Your Product Personified

I met Antonella, Ashley and Natasha via a New York Times article, Before Creating the Car, Ford Designs the Driver, by Phil Patton. “Antonella is an attractive 28-year old woman who lives in Rome. Her life is focused on friends and fun, clubbing and parties. Natasha is a “a tech-savvy “social achiever”” and Ashley  is “a cool mom.”

These people don’t actually exist. They are imaginary characters created by Ford Motor Company to capture the personality of intended customers of specific car models. These colorful avatars bring to life piles of statistical research and demographic data to create a shared image for everyone working to create the next hit for Ford. I find this approach is very valuable in articulating and relating to the nuanced, multifaceted demographic data of the over 40 consumer.

Age Well Character

I was inspired to define an ideal composite character for GoodDesignAgeWell.  I chose Ashley as the core character because she is described, according to Ford’s internal research documents, as a mom “who, like the vehicle, represents an update of traditional family priorities. She shops at T. J. Maxx, H&M and Target  and“friends are part of her family.””  The concept van also fits the vision of a family vehicle that is designed well and integrates lo-tech and hi-tech concepts that make daily life better;  built-in hand sanitizer and sunscreen dispensers, storage hooks to transport scooters and strollers, large underfloor storage, constant Web access, and an RFID electronic tagging system to track, via the onboard computer, important items you don’t want to forget or lose.

In addition to Ashely,  I see GoodDesignAgeWell is more than a single character, it is a family of personalities.  Building upon the Ford research I believe Ashley’s family shares similar values and attributes across multiple generations and most notably, family members are also friends.

multigenerational family

I also put greater importance on the role Ashley plays as the family medical manager and wellness coach.  Her focus on safety and wellness is illustrated well with the photo of the concept van with Harry Allen’s International Design Magazine (I.D.) 2009 packaging award winning first aid kit for Johnson & Johnson. Available at for $18.49

Ford First Aid Kit

Other Key Points on the Value of a Persona:

•    Personalizes the ideal buyer
•    Articulates common values and attitudes across boundaries of nation and language
•    Equally effective for concepts and for products in production
•    Importance of pleasure and preference in buying choices vs. older, rational models of buyer behavior based simply on price or other hard factors.
•    Design is critical
•    “We now focus quite a bit on aspirations and dreams.”


Age Well Product and Branding Champions


I was inspired to offer a counterpoint to a blog post by one of our favorite life-stage bloggers, Laurie Orlov,  titled “Vendors Who Should Target Boomers and Seniors – Part 1 & Part 2.” Orlov advocates major brands to “create messages and acknowledgements of these [boomer and senior] segments.” Nuanced messaging that captures the joy of life is the type of conversation consumers want to have with their brands of choice at all stages of life.

Good design obviously exists in product design, but it also exists in service design as well as branding and advertising. And as Diane Vondrak Bright shared with me. “good design is just that…design that is good. Good for all, inclusive and counters exclusion.”  Over time I have collected examples of major brands that offer products and brand messages that are inclusive and counter exclusion. Upon closer examination some of their products are beautifully and subtly targeted towards consumers with special needs.  However, the overall brand experience welcomes everyone.

All of these products provide value across the age spectrum and they are found by consumers who recognize their value without marketing to fear and frailty. These examples are a guiding light for other companies trying to initiate a consumer-conversation with certain life stages.

Logo Products

The GE Profile™ Single-Double Wall Oven is a winner.  Wall ovens can be installed at a convenient height.  Universal design standards recommend installing the wall oven with at least one rack at the level of an adjacent counter top, reducing the need to bend, improving accessibility and making it easy to transfer a heavy, piping hot pan of Grandmother’s lasagna to the counter.  Other notable features include self-cleaning, easy-to-read graphics, an easy-grip handle, an oven lock-out switch, and generous interior lighting.  But the best feature is the shorter oven doors that allow simple access to each oven cavity and take up less space in the kitchen. No more bending and reaching over a full size oven door.

Timex, one of the best known watch companies in the world, reached its milestone 150th Anniversary this year. Throughout its long and rich history, Timex has remained at the forefront of advanced technology, developing iconic and internationally recognized timepieces. From the first mass-produced, affordable pocket watches to Indiglo night-light, the company’s propriety watch illumination technology, has been driven by the advancement of state-of-the-art timekeeping.” Timex further demonstrated their innovative spirit by teaming up with Core77 to conduct a global design competition.  The Timex Easy Reader ($45) is worn by a key adviser to GoodDesignAgeWell.  He is a stylish design-savvy Gen-Y’er whose other watch is a luxurious Breitling.  But he loves the Timex for its classic design that is appropriate for any occasion.

