Smart Inhaler

Idea Couture Health (2015) / Industrial Design, User Experience

Long-term asthma sufferers face a number of challenges when it comes to regular inhaler use - the goal of this exploration was to come up with an product solution that improves this medication experience.  

Working with the support of an engineer, I was given 9 days to deliver on the project’s stated goals.

Research from prior projects showed that asthma patients commonly face three main issues:

  • Difficulty in adhering to prescribed daily medication due to lack of willpower or lack of perceived improvement
  • Incorrect inhaler usage technique
  • Lack of accessible information on  current condition and the effects of  medication and environment

With the concept’s product elements already specified, my first order of business was to ideate on what possible tech and product features would make sense in addressing the user problems we had decided to tackle.

Those scribbles evolved through multiple iterations, and with engineering input on possible tech solutions, eventually manifesting in a rudimentary feature set and user experience chart. 

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Initial ideation sketches. The idea of using an angle in the inhaler grip as leverage base when depressing the inhaler canister started to take hold. Incorporating a spacer into the mouthpiece also seemed reasonable to encourage correct inhaler usage while allowing the user to read information on the screen at close proximity.

Sketch mockups. To scale mockups made from magazine inserts and masking tape provided a quick and tangible way of iterating on initial sketched directions while ideating on ergonomics, proportion and mechanical function.

Insights gained from the mockups of dimensions and proportion were translated into form development. The goal was to create a clean aesthetic that was unassuming, had minimum visual bulk, but prioritized in-hand comfort.

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Checkpoint. At this point form development diverged into two clear directions: one with rotary joint that allowed it to flatten into a rod during storage and a another that was more organic in nature. Tighter sketches were created for a checkpoint review with senior leadership; this included some user cases to aid in explanation of the concept. Feedback was positive; the decision was made to go with the second direction.

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However I was concerned about the portability of the concept with its exaggerated dimensions. A physical spacer, while useful, is not absolutely necessary for proper inhaler use and I made the decision to prioritize ease of use/transport and remove it from the design. I then returned to paper mockups to nail down the final proportions and angles before going into CAD. 

Checkpoint. Tighter final sketch before going into CAD.