Prosthetic Realities, Prosthetic Futures: Challenging the status quo of external breast prosthesis design
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This practice-based research identifies the need and opportunity to update the design approach used in the production of external breast prostheses (EBP) for women post mastectomy. Spurred by accounts of some women’s negative experiences with their EBP, this research took influence from colour psychology, emotional design and consumer psychology to explore the potential to create a satisfying and transformative product and user-experience. Drawing on grounded theory, design ethnography and human-centred design practices, an iterative, empathic and participant-centred design process and methodology emerged. Insights from interviews, cultural probes, co-design activities and solo practice were combined to inform the making of speculative prosthesis prototypes that could advance the discourse of EBP. The aesthetics of prosthetics is a nascent research field, with some literature focussed on prosthetic limbs and a lack of attention on the prosthetic breast. Current external breast prostheses are semi-realistic or highly realistic and, as such, can keep wearers focussed on the absence of their breast(s) rather than new opportunities for expressing identity - opportunities already available to wearers of limb prostheses. This research concludes that through empathising and designing with wearers, designers can improve the EBP so that it better meets the diverse needs and desires of women and provides the potential for positive associations for those women who are currently dissatisfied with their prosthesis.
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