OXO‘s full range of products are must have for any kitchen.  Their products are distinguished for their purposeful use of universal design – a philosophy of making products that are easy to use for the widest possible spectrum of users. Even the name  “OXO” has universal elements, because whether it’s horizontal, vertical, upside down or backwards, it always reads “OXO.” The tools are useful for the overworked hands of professionals chefs, a parent with a baby in one hand and a task in the other, or sore hands that have lost a little bit of their gripping power.

Now the best for last.  The Wii by Nintendo is by all means a run-away intergenerational success that has created a huge following and even Wii Bowling tournaments and virtual leagues. This user-insight video from Nintendo subtly and superbly captures the essence of Wii and how it connects with consumers.


Games for Health Competition

Humana, one of the nation’s largest health benefits companies, sponsors Humana Games for Health (HG4H), to understand how video games can be used to encourage people to have a more active and healthier lifestyle.

HG4H is launching the InsertCoin competition on June 11, 2009 at 9:00 a.m. EDT.  It will conclude at 5:00 p.m. EDT on September 9, 2009.  The competition is for new game concepts that are innovative and entertaining enough to motivate kids, families and seniors to be more active or encourage them to make healthy decisions.

If your idea is selected, you could win a cash prize and have the opportunity to commercialize your ideas. Winners will be announced and posted online at in mid to late November of 2009.

While exploring HG4H be sure to watch the HG4H video for a dose of inspiration:

“The judging panel will be looking for game concepts that are fun for kids, families, seniors – or all three! What we are not looking for are the traditional food, fitness and disease management games.  Since we want people to actually want to play these games, your game idea(s) need to be fun!  In addition to being fun, your game idea(s) must have some sort of health benefit – whether it’s motivating people to move, or just encouraging them to make healthy decisions for themselves and their families.”
The game idea(s):

•    will be judged in 3 competitive categories; Kids, Families, Seniors (65+)
•    can be for single or multi-player games
•    can be played on a video game console, PC/Mac,  mobile device
•    can incorporate accessories, such as GPS, acceleromter, gyroscope, etc.
•    can be used in with fitness gear, like bikes, running shoes, or skateboards
•    can not use technology at all

$10,00 will be awarded as follows:
•    $5,000 – 1st Place Prize
•    $3,000 – 2nd Place Prize
•    $2,000 – 3rd Place Prize

Download official rules here.

During our travels, online and offline, we encountered two games that might be contenders; and will hopefully enhance any user-insight game development sessions.

Memic, A Game of Dance

Stanford University – Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (, offered a two-quarter interdisciplinary course, Design for Agile Aging, in Winter/Spring of 2008 to bring perspectives from Computer Science, Design, Social and Behavioral Sciences, and Medicine to develop projects that address the potential of people to maintain vitality and mobility as they age. The projects found innovative ways to integrate computer and device technologies with behavioral and social interventions.

The Spring quarter final project was Memic, a 2-way TV intergenerational dancing experience that creates social connectedness, encourages physical activity and feels more like fun than exercise.  The video explains it well.

memic - dance, play, connect

memic - dance, play, connect

The available presentation explains the concept in detail and offers more insights that pertain to the intersection of fun, physical movement and technology.  We thought the following key points offer ideas on how other existing health technology devices can offer a more attractive experience to the consumer.

  • More people responded to “Dance” than “Exercise”
  • With family = more fun + more motivation
  • Children give (adults) permission to do silly things
  • Intergenerational, coaching dynamic

Bounce, A Common Experience Game

Bounce Telephone Game

Bounce, A Common Experience Game is another game to be played by members of different generations. Ken Goldberg, Irene Chien, Jane McGonigal, and Greg Niemeyer developed Bounce for an expo in San Jose, CA for ISEA in 2006. The game is a tool to engage people of different ages in conversation. During a web-supported phone conversation, the game prepares questions that one young person and an older person answer together. This way, they discover a number of things that they have in common, and perhaps some things that set them apart.

Continue the Conversation…and Bring Your Best Game!

Age Well – There’s an App for That.

What’s great about the iPhone is that if you are wondering how to Age Well, there’s an App for that.

If you are wondering how to record your health symptoms, there’s an App for that.

Health Calendar $2.99

Health Calendar $2.99

If you are wondering how to amplify distant or quiet sounds, there’s an App for that.

