Gillian McCarthy

Dr Gillian McCarthy profile picture

Director of Postgraduate Programmes School of Design


PhD, Design, Victoria University of Wellington

BCApSc (Hons I), Design Studies, University of Otago

BA, Psychology, University of Otago


Dr Gillian McCarthy has completed degrees in design and psychology, and her work focuses on the interactions between people and both physical and digital designs.

After graduating from the University of Otago and working in a think tank, she completed a PhD and developed a research platform in user experience design within health and accessibility contexts. Previous projects include investigating what kinds of medical technologies adolescents with type 1 diabetes want to use, designing an app to get children engaged in their health care, designing a system to help women manage pelvic floor dysfunctions, and designing ways for members of the Blind Foundation to interact with smart speaker technologies. Her research aims to put people before their health conditions or impairments and work with them to design solutions that fit their needs, aspirations, and everyday lives.


Dr Gillian McCarthy’s research investigates the design of medical and assistive devices; understanding and improving user experiences, and facilitating engagement. Gillian’s also studies current user experiences design practices and their effectiveness and develops new methods and resources.

Gillian's approaches to research include participatory and co-design, research through design, design ethnography, and a number of methods and tools for facilitating engagement and behaviour change.

Research and supervision interests

  • The design of physical and digital medical and assistive technologies. Investigating people’s current experiences and preferences and developing new designs, requirements and theory.
  • The field of User Experience Design. Investigating relevant frameworks, methodologies, teaching practices, and the development of new methods and resources.
  • Combining design, psychology, and human factors through investigations in behaviour change, persuasive technologies, human error and decision-making, and product personality.
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Using design methods to document a day in the life of teenagers with type 1 diabetes. Photograph by Saint Andrew Matautia.

Recent publications

McCarthy, G. M. (2018). Dear my Very Problematic Blood Glucose Meter: Adolescents’ Experiences Self-Managing Type 1 Diabetes and Their Psychosocial User Requirements of Medical Technologies. Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington. Retrieved from

McCarthy, G. M., Rodríguez Ramírez, E. R., & Robinson, B. J. (2017). Letters to Medical Devices: A Case Study on the Medical Device User Requirements of Female Adolescents and Young Adults with Type 1 Diabetes. In International Conference on Persuasive Technology (pp. 69–79). Springer. Retrieved from

McCarthy, G. M., Rodriguez Ramírez, E. R., & Robinson, B. J. (2017). Participatory Design to Address Stigma with Adolescents with Type 1 Diabetes. In Proceedings of the 2017 Conference on Designing Interactive Systems (pp. 83–94). New York, NY, USA: ACM.

McCarthy, G. M., Rodríguez Ramírez, E. R., & Robinson, B. J. (2017). Design Experiments. Identifying areas for intervention and designing medical technology for adolescents and young adults with type 1 diabetes: The Design Journal: Vol 20, No sup1. The Design Journal, 20(Issue sup 1: Design for Next: Proceedings of the 12th European Academy of Design Conference, Sapienza University of Rome, 12-14), S204–S2056. Retrieved from

Rodríguez Ramírez, E. R., Lemke, M., McCarthy, G., & Andreae, H. (2017). Investigating and Designing the Appearance of a Device for Facilitating Pelvic Floor Exercises: A Case Study on Design Sensitivity for Women’s Healthcare. In M. B. Alonso & E. Ozcan (Eds.), Proceedings of the Conference on Design and Semantics of Form and Movement - Sense and Sensitivity, DeSForM 2017. InTech.

McCarthy, G. M., Rodríguez Ramírez, E. R., & Robinson, B. J. (2016). Dissonant technologies: Health professionals’ impressions of adolescents’ interactions with medical technologies for managing type 1 diabetes. In Well-Being 2016: Co-creating Pathways to Well-Being (pp. 36–39). Birmingham: Birmingham City University. Retrieved from