Industrial Design graduate makes moves in medical field
When Emily Hayhurst first began her studies at Sheridan, she wasn’t sure how she wanted to apply her knowledge — but she knew she wanted to help people.
Drawn to Sheridan’s innovative Honours Bachelor of Craft and Design - Industrial Design degree program, Hayhurst was excited to major in her field while integrating design thinking and hands-on experience from Sheridan’s four other Craft & Design disciplines — Ceramics, Furniture, Glass and Textiles. Using the knowledge gained in her courses, Hayhurst was emboldened to look at the way we live and work in a global society, and design innovative and meaningful solutions to problems.
“In about my third year, I realized I liked making things that could help people,” explains Hayhurst. “No matter what I was designing, I wanted to be doing that.”
In the final year of her studies, Hayhurst embarked on a capstone project that for her, featured a human-centered design. Entirely self-directed, with guidance from the studio’s capstone advisors, all fourth-year Craft & Design students are required to complete a capstone project which runs two full semesters.
“This is one of the things I loved about the ID program at Sheridan. All my classmates had such a wide range of interests, and we were free to explore those interests and get feedback from each other,” Hayhurst says. “I could explore my love of health and medical design, while someone else in my class may explore their love of fashion and jewelry, but all our insights were valued because we each brought new perspectives to each other’s designs.”
The project had her researching, ideating, iterating through prototyping, and testing, to come to finally producing a physical model and comprehensively documenting the overall process. It’s an in-depth process required of industrial designers and a hand-on experience aligned with what students can expect in the industry.
Fortunately, Hayhurst’s emphasis on empathy and research meant she excelled in the project, with an eye towards creating products that make life easier, and better. “I wanted to make a product that can enhance quality of life and bring joy to those who use them,” she says.
This laser focus led Hayhurst’s capstone, Breathii, to win first place at the 2022 Rocket Awards – a competition put on by Toronto-based ACIDO – an association of accredited Industrial Designers in Ontario, formed to develop and promote the profession.
Inspired by her two brothers and father, who have asthma and have been hospitalized for the condition in the past, Breathii is an Incentive Spirometer — a device for respiratory muscle training, intended to help patients recovering from surgery or respiratory illness regain strength and help clear their lungs. Existing devices are not user-friendly, says Hayhurst, resulting in low adherence and longer recovery times. What’s more, caregivers say they have difficulty assisting their patients due to the large and cumbersome nature of the products currently available.
“It’s about being able to provide simple, affordable health care. Some families, for example, just can’t afford a $300 inhaler,” says Hayhurst. “I realized how much potential there is in the medical field to create designs that are accessible to the general public.
Breathii is a user-friendly and ergonomically designed device that’s meant to be easy to use, and long-lasting. “A design that is approachable and fun not only encourages its use, but can make serious illnesses less daunting,” explains Hayhurst.
The experience prompted Hayhurst to continue to pursue a career helping to make advances in the medical field. Today, she’s working as an intern with StarFish Medical — a company that works with others in the marketplace to create and manufacture breakthrough products for a range of medical specialty areas.