Amplitude $0.99

Amplitude $0.99

If you are wondering how to stop smoking, there’s an App for that.

Health Calendar $2.99

Health Calendar $2.99

If you are wondering “What did you do today?” there’s an App for that.

Memiary $0.99

Memiary $0.99

If you are wondering how to dial phone numbers for your mom, other siblings or Facebook friends by choosing a photo, there’s an App for that.

Dial By Photo $0.99

Dial By Photo $0.99

If you are wondering how to manage your medications, vitamins and supplements, there’s an App for that.

PIllboxer $0.99

PIllboxer $0.99

If you are wondering how to integrate the sounds of a cheering crowd into your workout playlist, there’s an App for that.

Cheer For Me $0.99

Cheer For Me $0.99

Yep, there’s an App for just about anything.

43 Year Old Moves Into A Retirement Community

We frequently use the IDEO Method Cards to inspire our curiosity and to refresh our insights in order to bring readers innovative ideas to thrive at home, connect to community and fortify personal independence.


We discovered an excellent example of two user-insight methods put into practice, Try It Yourself and Rapid Ethnography, by Steve Gurney, who at the age of 43 moved into a senior living community to experience the transition into, and the daily life in a retirement community. Even though we would expect, as the publisher of the Sourcebook, a guide to help seniors and their families make important housing decisions, he would have enough insight already. But in order to gain first hand experience, and to better inform his work with families he immersed himself in the experience of the products and services of a retirement community.


Steve Gurney documented his experience at his blog, Everyone is Aging, which also includes video diary entries.

What would it look like if we spent more time using the products or services we are designing, selling, and marketing.  This is an especially important question if you would not normally use that product or service? How can you develop a deep firsthand understanding of the people you serve?

Let us know what methods you used, what outcomes or insights you gained and how it innovated the way you do business.

User-Insights on Hi-Tech and an Ageing European Population

We like this video because it contains the reactions of older adults to technology prototypes for cognitive exercise, social connection and home monitoring.


From our POV there isn’t enough user-insight research available today to understand the perceptions and attitudes of this group toward technologies specifically designed for them.  It is also interesting to note that many of the features of the prototypes are available today in market ready products.  Some examples included; Dakim for cognitive fitness, Kinnexxus for social connectivity and GrandCare for home/health monitoring, cognition and communication.

The user-insights reveal positive attitudes toward technology balanced with realistic expectations on how technology can play a role in daily life, while not being a cure all. This begs the question of why is there a low adoption rate for age aware focused technology solutions and what can be learned from the user-insights?

User-Insight Quotes


“I like it. It keeps my brain working. It opens my brain up. And even though I am quite old I can learn new things.”

“Many people live alone and technology can help.”

“New technologies can be useful. They can help me to fill some gaps. Things that I cannot do by myself, for instance when I cannot move from home, or they can let me know if I have forgotten something.”

“I have just started using these new technologies…these prototypes have been my very first experience using hi-tech. It’s fun but I usually need the help of my grandchild.“

“How many people live alone at home?  Many. We are many.  And we spend lots of hours alone, isolated, without being contacted by anybody.”

Conversations with Elders with Memory Loss – Spoken Word Stories and Music by Paul Cebar

We really like the fresh perspective this collaboration brings to the music scene in general, artistic entertainment and more importantly, to the voices behind the experience of memory loss.

“Cherry Picking Apple Blossom Time, a collaboration between Duplex Planet creator David Greenberger and Milwaukee music legend Paul Cebar, Wednesday May 13th at 8 p.m. in The Pabst Theater in Milwaukee, WI.
Featuring spoken word stories derived from Greenberger’s conversations with elderly residents of Milwaukee, backed by music composed by Paul Cebar that is seamlessly integrated with the mood of the words.

In 1979, artist David Greenberger began publishing The Duplex Planet, works devoted to his conversations with nursing home residents. Now marking its thirtieth anniversary, his work has been the subject of three documentaries, collected in books, converted into comics, recorded for radio and CD release, and adapted for the stage and film.

The Simpsons creator Matt Groening says “On first reading, this stuff seems merely hilarious. Then it grows on you and becomes strangely moving. Then the moving stuff seems funny, and the funny stuff seems moving. And finally, you’re stunned by the realization that we all live on Duplex Planet.”

Greenberger’s new work draws from his conversations with elders he met during his three-month stay in Milwaukee – all of whom were experiencing some degree of memory loss, ranging from barely noticeable to profoundly fragmented thought. Greenberger’s warmth and respect for people going through one of the most feared aspects of aging shines through the music. He accepts them as they are, following conversations wherever they lead. These are people who still find pleasure in the company of others, and who open, sometimes in very small ways, to someone taking an interest in them.”

