After being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, designer Teddy Schuyers decided to focus on redesigning the ostomy bag that many sufferers have to wear to improve both their performance and appearance.
Acute bowel diseases like Crohn’s often mean that sufferers need a stoma, an opening that allows the body to pass waste without it going through the entire digestive tract. The waste is collected in a pouch known as an ostomy bag.
Schuyers found that many users struggled with problems with their bags, including leaking, skin irritation, release of gas and movement of the bag. Many also said that they did not like the standard, clinical design of the bags, which are usually white or pale, the colour of Caucasian skin.
“When I was in hospital for the first time, I met many people with a stoma,” Schuyers told Dezeen. “I saw how annoying it is to have one. And I was surprised that nothing better was invented.”
“It is anything but sexy,” she said. “The aesthetic side of the ostomy bag has stood still for a long time. They have looked the same for years – very clinical, medical and totally not personal.”
She created a two-part design using a variety of skin-safe materials. The first part is a circular hydrocolloid base, or ‘skin plate’, that fits over the stoma opening and adheres to the skin. This acts as a mount for the bag itself, via a polyethylene click ring. Each bag can also be further secured to the skin using strips of plaster adhesive.
The bags come in three variations. The standard, white teardrop-shaped bag for daily use is made from a thermoplastic film with a Tyvek polyethylene coating for strength. A release tab helps the user expel gas that gathers in the bag while wearing it.
A yellow, oval design for sport offers extra security with a PVC-coated fabric outer layer and a removal tab, and a smaller, teal-coloured round design for more intimate moments is coated in a flexible foam as well as a soft, stretch fabric.
“This way I give the carriers more choice – after all, they have never had a choice – and it also gives them more confidence,” said Schuyers.
“Quality of life is so enormously important,” she added. “When you wear an ostomy bag this has an effect on your daily life. Ostomates must be able to do everything that people can do without an ostomy bag. Think of festivals, nights out, dates, sports, swimming and so on.”
Each bag is creating using well-established vacuum-press moulding techniques. The aim was to create a prototype that would be simple to translate into a mass-produced product.
Schuyers is not the first design student to reimagine the ostomy bag. In 2016 Brunel University Graduate Stephanie Monty designed a pouch specifically for intimate moments. Schuyers said that creating and discussing new proposals would help destigmatise ostomy bags.
“There have been many positive reactions from people in the medical world but also from ostomates themselves,” said Schuyers. “What struck me was that everyone knows someone from the immediate vicinity who struggles with this problem.”
Other projects in the exhibition included tableware for visually impaired people, responsive furniture and a project that celebrates the potential of the traditional brick to revive local industry in the UK.