Saving Calories and Depositing them Where They’re Needed

It’s no secret that health problems like obesity and diabetes have been increasingly plaguing our country. It’s also common knowledge that many Americans go to bed hungry every night, unsure when their next meal might be. To be exact: Fast Company says that more than 200 million Americans are overweight or obese while 49 million Americans don’t have enough to eat. That’s beyond a little ironic, and it speaks to a food system design dysfunction of massive proportions.

It’s a complex series of problems that are tough to tackle in and of themselves, so the idea of addressing these ends of the spectrum in one design seems like a stretch. But an app called Foodtweeks has set out to tackle both of these issues by creating a system in which you can “save” your calories and “donate” them to a food shelf. (more…)

This Shark-like Skin Makes Way for Shark-like Immunity

Biomimicry is something I’ve become rather interested in as of late. It’s the discipline that studies nature and imitates its designs and processes to help solve human problems. The Mother Nature Network lists seven great examples of biomimicry that you should take a look at to familiarize yourself with this type of innovation. Perhaps you’ve heard of swimsuit material that mimics sharkskin in order to reduce drag. That design was so successful that it was made illegal. Yep, don’t suit up like a shark if you want to compete on the international stage.

I always got a kick out of that one. Sometimes Mother Nature’s designs can be too perfect I guess. So I found it interesting when I read about another shark-inspired product that mimics these fascinating surfaces for a very different reason … and the more perfect the better in this case.

Introducing Sharklet, a sharkskin-like material that hospitals are looking to as a way to reduce the spread of germs and bacteria. According to its website, Sharklet is the “first no-kill, non-toxic and environmentally-friendly surface texture designed to inhibit bacterial growth including MRSA, E. coliStaph a.,Pseudomonas aeruginosa, VRE and a host of other bacteria.” In other words, this material comprised of microscopic ridges and grooves is an inhospitable place for bacteria to grow.   (more…)

Refining your Health, One Sip at a Time

Literacy can be a very powerful tool.

How much do you know about the beverage in your hand? Do you know how much protein is in your bottle of Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino Coffee? If so, do you understand it in the context of what is recommended for your daily protein intake?

To some, the answer is a resounding YES to the above questions. Indeed, there are some who are very health conscious and have a specific literacy. For the vast majority, however, we could use a little awareness in our drinking habits. And so for the rest of us semi-literates out there, here’s a new product that will really help:

Vessyl is a revolutionary drinking cup that provides you with an analysis of what is inside. Sensors read the liquid within and when you pick up your cup, the exterior lights up and tells you exactly what you’re consuming. Instant literacy! (more…)

Bringing Health Into Hospitals From The Outside

No one wants to be in a hospital, right? They’re serious places where serious activity occurs. But there have been great strides in creating environments that aid the patient experience. Go into many new or newly remodeled hospitals and you’ll see lighting, architecture, furnishings and art that may remind you of a hotel. And this isn’t just for cosmetic purposes; positive patient experiences have documented positive impact on patient outcomes.

But when it comes to mealtime, you’ll probably be reminded that you’re not staying at some swanky hotel. Or maybe not. (more…)

Healthcare Access For the Price of a Couple of Lattes

There are nearly a dozen countries in the world where one in four kids don’t make it to age five as a result of the absence of healthcare access. Resources that most of us take for granted – like clean water and air, proximity to doctors and simple technology – could contribute immensely to places like Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia; places where healthcare services are practically nonexistent. Indeed, these places have a paucity of any infrastructure, let alone health care infrastructure, and as such this seems like an intractable problem. And yet, a San Francisco-based company called Medic Mobile is looking to tackle this challenge head-on and in a very creative way.

Medic Mobile (which was founded by Josh Nesbit in his dorm room at Stanford) has a very succinct mission statement: improve healthcare in under-served communities using mobile technology. And inexpensive mobile technology at that! Medic Mobile develops simple software that provides community health workers with access to health records, mapping of health services and data collection, all on their mobile devices. (more…)

A $25,000 Challenge to Keep it Simple

When you look at a retailer like Target and its unique positioning as an “upscale” discounter, you’ll notice a few things. One is that it not only has to be excellent at the science of retailing but it must also push the art of being a merchant. Being an artful merchant is about design, curation and expert editing of offerings. And these days you can add social innovation to Target’s fashion traditions.

Target’s latest social innovation leans into the world of wellness and disease prevention, in addition to recovery and maintenance of health conditions, and pushes its desire to serve its guests’ needs well beyond the pharmacy counter.  But that’s not even the beginning of the innovation because this time the initiative starts outside of Target’s walls with the ideas coming from the most creative minds in our neighborhoods.  (more…)

Healthcare as a Matter of Personal Practice

Those of you who have read this blog for a while have heard me wax on about our healthcare system, which is actually a sickcare system. If you look at the bulk of our healthcare spending, you can attribute much of it to two broad arenas: 1) Get sick and someone will fix you and 2) death is optional (OK, at this writing it isn’t exactly “optional,” but death is treated as a disease in our society and billions are spent delaying departure at any cost).

Listen, if you are sick, there’s no better place to be on Earth. But if you want to keep well … well that’s a different story. I’ve highlighted all types of elements of what it means to create a health habitat, or healthier lifestyles more easily approached because of great design. From food offerings to redesigning offices that promote small movements throughout the day, we’re seeing a bevy of creative approaches aimed at changing not just how we think about healthcare, but how we actually live it.  (more…)

I · CONS ≥ LET · TERS [Sometimes]

As time goes on I’m noticing a great increase in the design quality of our tools. Not the ergonomics of them, but the way in which tools are being used to represent ideas beyond things like measurement and numbers.

Think about it this way: a number is a symbol to express a finite idea.  Even the number zero,“0”, is an expression of the absence of a thing (“nothing” is “something” as an idea).  In many, if not most languages, letters are symbols that are tools to express the sounds that when put together express an idea, like “dog” or “god,” which simply by rearranging those very same symbols state very different ideas.  Today, there is significant growth in iconography, which is the use of a single symbol to express a word or in many cases, a bunch of words.  (more…)


A number of years back, when the Weather Channel captured the crises/entertainment value of dangerous storms, I joked to a friend that it wouldn’t be long until someone launched the Sick Channel, where the same kind of entertainment values would be applied to contagions and epidemics.  Well it didn’t take long at all because now you can tap into a disease tracking system called Sickweather that monitors social networks for mentions of 24 different symptoms of illnesses, including “whooping cough,” “hand foot and mouth,” and “eczema.” And a system like this is to be expected, considering many peoples’ job titles include interpreting Big Data. (more…)


A number of years ago, my dad and I joined a few friends up in Alaska for salmon fishing. Salmon are amazing creatures. Born in river streams, they swim out to the ocean for several years and then come back to the very same river to spawn a new generation. They enter the river shiny and beautiful, lay or inseminate eggs, and then they begin to die. They become disfigured, their colors change and they literally rot to the bone.  One of my new-to-salmon-fishing friends looked at this with horror and asked our guide what was wrong with the fish.  Our guide chuckled and said, “There is absolutely nothing wrong with them.  They have lived their lives and now having produced another generation and they are dying. There is nothing ‘wrong’ with them.” (more…)