Building a Better Incontinence Garment

Suzanne Goldsmith
CCAD master's students Weeraya Jirawongwaris (left) and Priya Metha with their final project poster

Improving the Columbus airport experience. Addressing the needs of children at an east side recreational center. Restoring the dignity of adults with incontinence.

These are some of the problems the nine members of the first graduating class of CCAD’s newest degree program sought to address in their final thesis projects, using a combination of design, business and technology skills to seek out innovative solutions.

“In our program, we switch the paradigm of design from designing for people to designing with people,” says Mercè Graell, chair of CCAD’s new Master of Design in Integrative Design program.

The graduating MDes students presented their projects Friday at the opening of the final exhibition for students graduating from CCAD’s master’s programs. The art projects of the MFA students will remain on exhibit in CCAD’s Beeler Gallery until April 28, while the poster presentations for the MDes projects are displayed nearby.

In the new two-year program, graduate students work directly with local businesses and nonprofits to apply design thinking to real-world problems. Maurshell Stokes and Elyse Applewhite spent many hours in the Near East Side’s William H. Adams Community Center to understand the kind of programming that might improve the prospects of children who spend their after-school hours at the center. Based on what they learned about students’ needs and interests, they created a proposed curriculum of projects and activities, including a social enterprise pitch contest and a debate team.

The students working on incontinence, Weeraya Jirawongwaris and Priya Mehta, conducted their research in collaboration with Cardinal Health.

“Twenty-five million people are affected by incontinence, but it is rarely discussed,” says Mehta. “Because it is a taboo issue, it deals not only with health, but also with issues like dignity and confidence.” Through their work with Cardinal, the two students interviewed numerous Columbus residents who use incontinence products. They learned that what users want most is to regain a “sense of control,” and made some product design recommendations for adult incontinence garments. Some ideas: customized fit, changes in packaging to decrease the sense of shame while purchasing, design alterations to ease the changing process and electronic changing reminders to prevent embarrassment.

Jirawongwaris and Mehta came to CCAD from Thailand and India, respectively, and both see their experience in the program as useful for future employment. “Health care has a lot of problems that need human-centered design,” says Mehta.


Like what you’re reading? Subscribe to Columbus Monthly magazine, as well as our weekly newsletter so that you keep abreast of the most exciting and interesting events and destinations to explore, as well as the most talked-about newsmakers shaping life in Columbus.