10 Things I Learned About Being a Design Consultant While Living in the Hospital For a Year

Session Title

10 Things I Learned About Being a Design Consultant While Living in the Hospital For a Year


Greg Vassallo, Moment

Session Type: Presentation

In March 2008 my two-month-old son Luca was diagnosed with AML, a rare form of childhood Leukemia. Immediately following his diagnosis we were admitted into Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, where we would end up living in the alternate reality of pediatric cancer for a about a year. It has been an intense experience that has changed us in ways we are still discovering.

Living in the hospital and fighting for our son’s life for so long afforded me the rare opportunity to intimately experience how the health care profession worked. We shared our “home” with a 24-hour stream of doctors, nurses, psychologists, technicians, physical therapists, volunteers, clowns, and many other health care professionals and supporting staff. At some point it occurred to me that there were many similarities between how the team at MSK delivered the service of trying to save our son’s life with how we as user experience design consultants deliver the service of creating compelling and effective design solutions for our clients.

In the hospital, we were essentially the clients. Many of the challenges faced by the MSK team were analogous to those faced by design consultants, including:

* Coordinating amongst a large team of interdisciplinary experts.
* Conceiving of and considering multiple solutions to complex problems, often amidst murky informational conditions.
* Building consensus amongst the team and the patient’s family (the stakeholders) around the best course of action.
* Changing course over time as dictated by feedback from Luca’s clinical condition.
* Building and maintaining our trust.

In this talk, I’ll discuss the 10 key lessons I learned about being a better design consultant from my experience in the hospital.

Luca is currently home, cancer free, and looking and acting like a typical 20-month-old. You can check out his blog here:



Greg is a Senior Associate in the User Experience Design group at Moment, an independent interaction design firm in New York. Greg holds a Bachelor’s degree in photography from the Newhouse School at Syracuse University, and a Master’s degree in Human-Computer Interaction from Carnegie Mellon University.

Greg’s work focuses on generative research, design strategy, information architecture, and interaction design for web-based and mobile applications. He’s passionate about user experience design and how it can change the world. He also has a slightly unhealthy fetish for wireframes and design documentation.

About Moment
Moment is an independent interaction design firm. Since our founding in 2002, we have helped our clients deliver Internet-based products and services that create real value in the lives of their customers, employees, and shareholders. We design for the web, mobile devices, and emerging platforms.