Age-Aware Online Education

Earn Continuing and Professional Education credits with courses that have been developed around health, safety, and welfare topics for architects, interior designers, and allied professionals interested in earning CPEs.


There are three types of courses you can choose to improve your knowledge about design and human behavior research, which you can then use to inform your design process:
Text-Based courses:  Read one issue of Implications, InformeDesign’s monthly newsletter, and five Research Summaries, all of which focus on the same topic.
Inquiry: Read an issue of Inquiry, a topic-oriented research brief focused on a single topic in which evidence from InformeDesign is summarized to provide you with a quick method of updating your knowledge.
Web Casts: View a one-hour Web Cast, presented by an expert designer or researcher in the field and focused on a specific topic.

Process and Fees
To earn continuing education credit, read the course materials or view the Web Cast, complete a short 12-question proficiency exam, and submit your materials for evaluation. The fee includes secured access to the course, access to the exam, and a certificate of completion for your records. Each course takes 60-70 minutes to complete.
Text-Based Course Fee        $45 (AIA: 1.0 LU; IDCEC .1 CEU)
Inquiry Course Fee              $65 (AIA: 1.0 LU; IDCEC .1 CEU)
Web Cast Course Fee           $65 (AIA: 1.0 LU; IDCEC .1 CEU)

Some of the course that are available include:

X0709 Transforming Nursing Homes ($45 text based course)  – Innovative design strategies are being developed to support the culture change occurring in today’s nursing homes. This course informs the reader of the results and applications to the design industry.

IQ0801 Designing for the Needs of the Aging Population ($65 Inquiry course) – Learn to understand how to design for the aging population. As we age, we experience many changes in our physical, psychological, and social health, thereby increasing sensitivity to and dependence upon the environment around us

Tell it to Someone Who Cares!!

Checkout an innovative online project, “Ruby’s Bequest: Visit Deepwell!,” at The Institute for the Future (IFTF), United Cerebral Palsy and AARP have created an online “collaborative story for social good” about caregiving’s future, and Deepwell is the fictional town in the narrative.

I find the use of online social networking tools and platforms intriguing to create a discussion around designing an”ecosystem of caregiving”.   What are your thoughts?  Continue the conversation…


Here is the latest announcement from Ruby.

“Dear Folks,

Well, it’s finally happened–we now know the contents of Ruby Wood’s bequest.

But knowing sure doesn’t make things easier. We’re still “the town that doesn’t care right”, but that label comes with a challenge and an opportunity to fix things, today, using moneys from the bequest to fund interesting ideas about caring.

If you’ve already sent us a story by email or phone, we’ve done our best to respond right back, and some of your stories have even more tokens of our appreciation.

If you haven’t had time yet, here is the best way to orient yourself no matter when you start:

Now, if you’re getting started for the first time on our site:

1.  Go to & click on “Become a Friend of Deepwell

2.  Go back to to read some “Good Thinking” by clicking on the images in the lower left hand corner

3.  Here’s some of the conversation you might want to use for inspiration:
Rhythms of Contact & Caring:
Need More, No–BETTER Data

4.  Click on “Tell us What You Know to tell your own story via text form, email, or phone.  This can be a simple paragraph, a photo with a caption, or a link to a video or news article you read that you think Deepwell should consider.)

Here’s how to find stories you’ve already sent us (if you’re already signed up as a Friend of Deepwell):
1.  Go to
2.  Click on See All Stories (
3.  On the right, under Popular Searches, click on Your Stories.

Lastly, we’re sure you know people who could probably add a lot to this conversation.  We all could sure use their help, so please pass this information on and, as you well know by now, Tell it to Someone Who Cares!!”

Now You See It. Now You Don’t.

Grab bar manufacturers  are trying to move away from the ADA compliant building code look of public restroom grab bars.  New shapes, colors, finishes and materials are now available. But still the stigma of a grab bar has slowed its acceptance by homeowners, despite the convenience and comfort it provides for all users.  In a recent New York Times article by Joyce Walder, fold-down grab bars are pictured that can be added to a bathroom when needed.  This is an innovative approach to making a house flexible to meet the needs of its occupants, as opposed to the occupants adapting their needs to the inflexible structure of the built environment.


The remainder of the article features other universal design features for special needs, for the possibility of age related physical decline and for maximum access to a house in general.