Product Design students in a sound pod prototype they designedCreative Commons Attribution NonCommercial 4.0 license by Otago Polytechnic

Sound pods for private conversations

New style booths may be making a comeback for the open plan office.

Open plan offices have some advantages but can make it difficult to find somewhere suitable for a confidential conversation. For the new Dunedin hospital, those confidential conversations will sometimes include patients' personal health information. Meeting rooms are part of the solution but there will be times when they are fully booked.

Our Product Design students worked with the hospital rebuild project team to help resolve this issue. Groups of students researched the issue and designed possible solutions. The students interviewed doctors and administrative staff, to understand their needs and inform a human-centred design approach. There was also a focus on sustainability, with non-toxic organic materials being used for sound insulation, and considering end-of-life disposal of the pods. 

The freestanding pods reduce noise so that discussions between medical students and senior medical staff can be private and won't interfere with others working in the office. The Product Design students constructed prototypes from cardboard to visually present their designs to the hospital project team. Hospital rebuild project director Bridget Dickson described the students' designs as inspiring and imaginative.