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Design on Demand: Industrial Design Students Collaborate with Spectrum Health Innovations

Posted March 24, 2015 in Classes & Presentations

Spectrum Health is searching for innovative ideas to power the healthcare industry forward, and the organization is tapping into the talents of local undergraduates to help make it happen.

Through a recent initiative undertaken by the healthcare provider’s Spectrum Health Innovations division, which links the organization to West Michigan’s robust entrepreneurial community, students from Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University’s (KCAD) Industrial Design program and Grand Valley State University (GVSU) were given the opportunity to design new products capable of solving common problems within the industry’s existing care model.

Each team was given a design brief outlining a particular challenge. The students then embarked on a comprehensive research phase driven by extensive user-driven feedback, getting valuable perspective from healthcare professionals who face those challenges on a daily basis. It’s a process that KCAD Industrial Design students are well versed in, but unlike with many of their class projects, which focus heavily on ideation and conceptualization, the end goal here was a product that could be feasibly produced and used successfully in the real-world.

Industrial Design students Justin Beitzel (right) and Wes Keely (left) present to the Spectrum Health Innovations team

“What’s different for us is that we’re always looking at how we can solve the problem rather than where we can maximize profitability or what the best market is,” said Industrial Design student Wes Keely. “Here, it required a balance of the two, and we tiptoed on both sides for quite a while.”

Keely’s team, which included fellow KCAD Industrial Design student Justin Beitzel and two GVSU students – one studying engineering and the other business, was tasked with designing a product that could make ambulation easier and more effective. A successful design, they quickly realized, hinged on their ability to capitalize on the collaborative potential their transdisciplinary makeup afforded them.

“It was up to us to figure out what the end product would be,” said Beitzel. “Spectrum left it really wide open and let us as a team go in and experience what their problems were. Then we were able to come back together as a group, and from our different perspectives we were able to say ‘this is where we think the biggest opportunity is for the product.’”

Keely walks the SHI team through his group's design refinement process

After ten weeks of research, ideation, and modeling, the students presented three design concepts to the Spectrum Health Innovations team. They were careful to not just present final renderings, but to illustrate each step of their design process as well.

“If you don’t show people the process, then they’ll usually ask you, ‘well, did you ever think of this?’ We eliminated those kinds of questions by showing them everything we considered, which made it easier for us to justify our decisions,” said Keely.

Keely details his group's prototyping phase Beitzel fielding questions from the SHI team

“The students’ ability to quickly learn about nuanced medical procedures was impressive,” said Spectrum Health Innovations’ Innovation and Entrepreneurship Manager Scott Daigger. “They dove head first into the challenge they were provided. While many students focused on generating solutions to existing problems that our clinical staff members highlighted, others were able to develop product improvements to needs we hadn’t even explicitly mentioned. The quality and detail in their product concepts gave us a great starting point for potential product opportunities.”

What will ultimately become of the student designs remains to be seen, as they are still early in the development stages, but according to Daigger, Spectrum Health Innovations will remain invested in the process.

“We’re is committed to helping students build a network of resources so their product designs continue to move closer toward patients.”

For more information on Spectrum Health Innovations, visit spectrumhealthinnovations.com.


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