When newly graduated Industrial Design major Sally Pipkin submitted her idea and designs for comfortable, kid-friendly hospital attire to the Cincinnati Innovates competition last year, the University of Cincinnati grad had no idea what to expect. Pipkin thought her Patients at Play idea of IV covers and hospital gowns designed specifically for hospitals’ youngest patients was good, but it wasn’t until she was notified that she was the winner of the LPK Design and Branding Award that she knew her idea had merit.
The competition, whose goal is to inspire, foster and award innovation with Greater Cincinnati area connections, is in its third year of showcasing ingenious and innovative ideas. The LPK Design and Branding Award provided $10,000 in branding and design services from LPK. Sally was one of 301 applicants in the competition.
“It’s given me a load of confidence in my work,” said Pipkin. “To get the recognition from LPK, who thinks I have something here, and to work with designers who are confident in my concept.”
Pipkin first stumbled upon her inspiration for her project while at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital researching her senior thesis.
“I spoke to a lot of parents who had spent time in the hospital with their children,” said Pipkin. “What I heard time and time again was that they and their children felt a loss of control.”
Through her research and interviews, Pipkin came to the realization that it was the little things that made the biggest difference for child patients and their parents. With this in mind, she set out to design something wearable and customizable that would strengthen patients’ and parents’ sense of ownership and comfort them in a stressful environment.
“What better way to impact a child’s mood?” said Pipkin. “They get to pick it out, or even collect patches and stickers.”
Since winning the award, Sally has been working with an LPK design team to create and refine a brand image for the Patients at Play project, now renamed My Babaloo. The line includes IV cover gloves that protect needle sites, making them less irritating, more secure and less likely to pull than an IV taped in place. The IV covers allow kids to interact more freely and even play, without constantly having to think about their IV sites, while receiving treatment. The gloves come with fun, custom Velcro patches that can be picked out by the child.
The line also includes comfortable and colorful hospital gowns constructed from a supersoft bamboo blend material that is naturally anti-fungal and anti-microbial. After interviewing nurses and a Child Life Specialist, Sally reinvented the original, awkward, open-back design of regular hospital gowns. Her version of the garment is close-backed and features front snaps and strategic openings where doctors would need access, while maintaining patient modesty.
The My Babaloo line also includes a bravery crown system, in which children are awarded stickers and patches for completing various treatments over the course of their hospitalization. The children can then affix their patches to an elastic, wearable cloth crown in merit-badge-like fashion.
“It’s been inspiring to work with Sally and see all that she’s doing to improve (the child’s) experience in the hospital,” said Kris Kuderer, an LPK project leader working with Pipkin.
LPK collaborated with Sally to create a brand and marketing strategy surrounding Sally’s product designs, develop a brandmark for her company and host brainstorming sessions to explore the brand’s potential for growth in the future.
“Sometimes when you get into the corporate world of design, you don’t feel like you’re directly helping someone,” said LPK Design Director Sheila Lewis. “And this did.”
With My Babaloo’s new identity ready to launch, Pipkin is now seeking out investors and partners for her brand.
“This has been a great opportunity for mentorship,” said Sally Pipkin. “Having brand experts mentor me through this process has been incredibly helpful, taught me so much and given me opportunities to do things that I couldn’t have done by myself, with just me and my sewing machine.”