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Design Thinking 101

Feb 4, 2020

Welcome to the Design Thinking 101 podcast! I'm Dawan Stanford, your host. Today's 

Guest is Brittany Merkle. Her design path started at the University of Virginia in the College of Arts and Sciences. During her first semester, her grandfather was diagnosed with cancer. On weekend trips home, Brittany witnessed the incredible service Hospice offered. When she returned for her second year at college, she immediately changed majors and enrolled in nursing. Brittany shadowed nursing students and learned what nursing looked like as a career.


She jumped into qualitative research and realized she wanted her career to combine two things: 1. Creativity, and 2. Make a difference. "These two seemed very siloed in my mind," Brittany remarked.  She hadn’t yet considered fusing these two aspects into one career.


Brittany wasn't sure where she wanted to go for graduate school, when she came across the Savannah College of Art and Design. She started with Hospice Case Management, but continued to think of service design in relation to her profession. Brittany enrolled in the SCAD Master's program and started to unlearn her previous content she learned from her Bachelor’s degree, which was her biggest challenge. She was one of the first nurses to graduate from the SCAD program.


She was looking for a new approach to bring to the healthcare system, which she found as a lead innovation strategist with the University's healthcare team. Brittany wanted to make her mark in the system and to challenge herself with the design skills she has learned.



Brittany Merkle, RN, BSN, supports the innovation and design thinking efforts in UH Ventures. She graduated from the University of Virginia with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing with distinction, and is graduating from the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) with a Master of Fine Arts in Service Design.


She is one of the first nurses to graduate from SCAD, and the first in the country with this specific degree combination. She has experience in Hospice Case Management, and in acute and urgent care services as a practicing Registered Nurse before she began pursuing her Master's. Her thesis focused on service design as a lens for nursing innovation.


Brittany is passionate about the demystification of innovation and catalyzing innovative behavior amongst healthcare providers and caregivers. Her work is focused on enhancing patient and provider experiences through innovative care models and digital tools.


In This Episode

[01:13] Brittany’s background and path to design thinking. 

[03:40] Her realization of what she wanted to do with her career.

[06:39] The turning point for Brittany, where her learning became her unlearning.

[08:44] How SCAD spoke to Brittany’s imposter syndrome. 

[10:45] Brittany’s design internship.

[12:14] UH’s prototypical healthcare system.

[16:27] New design language Brittany is adapting to her new position.

[17:18] Unique superpowers when she is performing her fieldwork.

[19:33] Advice Brittany would give to other healthcare professionals who do not have a design background.

[27:49] Suggestions for faculty on the innovation side of healthcare.

[30:27] Resources that have helped Brittany along the way.


Links and Resources

SCAD | Savannah College of Art & Design Service Design Program

UH Ventures

Brittany Merkle on LinkedIn

Dustin DiTommaso’s podcast episode Episode 28, Behavior Change Design


Books Recommended

This is Service Design Doing by Marc Stickdorn

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

On Managing Yourself by Harvard Business Review