Addressing Ebola through empathetic design solutions.

cha·rette (shə-rĕt′)
n. an intensive, multi-disciplinary design workshop engaging major stakeholders in a project under development.

In January 2015, Storyline Design member John Hetrick participated in The Ebola Design Charette hosted by the Penny Stamps School of Art and Design at the University of Michigan. As a graduate with a BFA in Industrial Design from UofM, John was invited to take part in the three-day working session that included experts, professionals, current and former design students, as well as others across the university to generate new ideas focusing on the Ebola outbreak. 

A short documentary by Adam Smith, University of Michigan Stamps School of Art & Design, capturing the design charette.

Empathy First

The design charette was structured using “empathy” as a guiding principle. The goal was to design solutions around personal protection equipment, health communications, and transport of patients. Solutions needed to not only be safe and effective, but also empathetic to those affected by the disease. 

The Healing Touch

Through research and discussions with experts on the field, John’s group focused on the importance of human touch in the healing process—both physical and mental. Particularly in places like Liberia, hit hard by the Ebola outbreak, where physical touch is deeply embedded in the culture as a sign of belonging and caring. The group collaborated to design an innovative way to allow an embrace between a caregiver, or a loved one, and a patient.

People who are isolated and experience little physical contact are known as “touch hungry.” Ebola patients are isolated, torn away from friends and family and quarantined.
— Julie Beck, The Atlantic, OCT 7, 2014

'The Embrace' 

Using materials common to protective suits, a safe solution was designed to enable a human embrace between an infected patient and a loved one or caregiver. 

Our focus has been to explore the journey of infected individuals, to design solutions with empathy for maintaining connections with family, community, and solving the most basic human need that Ebola steals…the ability to be touched.
— The Embrace Team