Hanky Pancreas

Creating products for insulin pump wearability and self-identity

Roles: Founder, Research, Material Sourcing, Design, Prototyping, Branding, Sales, Content Strategy, Social Media Marketing, Customer Service, Packaging, Shipping
Products: Protective Pouches, Interchangeable Fashion Accessories, Scarves, E-Commerce Website (shop.hankypancreas.com)



After living with Type 1 Diabetes for almost 2 decades, I began using an insulin pump for the first time. While there were many advantages of this device, I began to wonder why it was designed the way it was. I didn't know how to wear it easily, and I didn't want people to see it. In 2008, I set out to explore and focus on these issues in my graduate work at Parsons. I started to research with others using insulin pumps and found that many women were creating workarounds for the device's lack of wearability, such as placing the pump in their bras when they wore dresses without pockets. 


After many months of research, I began to prototype various design interventions to comment on or help improve wearability and self-identity. I became deeply inspired by Graham Pullin's work Design Meets Disability and collaborated with a group of women with Type 1 Diabetes locally to receive feedback on concepts. I eventually honed in on a final series of fashionable accessory prototypes for my thesis that both encased the device and had external interchangeable components (see below images featuring Type 1 Diabetic model Kerry Brown).

“I think this would help do something I have been struggling to accomplish: take my diabetes out of a hidden, dark corner of my life and into the open.” 
— Anonymous Commenter


My first handful of prototypes received press in the diabetes blogosphere at DiabetesMine, and outside of that in a thoughtful Jezebel article. Shortly after, Medtronic, the maker of the most widely used insulin pump on the market, contacted me and flew me out to speak to 200 of their employees about design. It was then I knew I had something people wanted and needed. I began to create and sell different products, making each by hand, for women with diabetes all over the world. The project has received coverage from various press outlets (i.e., Diabetes Forecast Magazine and CNN), awards since it's inception (i.e., The Mayo ClinicCore77, The Awesome Foundation), and global exhibition opportunities (i.e., Design4Health in the UK and on permanent collection at the DHUB museum Interacción I/O/I in Barcelona). This project changed my life, it set me on my journey advocating and working to improve patient experiences with design.

Diabetes Forecast Magazine:

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