Katie Brown is a Scottish designer and researcher who graduated from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design in 2016 with a first class honours in Jewellery & Metal Design. Wanting to combine her craft skills and material knowledge with design thinking and human-centred design, she went on to study MSc Product Design and graduated with distinction in October 2017.
Having a background in wearables and an understanding of the role of technology in our lives, she is currently working towards her interdisciplinary practice based PhD, provisionally titled: exploring hearing aids and super normal design.
Project: Exploring hearing aids & super normal design
In her research, Brown looks at how the design of hearing aids can better represent the identity of the wearer, and what role design plays in challenging the stigma associated with hearing aids and hearing loss.
“The research aims to understand the different social and cultural relationships that exist, and their link to hearing aids. It will involve the experiences and perspectives of wearers, non-wearers, healthcare professionals and manufacturers of hearing aids,” explains Brown.
The intent of this project is to challenge prevalent visions for the future of hearing aid design: that they will either ‘disappear’ through miniaturisation, or else by appearing to be something other than a hearing aid, whether mainstream consumer electronics or jewellery. And to challenge the implication that this disappearance – even if possible – would be a positive outcome for everyone concerned.
The research explores themes of stigma as part of understanding the different social and cultural relationships that exist and their link to hearing aids. It will involve the experiences and perspectives of wearers, non-wearers, health care professionals and manufacturers of hearing aids.
In response (yet also as a mode of inquiry) it will use super normal design: defined as the design of everyday objects that fit into our lives so comfortably as to usually go unnoticed (another, more subtle form of invisibility, in a way). By which we mean the design of hearing aids that are in some ways archetypical hearing aids and recognisable as such, yet at the same time are understated, subtly and beautifully resolved.
Research questions include:
How does the experience of wearing hearing aids differ across hard of hearing, deafened and D/deaf users?
What decisions are wearers making with regards to passing, covering and uncovering? In what way does stigma affect these decisions?
How can the design of hearing aids better represent the identity of their wearers?
What would a super normal hearing aid look like, and who might wear one?