Designing Kid-Centered Medicine

Designing Kid-Centered Medicine

Recasting painful, awkward and embarrassing childhood experiences as rights of passage, spirit journeys and superpowers
Bri Patawaran
No items found.
read time:

Did you ever have lice as a kid? A bunch of us here at IDEO Cambridge did and we haven't forgotten how awful and embarrassing it felt. And when designers are faced with never-ending, wish-I-could-forget-you experiences, they start looking for ways to fix them. Recently, the studio banded together to create Phantasy Pharmacy, a bit of design fiction to help us stretch our imaginative limits and wrestle down unhappy childhood memories.

Each mythic tool/medicine could be used to combat common childhood ailments and illnesses in a way that celebrates each malady from beginning to end.

We are big fans of design fiction as a means to push our thinking and to explore what the future could look and feel like. For this design fiction exercise, we challenged ourselves with finding ways of turning kids into the heroes of their own young lives. We set out to create empathetic tools for childhood ailments and illnesses that recast painful, awkward and embarrassing experiences as rites of passage, spirit journeys and superpowers. To that end we asked ourselves a few questions to get started:

How might we turn embarrassing childhood moments into badges of honor?

How might we empower kids to celebrate the sometimes awkward illnesses of childhood?

How might we design for rites of passage, or inspire rituals that spark a contagious creativity?

So, we let our imagination go into a world with monsters in the closet, serpents under the bed, and yellow eyes peering out of the darkness. And we asked ourselves how to take the trauma and the terror out of routine childhood experiences. One thing we knew for certain: solving problems technically and explaining them rationally wouldn’t get us very far. First, we had to address them on an emotional, even mystical plane.

Childhood can be full of play and promise, but also pain. What might seem like a temporary annoyance to grownups can be felt as an unending bout of humiliation and suffering for young hearts and minds. Pink eye, lice, ear infections, zits—the barrage of indignities can wreak havoc on even the most self-confident kid.

But what if these childhood ailments were recast as rites of passage and superpowers? What if the telltale itchy scalp or bloodshot eyes could be framed as something to embrace, even be proud of? That’s what Phantasy Pharmacy seeks to capture in its design fiction collection of mythic tools that could be used to combat common childhood ailments and illnesses in a way that celebrates each malady from beginning to end.

To get the full, unadulterated experience, check out

No items found.
Bri Patawaran
Environments Designer
Though educated formally as an architect, Bri's interest is piqued by all things visual, spatial and geometric.
No items found.

Subscribe to the IDEO newsletter

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.