main opportunities for reducing behaviour induced environmental and social impacts found within the use cycle?a2. How can we change behaviour based on these identified opportunities (in question a1)? a3. Using findings from research questions a1 and a2, which ideas can be commercially interesting for Philips?B. What are the pros and cons of using a user-centred approach in combination with interdisciplinary methods when designing for sustainable practices? The project is based on a cross disciplinary framework founded on user-centred design thinking with input from adjacent scientific fields. The framework I developed identifies 9 categories of particular interest: practice/user experience, health, environment, market, technology, organisation, policy and legislation, service and economy. Social sustainability is in this project measured through the parameters of user experience and health. Together with environment, user experience and health comprise3 the three areas in which I look for social and environmental impacts. Through an extensive opportunity identification, Opportunity assessment and idea generation I search for impacts from oral healthcare practices and how to change these practices. The design project underwent two main iteration. In the first iteration I worked with 3 identified impacts: People brush to short People rinse with water even though the advice from practitioners is not to rinse as to keep as much fluoride in the mouth as possible after brushing. People find it difficult and painful to do interdental cleaning. This lead to ideas within short term product improvement, redesign and some function innovation. Intriguing ideas, but only commercially interesting in a short term perspective. My department in Philips were focusing on longer term technological development and hence a second iteration was executed. The second iteration was based on future scenarios and particularly the future of biofilm management and self-diagnostics 15-20 year in the future. Dental plaque/biofilm is located on the teeth surface. It is a sticky mixture of bacteria and secrete produced by bacteria. Today we try to remove the biofilm by brushing teeth. By doing so we also remove bacteria which is healthy for the teeth and the mouth. In the biofilm scenario the toothbrush is exchanged with biological management. Biofilm management aims to manage the biofilm instead of removing it, by either isolating and adding good bacteria to the teeth or making a favourable environment for the good bacteria like adding fluorides. Answering the research question A: How can Philips help people do oral healthcare in a more sustainable way, the project results in a service concept build around a biofilm management product. In cooperation with dentists Philips offers a personalised prevention and treatment program, after a subscription payment model. Philips offers technology products in regards to home diagnostics, individually tailored biofilm management for the user, and communication systems between dentists, users and home diagnostics products. From an environmental perspective the service is based on the idea of circular economy being a regenerative system in which resource input and waste, emission, and energy leakage are minimised by slowing, closing, and narrowing material and energy loops. In regards to research question B; What are the pros and cons of using a user-centred approach in combination with interdisciplinary methods when designing for sustainable practices?, I conclude: There is a need for better methods and tools to deal with the environmental aspects of design for sustainable practices. The existing methods are too product focused and the tools for calculating impacts are incomplete, especially concerning the use phase. Due to the short time-frame of design processes, there is also a need for models that provide back of the envelope - calculations on environmental impact. Within the fuzzy front end phase, it is more a question of which factors to calculate impact from rather than how to do the calculations. We thus need a tool to identify factors leading to environmental impacts. I suggest a possible solution with impact cards after model from touch-point cards in service design. Social sustainability has had less attention in public dialogue than environmental and economic sustainability and defining social sustainability can be tough. The content of social sustainability needs to be further discussed and clarified. Nevertheless, the methods from user centred design processes seem to function well on the social sustainability issues identified in this project, namely oral health and user experience. Most designers already work with behaviour in one way or the other, and opening up for influences from behavioural sciences will strengthen user centred design methods in the context of design for sustainable practices. The future of developing tools and methods within fuzzy front end and design for sustainable practices is mainly about trying to formalise and facilitate a process focusing on interactions between a diverse set of people.