Alissa Rees is a multidisciplinary designer and conceptual thinker with a special interest in healthcare. During the 2018 Fuorisalone you may have seen her projects IV-Walk and Hospichic, as part of the Ventura Future 2018 exhibition. Her works show a humanistic approach: she is fascinated by people and people’s routines and while she designs her aim is to bring them to a different world. We asked Alissa few questions to understand better her method:
– Hi Alissa, the first question is, how did you approach design, what led you to become a designer?
I never planned to become a designer in the first place. My original plan was to study Philosophy at the University in Amsterdam. But a month before the study started, I was diagnosed with leukemia. During my treatment I had a lot of time to think about what we call ‘life’. After I was recovered I wanted to live it instead of discuss or question it. I wanted to do something physical, create things, things that will have valuable results, something creative.
– Talking about your experience at Design Academy Eindhoven, how did your way of designing change?
If I tell people I studied design, they often assume I make tables, vases, do something with graphic design or fashion. Although I highly respect those designers, during my study I realized my passion was in social and concept design. As a child they already called me “the different thinker”: I interpreted things in a different way, which brought unexpected movements. During my study at the Design Academy Eindhoven I got excited about the fact that I could help institutions, individuals, hospitals or even governments with the concepts my brain created. The Design Academy Eindhoven let me combine all those elements: my experiences, a philosophy touch together with the design skills the Academy taught me.
– Healthcare design is one of your passion, how did you approach it, where does your interest come from?
It felt right to graduate with a personal project. During my treatment I was amazed about the absence of certain elements in hospital. The basic elements to heal a body were not present. The fact that there is hardly anything to mentally distract patients, that patients are not able to go outside or be in touch with nature and that there is tasteless and unhealthy food being served. This is why I graduated with my book ‘Humanising of the white building’ with 20 concepts to humanise hospital. Addressing themes as mental distraction, atmosphere, communication, mobility and balance. Together with poems I wrote when I was myself in hospital. Three concepts I materialized out of my book: The IV-Walk, Hospichic and Balance your bead. For example: The IV-Walk is a portable IV-Pole. Instead of the cold metal traditional hospital pole, The IV-Walk stimulates mobility in hospital with the aim to accelerate recovery of the patient. My projects were able to win different prizes and has been exhibited in cities as Las Vegas, Amsterdam, Paris, Liege and Milan.
– You write on your page, ‘Simple thoughts and ignored emotions are my biggest inspiration, I design for the ten second moment of believing that we are in the right place’ – Can you explain us this sentence?
What fascinates me are the routines human beings like to play part in and the specific thoughts that drives them. I love to analyse people and use my design to play with those thoughts. If the design can bring people to a different world or insight, even if it is for ten seconds, my concept has reach his goal. A very simple example: if you can let people experience how it is to watch a ceiling for a long time and not be able to walk, they will appreciate their daily view and working legs.
– You have a multidisciplinary interest in movies that express the peculiar behaviour of the human being, radio making and prose stories. How do you combine them?
I want to keep on exploring, with different mediums you keep on challenging yourselves and you enter different worlds. Somehow, if you want, you can always connect them. And to be honest, I am just addicted to new experiences!
– What project are you working on right now?
Currently I give workshops in hospitals and lectures all over the world. I also work for different municipalities, companies and individuals with my design. Next to that I just finished a trial with the IV-Walk in a hospital based in Amsterdam. With very positive results! At the moment I want to find the right company for the IV-Walk to produce and bring this product to the market.
– What are your plans for the future and your hopes as designer?
I can imagine I am still a concept designer running an even bigger company. I hope I can still bring value with my concepts that I brought to life. Next to that I hope I get the possibility to humanise hospitals in different areas all over the world and that I can inspire others to do the same. I want to humanise different aspects in more areas as education in elementary schools and contact with nature in our daily lives. And most of all I hope I am healthy, satisfied, be surrounded with people with humour and still open for exciting adventures!
In the gallery below you will a selection of photos from her projects: the graduation book ‘Humanising of the white building’ and IV-Walk; Hospichic, a set of four elements that enable an atmospheric dinner in hospital. Balance your bead, a playful object designed for people that are dealing with low energy to help them to get an insight in their energy level. Last but not least, Baby Farm Toys, a product created to develop our immune system involving contact with microbes, essential for children in the early years.
All Rights Reserved to Alissa Rees