Uncommon music making: The functional roles of music in design for healthcare


  • Elif Özcan Critical Alarms Lab Delft University of Technology Erasmus Medical Center Rotterdam
  • Lois Frankel School of Industrial Design Carleton University
  • Jesse Stewart School for Studies in Art and Culture: Music Carleton University




In this paper, we discuss some uncommon settings and roles for music, demonstrating how music can aid in the design and implementation of socially responsible healthcare products that are encouraging, inclusive, and sensitive to critical contexts. We review three music-inspired design cases (CareTunes: Musical Alarms for Critical Care, Music and Senior Exercise, and We Are All Musicians and the Adaptive Use Musical Instrument) in which the authors took part. The literature review and the analysis of the case studies provide us with the following insights: music enhances sensory experiences, facilitates physical engagement with the world, music can guide medical professionals in critical contexts, and music creates social cohesion. All of these projects demonstrate the importance of involving participants (users or performers) in the process to address their life experiences.  Thus, the use of music in design applications is experienced as a positive influence that can facilitate wellbeing for community members, persons with disabilities, medical patients, and healthcare professionals in the workplace. 

Author Biographies

Elif Özcan, Critical Alarms Lab Delft University of Technology Erasmus Medical Center Rotterdam

Elif Özcan (PhD) is the director of Critical Alarms Lab at Delft University of Technology and Erasmus Medical Center (NL) and aims to highlight the value of human-centered research and sound-driven innovations for critical care. 

Lois Frankel, School of Industrial Design Carleton University

Lois Frankel (PhD)is an Associate Professor and past Director of the School of Industrial Design, Carleton University. Her human-centred design research applies a sensory anthropology perspective in the areas of design for ageing and disability, interaction design, sensory aspects of design, and user experience design. In addition, her Sense-It! Research team is developing tools for increasing awareness of multi-sensory factors for design.

Jesse Stewart, School for Studies in Art and Culture: Music Carleton University

Jesse Stewart (PhD) is an award-winning composer, percussionist, and researcher dedicated to reimagining the spaces between artistic and academic disciplines, and to promoting inclusive music making through research, performance, and scholarship.


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