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With industry partner Procter and Gamble

Project Brief

My group of three other MS-EDI students and I worked with Procter and Gamble during our Human Centered Product Design Studio course to understand user needs and tensions within the NICU through contextual interviews, ethnographic observation, and iterative user testing with NICU nurses. In order to protect intellectual property and abide by the non-disclosure agreement under which the project was conducted, exact details of the project cannot be disseminated.


Our group developed a single-touchpoint solution to address the medical needs of NICU babies, the practical and professional needs of their NICU nurses, and the emotional needs of their families. Due legal and participant availability constraints, we had to be flexible in our research planning and prototype testing. Throughout this experience, my group and I dealt with some difficult group-dynamics and, as a result, I grew significantly as a team member, leader, and researcher. 

Roles I Played

  • Created discussion guides

  • Conducted contextual interviews and observations

  • Designed prototype testing protocols

  • Created frameworks to visualize research findings

  • Generated actionable insights

  • Formally presented insights and design to clients

User Research

Under the guidance of mentors from Procter and Gamble, our team developed a deep understanding of the extreme and vulnerable stakeholders within the NICU through a series of semi-contextual interviews and ethnographic observation. Prior to our arrival, NICU nurses with whom we spoke completed "homework assignments," which we were able to use to begin our discussion about the overall NICU experience through their eyes.


We recreated the NICU environment in nurses' homes to the best of our ability to compensate for the limited access we had to the NICU. To do this, we brought in a premature-baby-sized baby doll and asked the NICU nurses to demonstrate how they would interact with the baby in an incubator and how the incubator would be set up. Additionally, we brought a variety of NICU diapers from a variety of brands to ensure that the nurses would be using the diapers they were most familiar with as they showed us how they diaper a premature baby while at work. This helped us understand what their day-to-day experience in the NICU is like, both logistically and emotionally. To further our understanding of the NICU environment, we were able to spend a morning visiting and observing in the Comer Children's Hospital NICU.

Journey of the NICU


After completing our primary research, we constructed a variety of frameworks to uncover insights and tensions experienced by the various stakeholders in the NICU. For example, our team placed findings from our interviews and observations on a segmented chart (first photo at left) to understand how we might view users' needs through the lens of current and projected market trends. In addition, we created a journey map documenting the NICU experience from multiple points of view. For confidentiality purposes, this image has been pixelated.


Iterative testing with the nurses we had spoken with allowed us to observe their interactions with and reactions to prototypes at varying levels of fidelity. During the second round of user testing, pictured to the right, we used an "emotional bullseye" to help users explain how they ranked the prototypes with which we presented them. Each user ranked their gut-reaction to each prototype from "I hate this" to "I love this" then explained to us why they chose the labels they had. 

prototype testing 2
emo bulls eye


Our team delivered an innovative product design that resolved multiple areas of tension uncovered in the research. We were able to address the NICU experience as a whole by addressing stressors for babies, parents, and nurses that were closely related to one another. Our solution addressed medical needs of babies, emotional needs of parents and caregivers, and practical needs of NICU nurses. Procter and Gamble may choose to pursue intellectual property rights to the design; the project will be under NDA until 2022.

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