A car buff might wax poetic about a set of wheels, but I have never interviewed anyone in the design community who was passionate about them—that is until I interviewed Alan Rheault, director of product design for Nurture® by Steelcase, and Goo Sung, design manager for Modo Carts. Their passion for the smallest details regarding Pocket™ illustrates the design team's sensitivity to the end-users of this new family of mobile workstations.
"We reviewed our existing line of carts and realized that what we had in our portfolio was inadequate," says Rheault. "Our customers were asking for a better solution. In this case, the market really pulled us into new product research."
The resulting research involved interviews, competitive research and on-site observations in hospitals and other health care settings. "What we uncovered was very interesting," explains Rheault. "We found that carts that were designed for specific uses were often used in other ways, and in other areas, because the user thought they were more functional. One of the most striking observations was when we realized that the simple, honest meal cart was being employed in multiple instances."
Members of the design team spent time on the hospital floor, but they also observed back-of-house functions such as pharmacy, purchasing and food service. Their work led them to some key discoveries. They realized that many carts were over designed, resulting in equipment that was often complex, unwieldy and heavy to move.
"The idea of simplicity in health care is very important," adds Rheault. "Simplifying the process for the worker makes their life easier. We wanted to design a line of mobile carts that were minimalist, easy to approach and intuitive for the user."
It's all about what a health care worker needs to carry (not what they want to carry). Hence the name Pocket—as in, we carry in our pockets what we need but not everything that we may want. The design encourages users to take what is essential as they conduct their work while also allowing them the freedom to configure the cart in a manner that supports the way they work.
Officials at Nurture elected to partner with Modo Carts, and the experience and expertise from both companies could not have been more appropriate for this effort. Modo's Sung, for example, heralds Pocket's wheels as perhaps the most important design element.
"I was observing during the third shift in a hospital and noticed that one of the pharmacy technicians was waiting until the end of his shift to make his rounds," says Sung. "When I asked him about the delay, he said that he waited until just before patients might be waking up because his cart generated so much noise. That story resonated with members of our team."
Individuals who have spent time in a hospital know that the environment is often not as quiet as one would like, particularly when sleep is desired. Restful sleep promotes comfort for both patients and their caregivers, and reducing equipment noise provides a winning solution for everyone.
"We put great thought into Pocket's wheels," notes Sung. "The casters, the minimization of parts and the materials we used make this a near silent piece of equipment."
The casters are based on a European design and are similar to a roller blade in terms of strength and durability. The attention to detail given to this particular feature is also evident in every facet of Pocket's design. Magnetic accessories, such as pen/pencil holders, enable each user to move them to whichever side of the work surface they prefer. The design also accommodates a wide range of technology, including laptops, tablets, monitors, and CPUs.
Pocket comes in a fixed-height model that has a top surface height of 36 inches. An adjustable-height model is also available and allows the user to easily adjust the height of the worksurface. All units have a Seagull primary finish. Tops and drawers
are available in Coastal (blue) or flat Platinum. Users may also specify a storage unit for wire management.
Rheault and Sung both believe that Pocket's reductive design is what the market is seeking when it comes to mobile carts, and the reaction of health care clients and designers since the line was introduced at NeoCon this year has been very positive. "We have been told that the simplicity, flexibility and small footprint of Pocket is exactly what a number of current and potential customers have been seeking," concludes Rheault. "These factors, coupled with Pocket's virtually noiseless movement, are exactly what we wanted to achieve with this line."
Janet Wiens is a freelance writer based in Memphis, TN. She was formerly a marketing manager for HNTB and now works with industry clients to address their marketing
and public relations needs. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.