Decoding Design

Redesigning (and improving) the blood-donation chair

Redesigning (and improving) the blood-donation chair

Posting in Design

How can the blood-donation process be improved? A U.K. design firm has created a next-generation phlebotomy chair that makes giving blood more comfortable.

The Donation Chair, now in U.K. trials

Donating blood is a noble and generous act. But sometimes the process is uncomfortable for donors, for both obvious reasons (there are needles involved) and those that aren't so obvious (donors might not know to lie back or rest as a possible way to manage feelings of faintness after giving blood).

Designers at Renfrew Group International, a U.K.-based design and innovation firm, has created a new type of seat for conducting--and improving the experience of--blood donations.

The Donation Chair, pictured, is a collaboration between Renfrew Group and NHS Blood and Transplant Services (NHSBTS) which supplies 2 million units of blood a year to hospitals in England and northern Wales. The seat has clean lines and inviting elements such as a built-in headrest and a cozy, reclining silhouette. But attractiveness wasn't the ultimate goal. The designers looked into challenges that both donors and phlebotomists experience. Fainting seemed to be an issue that could be tackled via design. About 8-10% of blood volume is removed during a donation, which can lead to a donor feeling weak or woozy.

Looks good, does good

In the user research that the designers conducted, they realized that donors served by the NHSBTS were remaining in the same upright position after they had given blood. So Renfrew created a reclined seat that would require donors to lean back slightly while giving blood, increasing the odds that they could better manage feelings of weakness after the blood-drawing process is finished.

Other design considerations that the designers addressed included using materials that are easy to wipe clean, a shape that could accommodate many different body types easily, and a style that could easily be used by both mobile and static blood donation centers. The resulting chair looks modern and quite pleasing, but its form really reflects its functions.

The Donation Chair is currently in national trials in the U.K. The seat recently won a Healthcare Service Journal award in November 2011 for the procurement process that Renfrew devised for the product. The team designed very specific instructions that could be used by various manufacturers--a simple step that makes the production process more streamlined, fast, and cost-effective.

(Via British Design Innovation, Dexigner, ABHI UK Health Pavilion, Renfrew Group International)

Images: rg3.com (Renfrew Group International), @RenfrewGroup/Twitter

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Reena Jana

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Reena Jana has written for the New York Times, Wired, Harvard Business Review online, Fast Company, Architectural Record, Artforum, Time Out New York, Harper's Bazaar, and GQ. Previously, she was the innovation department editor at BusinessWeek. She holds degrees from Columbia University and Barnard College. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure