During the Cooper Hewitt Design Thinking Workshop for teachers, Jessica Hurwit from Michael Graves Architecture and Design shared the process her team went through to redesign the hospital wheelchair for the company Stryker Medical.

Michael Graves, the recipient of the 2015 National Design Award for Life Achievement, was a renowned architect who after becoming paralysed, encountered the disconnect between the way medical facilities and equipment were designed and the healing environments of patients.

I was surprised that the humble wheel chair hadn’t had much of a redesign since it was patented in 1933.

As Jessica shared the various problems and challenges associated with the wheelchair design, the opportunity to create a wheelchair for hospital use was very apparent.

Some of these challenges included:

  • It is intended for personal use, not for a hospital patient who will be pushed around by a hospital worker
  • There are safety issues
  • Removable parts get lost
  • It is not easy to clean
  • And shockingly, approximately 30% are stolen each year!

After three years of research, brainstorming, ideating, prototyping and testing, the result was the Stryker Prime TC.


As Jessica shared the application of the design process in the health care world, teachers were given an illustration of various design mindsets. In particular, the research and critical thinking needed to scrutinise a situation towards defining relevant problems.

I’m realising that an important part of taking design thinking into the classroom is the sharing of existing designed solutions to illustrate various aspects of the process. During Cooper Hewitt Design Camp (with 6-10 year olds), significant people in the design world are invited to participate in activities, sharing expertise as the kids are creating. I think it’s the same for teachers.

As we are working towards using design thinking with students, we can benefit from exposure to designers who have firsthand experience applying the design process.

Photo credit:
The design process. image courtesy of Michael Graves
Posted by