The Role of Metaphor in Design

Impact on Health Outcomes

What is Metaphor?

“Metaphor can be a powerful tool for designers, in both the process of designing and within the products themselves…Metaphors provide cues to users how to understand products: to orient and personify.”

Metaphor helps us understand how the world operates.

A pen.

Insulin pens and regular syringes are an example of the effective use of metaphor

In contrast, Mylan's EpiPen is an example of a broken metaphor

What are the Effects of Metaphor on Health Outcomes?

What is the extent of harm that has been caused by the broken metaphor of the EpiPen?

There were over 15,000 unintentional injections with the EpiPen reported.

Have there been any changes to the design of the EpiPen to address the broken metaphor?

Let’s compare older vs. the current version of the EpiPen to understand the evolution of the design.




“Any time you see signs or labels added to a device, it is an indication of bad design.”

Instead of investing in research and development to fix the broken metaphor, Mylan is using a SIGN to prevent self-injury with the EpiPen.



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Doctor as Designer

Joyce Lee, MD, MPH, Physician, Designer, Researcher. #learninghealthsystems; #design for #ai; and the maker movement