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Baby-friendly design aids bonding process

A Northumbria University student has created an incubator design to help parents bond with their premature baby.

Philip Cuthbertson and his incubator
Philip Cuthertson, a Design for Industry student, came up with Neocare – an incubator that allows parents to get physically closer to their baby with access from both sides, and also contains patient monitoring technology to replace intimidating machinery in the hospital ward.

Philip Cuthbertson’s design, which incorporates a bubble-like shape unlike the traditional box-shaped incubator, was inspired by a visit to a Sunderland hospital’s neonatal ward.

The 22-year-old, who lives in Sunderland, said: “Research has shown that the more a parent can interact with a baby while they are in hospital, the quicker the child will develop and the sooner it will be ready to be discharged.

“I wanted to create a design that would not only ensure the babies’ safety and allow medical staff quick and easy access, but would also help to develop the relationship between the new parents and their baby during the period of time they remain in the ward. This would have implications on the ward by reducing the length of time that patients stay and speeding their recovery.

“In order to soften the harsh design of traditional incubators I removed the box structure and made it more curved. I also removed some of the physical barriers between the parent and the baby to prevent them creating a barrier between their developing relationships.

“Because it can be remotely controlled, my design allows parents to see data about the baby’s condition in an understandable way. It removes all of the bleeping machines and meaningless lines on monitors yet relays the same information on a simple screen.”

The project was designed as part of Philip’s BA (Hons) Design for Industry degree course, run by the School of Design.

The four-year full-time course is targeted at students aiming to become professional designers of mass-produced products, moving on to influential positions in the organisations that will shape the future. It has a very strong vocational bias fostered by its close links with industry.

Programme leader and Senior Lecturer Mark Bailey said: “The BA (Hons) Design for Industry programme encourages creative and intellectual development as well as the acquisition of technical skills, abilities and knowledge.

“Philip’s design is engaging both aesthetically and in terms of the many benefits it offers to parents, babies and the neonatal staff.”

Neocare is on display alongside the work of Philip’s fellow graduating students at Reveal 09 – the end of year Design degree show. It can also be seen at and will be on show at New Designers 2009, from 16th to 19th July at the Business Design Centre in London.  

Reveal 09, which runs Monday – Friday, until June 26th at the School of Design, based in Northumbria’s award-winning City Campus East, is open to the public.

The exhibition includes the work of final-year students from 3D Design, Design for Industry, Fashion Design, Graphic Design, Interior Design, Multimedia Design, and Transportation Design. Entry is free and doors will be open between 10am and 4pm.

Date posted: June 23, 2009