“After my partner arrived home from attending her recent smear test and explained to me how uncomfortable she found the experience, I began to research the issue. I discovered that, even in 2019, many women are still not attending their smears due to a multitude of anxieties and barriers. This shocked me, as cervical cancer is a disease that is 99% preventable if detected early. However almost 1,000 women die, and thousands more are diagnosed each year within the UK alone.”
It was this shocking revelation that led LJMU Product Design Engineering student, James Parry, to design and create the Cervi-Plus (C+) – a home smear test kit prototype delivered directly to women’s front doors with the aim of alleviating some of the fears and anxieties surrounding the smear test for women.
This project subsequently led to him showcasing the Cervi-Plus at the prestigious New Designers Awards, held annually in London. This awards ceremony provides an amazing chance for talented design graduates to connect with established businesses looking to bring in new design thinking. The two-week-long event is centred on incredible design discovery, with an increasing number of exciting collaborations and new opportunities available to aspiring young designers.
It was this idea of creative exchange and collaboration that encouraged James to put forward Cervi-Plus for one of the event’s celebrated awards: the Kingfisher Design Talent Award 2019. Having demonstrated creativity, sustainability as well as a level of commercial understanding, James was delighted to be successful in his submission – going on to win the coveted prize. He said of his winning prototype:
“The idea of C+ is to remove the procedure-related stresses and anxieties surrounding smear tests – particularly for those groups of women who are often under-represented. This includes women with learning disabilities, those who have been sexually assaulted, or those from poorer socio-economic backgrounds. The project aims to make the screening process more accessible and user-friendly, not just for these groups, but for all women.”
Bringing his product to fruition took James through a series of creative processes – from initial concept generation to ergonomic sketch modelling to the eventual modelling development of his product. Ideas evolved from sketches and mood boards to become a real-life prototype, complete with branding, discreet packaging, and a brand strategy plan.
His product featured an intricate mechanism within the handle of an inserter, able to rotate to collect a swab. In addition to this was a secondary mechanism that, crucially, prevents the swab from causing pain or discomfort during the process of insertion, making the Cervi-Plus unique from other typical smear kits.
In order to gain the valuable insight needed to create such a personal product for women, James ran a number of valuable female focus groups.
“The product has been designed alongside women at every stage of the process. By discussing my ideas with potential users, I was able to gain deep insight and ultimately develop a product that women may be more likely to use over current offerings or services. Interestingly, during the awards show itself, I met several women who had not heard of HPV, and some who were not familiar at all with what a smear test was. I had one woman asking me if I recommend she attend her smears in the future, which I strongly encouraged her to do.”
Since its creation, James’ prototype has also picked up a special commendation from Cambridge Consultants for Excellence in Consumer Health, which recognises breakthrough innovation within product design.
The judges of the Kingfisher Design Talent Award had this to say about James’ product:
“James’ piece reflects a deep understanding of consumer needs and demonstrates a clear solution and function. It gives back empowerment on taboo subjects – providing a kit that is accessible, user-friendly, and intuitive and stress-free. It is also commercial and shows a large, long-term potential cost savings across multiple industry channels.”
In recognition of his achievement, James also received prize money of £1,000 to support the further development of his design career, and has plans to spend the money on a virtual reality headset!
Since the competition, James remains steadfast in his commitment to keep the conversation about cervical cancer awareness going:
“The many discussions I had with people during the show made me realise that we don’t talk about subjects like this enough. I implore anyone reading this to go out there and talk about it with anyone and everyone. Awareness is the key to preventing and fighting cervical cancer, and just one conversation could save a real life.”
If, like James, you’re brimming with ideas and looking to flex your creative muscles designing products that could change lives – take a closer look at our Product Design Engineering course today. Or you can browse all subjects available within engineering at LJMU.