Problem Statement:

How can we reduce stress for dogs in the context of the veterinary hospital/clinical setting?

Field Research

To accurately define our users and empathize with them, I took my dog, Biff, to the vet for shots (he needed them, so it was a happy coincidence, not animal testing). This step was crucial to understand the stressors for dogs, their owners and the veterinary staff. I was able to ask questions of key stakeholders that were crucial to defining our opportunity areas. We also turned these experience into Personas that would guide our concept creation.


SET Factors

To define our problem space our team researched Social, Economic and Technological Trends. We boiled these down from 150 to some key factors to keep in mind while designing.

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Creating concepts

Our team created hundreds of concepts, using methods like Crazy 8s (individually sketching 8 concepts in 8 minutes) and 6-3-5 (writing 3 ideas in 5 minutes and passing it on 5 more times for people to be inspired by previous ideas) for accelerated design sprints. We used affinity mapping to group similar concepts and features and dot voting to determine our preliminary standouts. 


Systematic convergence

Our team created a decision matrix to mathematically evaluate our opportunity areas. By giving higher weights to things like Feasibility and Team Interest, we were able to identify opportunities that we could realize and be passionate about. We evaluated ideas like vets visiting the dog's home or looking specifically at restraining devices in the examination room. With each of our votes being anonymous and equal, the overall winner was designing "a product or service to improve the environment of the examination room in the vet to reduce dog stress."

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After we practiced divergence by sketching and writing out 100s of concepts, we converged quite a bit with the dot voting method and used a Pugh chart to combine features into concepts. This method allowed us to compare features in a level and unbiased way by looking at how successfully we could integrate our Value Opportunities (VOs) with each feature. 

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Refined Concepts

We combined our features into eight concepts, which I digitally sketched in Photoshop. We created a google survey and obtained feedback from about 25 dog owners. From that feedback I created a CAD design of the amalgamate concept and showed it to our other primary stakeholders; veterinarians and vet techs. Their feedback showed that we had failed, but thankfully, we failed fast. We took their feedback and refined our concept further.

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Further refinement and feedback

We created a foam core mockup of our idea, believing that tangible physical sketches would elicit the most accurate feedback. We took this mockup to another veterinary clinic and found that we were very close to a successful concept. The main change that was requested was to remove the seat that we had added to foster a closeness between the owner and pet. This was said to not only be using valuable space, but was a liability issue as the clinic was responsible for the animal injuring their own owner in that situation.


final concept

Our final solution is an exam table that allows dogs to walk up a ramp fostering a sense of confidence and comfort from their interaction with their owner. Dogs using the ramp is also safer for the Veterinarian and Tech, who don't have to strain their backs to pick up the animal. The rubber strips create a pleasing tactile sense for the dog and the built in scale allows for the dog to be weighed and have their heart rate taken without additional, intrusive exams. All data during the exam is wirelessly transferred to an application on an iPad, allowing the workers to remain focused on the dog, without turning their back, creating further confidence. The ramp moves back into place, creating a large work space for the veterinary clinic workers. The whole table can rotate up out of the way and stay flush with the wall if a dog is too large, which was inspired by crucial feedback heard from the Vets.



Through this project I learned a great system to thoughtfully and systematically create innovative ideas. I reflected on work I had done before returning to CMU for my Masters and it is easy to see how this could have enhanced projects that were less organized in approach. I enjoyed leading the team and sharing my design experience and practical knowledge. Toward the end of the project I realized I had created many of the artifacts from the project, as we were on a tight timeline and my experience and training allowed me to create high fidelity sketches and CAD very quickly. As a leader I realized I could do better and addressed the group, asking how I could help support them and develop their design skills. I then acted as more of a design director, guiding them in CAD and other deliverables. I am glad this realization happened during the first quarter of the program, as I was able to use these learnings and realizations in further projects during Masters.