The ∪nion: Joanna Hawley


Prosthetics were introduced to me pretty early in my biomedical engineering (BME) education. They were at one point, all we, as BMEs, were supposed to concern ourselves with — luckily the field has expanded. Prosthetics have two purposes, functional recovery of the limb lost, and aesthetic recovery of overall body shape. One does not necessarily lend itself to the other. This is why Joanna Hawley‘s project excites me. She’s combined design and functional elements to create a beautiful prosthetic that is also practical. Prosthetics such as this prove that a replacement limb doesn’t necessarily have to look biological to be considered aesthetically pleasing. Other examples of this are the replacement feet designed by Van Phillips, which are currently sold by Össur.


These feet don’t look human, yet they give amputees the ability to run efficiently, and for Oscar Pistorius the chance to compete in the Olympic trials. These prosthetics look fairly nice, they’re architectural and minimal. However, one would probably not wear them away from the track or the trail.

Ms. Hawley’s design lends itself to a prosthetic that a patient can proudly wear without having to hide it under their clothes. I appreciate her use of wood and leather in her design, as it’s both Eamesian and historical; the first prosthetics developed often used both of those materials. She describes her experience with this project in the following manner, “This project taught me to expand my use of research materials. We interviewed several amputees in varying stages of acceptance, met with Sephora color specialists to discuss skin tones, and 3D laser scanned actual legs to translate the proportions of the human body into CAD. Through a wide range of techniques, I explored the challenge of designing something with the body in mind.”


I always appreciate when I stumble across ideas such as this, because it embodies the collaborative spirit that should exist between artists/designers and engineers/scientists. So bravo to Joanna Hawley, I’m looking forward to your future work. Thanks to Yanko Design for pointing me to this.


For more information regarding this project check out the following link.

Another similar project was done by Koo Ho Shin.

Recommended reading: The article in the NYTimes about Van Phillips, it’s pretty informative and inspiring.
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About Dapper Alchemist

The Dapper Alchemist is an amalgam of my interests in science, design and (men's) fashion.

One comment

  1. Wow, thank you so much. I’m glad you like my work and feel so passionate about it!

    As a side note, Kooho and I worked together in the same studio our senior year at Carnegie Mellon.

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