Anna-Lena Moeckl

Hautnah. The body surface as an interactive interface for medical applications – a design-scientific investigation


What happens when products (apparently) merge into the skin and the human body, and how is it influenced by design? The doctoral project investigates interactions with the human skin and regarding this a communication with the body and the invisible internal body. Between the poles of design – body – technology, health and medical products worn close to the body, that react to or interact with the human body and its functions are considered.

The focus is on the human skin, which is located between the inside and outside of the body, and serves as a mediating membrane for the body by means of its functions. With the limitation to non- or minimally invasive medical devices and systems, those are considered that are intended for (everyday) home use as well as for use in a medical or clinical context for diagnostic, therapeutic or preventive purposes.

The human skin has always communicated with the outside of the body on different levels – but this is not always directly perceptible to us humans. Design creates, with the help of technology, access to otherwise »hidden« information and enables a tangible connection to the body's internal system. It has the effect that this information about internal body processes becomes usable for people in their everyday life and allows a reciprocal interaction with the body's interior. Through the skin as a mediating membrane, a communication between »inside« and »outside« is created: the invisible becomes visible and the visible becomes invisible.

In the products that interact with the skin and thus enter into a connection with the body, on the one hand an extension of the body takes place, and on the other hand, human and object »merge« with each other, so to speak. This merging design allows new interactions (in an extended form than before) with the skin and holds design tasks.

What influence does design have in this context when skin-transcending interactions are used for medical applications, and how does design deal with these interactions? How does design change not only medical functions and psychological aspects, but also body sensation, the relationship to the body and the view of the self through a stronger integration into life and into daily routines of users? How do human-object relationships of these novel medical applications have an impact on networking with other systems and in exchange with various stakeholders? And what are possible obstacles, critical aspects or limits?

By investigating the design of functional tattoos, the question of how a direct visualization on the skin can serve not only aesthetically but also functionally as an interactive interface for medical products and (connected) systems is explored. The design of these human-skin-object interactions holds new possibilities for diagnostics, therapy and prevention, which have not existed to this extent so far, and will be investigated and reflected in a design-scientific way in the phenomenon area described. 

Prof. Dr. Martin Gessmann
​Prof. Peter Eckart