October 2018: Meet Dawn Sakaguchi-Tang

Human Centered Design and the SOARING Project

A Conversation with Dawn Sakaguchi-Tang


Dawn Sakaguchi-Tang, MS
Area of Study: Pre-Doctoral Student Human Centered Design and Engineering
SOARING Role: Dawn is helping to spearhead the final, design-focused phase of the study.

We spoke with Dawn to hear more about her, and her perspective on SOARING

Q: Your background is in Human Centered Design and Engineering (HCDE). Tell us a little bit about that.
I’m heading into my 4th year as a PhD student in HCDE. My area of interest is in aging and technology, and the opportunities for technology to support autonomy and quality of life for older adults as they navigate through transitions in life, like retirement or health events. I received a Masters from UW HCDE in 2010 and worked in user research prior to entering the doctorate program.

Q: What is your role in the SOARING project?
The SOARING team has done extensive research to understand how older adults manage their personal health information and the role that family, friends, and providers have in that process. Under the guidance of SOARING investigator and HCDE faculty, Julie Kientz, I am working to translate our findings into personas and design guidelines that will communicate older adults’ goals, needs, and challenges in managing their personal health information.

Q: You worked with a directed research group (DRG) in this phase of the project. Tell us more about what that is and how the DRG contributed to SOARING.
HCDE faculty offer Directed Research Groups (DRG) for undergraduate students to gain experience in research activities. We hosted a couple of DRGs where students were directly involved in developing personas, brainstorming design ideas, and developing design guidelines. The students also helped to obtain feedback from older adults on those design guidelines.

Q: You have developed “personas” as part of this phase of the project. What are personas and how are they helpful to health information technology designers?
Personas are depictions of potential users, based on research, that are typically used by designers of a product or technology. Personas can create empathy for users; they can help to focus a design team on users’ goals and needs. They can also be used as a communication tool with stakeholders in the design process.

Q: What have you found most interesting in your work so far?
I have really enjoyed collaborating with the HCDE students. It has been great to have partners in developing and designing these materials. Their feedback and insights have been invaluable. I’ve learned so much from the SOARING team about personal health information management of older adults. The complexity of managing one’s health information has been most interesting to me because it draws in conversations about balancing autonomy, privacy and security. Translating that complexity into the personas and design guidelines has been interesting too.

Q: What are your plans for the upcoming design sessions?
We are now in the process of designing a study to have designers evaluate our personas. We are also developing a design book that will incorporate the personas and design guidelines.

Dawn with her children on a recent trip to Hawaii

Q: What do you feel will be the impact of your work with SOARING?
I hope that the work we have done will communicate the diversity among older adults that should to be considered when designing health information technologies. Situational differences like living arrangements, health, and cognitive status can influence an older adult’s goals and needs as well as how health information is managed by or for them.

Q: And finally, tell us a little more about Dawn outside of SOARING. What do you like to do for fun?
I enjoy spending time with my family and my two children. I also like sewing and crafting when I have free time.

Article Published October 1, 2018