As part of an exercise in responsible design, I created a container for all of the necessities of a diabetic teenager, and masked it as a purse.  This was the first time I experienced research taking precedence over design and solidified my interest in user-based design.  I began my research by looking at forums for diabetic teenagers and their parents.  It was easy to find teenagers sharing their experiences with one another and tips for parents packing sleepover bags. I was lucky enough to find a schedule one mom posted for nights when her daughter was at a friend’s house.  Blog posts were also a great help, specifically one in which an adolescent girl confessed to the difficulties associated with diabetes including constant monitoring while playing sports or dealing with mood swings.


To gain a more detailed understanding of adolescent psychology regarding diabetes, I looked to psychological research papers on the topic.  “School Nurse Perceptions of Barriers and Supports for Children With Diabetes” offered great insight on what diabetic children are faced with:

  • They need more support at school
  • Children need to be able to carry their bags in school so they can carry their testing equipment and snacks
  • After school activities may be limited
  • They might forget how serious it is

One study, “Decision Making Competence and Adherence to Treatment in Adolescents with Diabetes”, looked at the adolescent desire for autonomy and its effects on maintaining treatment.  The need for self-efficacy that emerges during adolescence contradicts the reliance on parents and nurses required for children with diabetes.  With this information I felt confident in the necessity of my design and ready to interview a local high school nurse.


Local nurse Pamela Wolf confirmed that many of the students in her school who had diabetes were reluctant to come to her office for medication, and many went the entire day without stopping by to test their blood sugar.  While the importance of heavy monitoring is dependent on how well-controlled the student’s diabetes is, she made it clear that even those students who should be stopping by rarely came into her office.  A mother of two teenaged girls herself, Nurse Wolf posited that this could be a result of typical teenaged rebellion, but in this case it could affect their health.  Nurse Wolf also gave me a list of the supplies that should be included in the purse, highlighting the importance of a sharps container for disposal of syringes and that a tube of icing was a common method of increasing blood sugar in unconscious patients.