User Research


To begin the User Research portion of the first aid kit (FAK) redesign, a survey seems very appropriate. A survey is one of the easiest ways to collect a lot of data and get a wide range of ideas, responses, and common pain points.

The survey I created is pictured below. Made with Google Forms, I shared it on Facebook with my friends, my family’s friends, my professional fraternity Alpha Rho Chi, and r/SampleSize on Reddit. While not perfect sources, they had many, many stances on the topic.

The complete survey, aiming to establish who is using FAKs and what common pain points they experience.

Ultimately, and after much bugging of my friends to promote the survey on different platforms, I was able to reach 47 people. Here are some charts surrounding the quantitative data gathered.

Most of the people surveyed are between ages 18–25, likely due to my extensive connection of college students.
The majority of FAK users who also decided to participate in my survey are female.
The most common place to store first aid supplies is in a cabinet, followed closely by a drawer and a box (an outlier, likely trolling, keeps theirs buried in their backyard).
The majority of survey takers use their FAK monthly-yearly.
A large majority of survey-takers have a FAK in their home, followed by their workplace and while traveling.

This survey attempted to do more than gather numbers, however: it offered places to give short-answer responses. Here is a summary of those answers:

(4) Library

(4) Restaurant

(4) Office

(2) Childcare Environment

(2) Grocery/Convenience Store

(2) Pool

(2) School/Teaching Environment

(1) Coach

(12) There were items missing/not restocked/not included at all

(8) The kit was poorly organized

(6) The location of the kit hindered its use

(5) The first aid materials in the kit were of poor quality

(5) Inadequate closure mechanism/hard to open in an emergency

(5) There was nothing annoying

(2) There were no band-aids

(1) Kit is too big

(1) Kit is too small

Finding stuff at the bottom of the box makes a huge mess, and then the box won’t close unless I repack it completely

Sometimes I wish the actual kit was smaller or they came in different sizes and sometimes they get disorganized

Pulling it from it’s storage location with bleeding hands. I really should store it somewhere more accessible

(14) Well-organized

(6) Reasonably priced (for 4/6 people, that means less than $15)

(5) Easy to pack

(5) Has everything I need

(4) Has differently-sized band-aids

(4) Is intuitive to use (even for new users, children, etc)

(3) Lightweight

(2) Can be personalized

(2) Includes instructions/emergency information

(2) I don’t have any

A $10 first aid kit would be something I could easily pick up from target and not feel bad spending a lot of money on, it would be labeled clearly, maybe color coded, and have a description of each product on the inside lid.

I made small portable first aid kits with my 12 cub scouts. We fit all contents into a recycled Altoids tin.

Often buy whole new kit when something goes missing from current kit. Would be nice if it was modular and I could just replace the missing part.

Tape for when Band-Aids stop sticking


Max Gudmunsen:

Right off the bat, I knew that a fantastic person to interview about first aid kits was my friend Max. Max (19, M) is a lifeguard, an avid hiker and camper, and also has a first aid kit in his home, so I knew he would have some valuable insight on the topic.

I was right. Max and I talked for 50 MINUTES about the different kinds of first aid kits he has come into contact with, what he likes/dislikes about them, firsthand stories about their usage… he was a wealth of information.

Here are some things I found notable about our interview:

  • Lifeguards wear first aid fanny packs, which are portable, but not necessarily organized
  • Businesses have specific FAK regulations they must follow (OSHA)
  • Gloves are important when dealing with someone who is bleeding (blood-borne pathogens), but in an emergency situation, you rarely have time to put them on.
  • Both his hiking kit and his home kit were originally purchased for him by his parents.
  • Both Max and his father often add — or even replace — items in their kits. “At this point, everything that’s in there is something that I put in there.”
  • Despite the amount of preparation he puts in, he rarely uses the kits — and that’s a good thing. He says that a first aid kit is “really just a peace of mind thing,” specifically about his hiking kit.
Photos I took of Max’s apartment first aid kit.
A more in-depth look, including supplies kept NEAR the kit, not just inside.

Max, like some of my other interviewees, has created his personal first aid kit from a random container and an amalgamation of stuff he bought individually at the store (mostly, Target). Of his own accord, this container was originally a Cheez-it box — a detail that I find exceptionally interesting, as well as telling about a user’s container needs. His mother, upon discovering his first aid materials were kept in a snack box, was the one to purchase the plastic box for him.

Here is a comparison chart I created to compare and contrast the items Max kept in each of his different first aid kits:

First Aid Demo — West Regis Photo Crib

Considering the increased access I have to Max as a result of our friendship, I asked him to come to my place of work to do a first aid demo. I decided to do this as opposed to traveling to his hometown pool or going camping with him, partly because the logistics of those options were fairly complicated, and partly because I wanted him to address a scenario from my past.

I have exactly one experience using a first aid kit. I have worked for many years at the West Regis Photo Crib, a facility at the University of Minnesota that rents out camera equipment and provides a darkroom. Despite the abundance of mildly dangerous chemicals in a darkroom, I actually had to use the first aid kit when a student came in off the street after having a fairly bad bike accident. She had a chunk of flesh taken out of her knee, and asked me urgently where the first aid kit was, and we did our best to treat her injury with absolutely no first aid background between the two of us. My question for Max was this: in this situation, what would he have done instead with the materials available in the kit? (Side note: the same student I had helped about a year ago happened to be in the darkroom while we were doing the demo — it was ridiculous).

“Ammonia towelette to take off the dirt layer… triple antibiotic, it’s usually in a gel form, you just squish it . . . . I’d usually go with a square, large bandage, unless it was really bad, in which case you would gauze-pad-and-tape it.”

According to Max, all of these items were very easy to find in this first aid kit. He was especially impressed by the clear pockets on the doors, where it was very easy to store and find small supplies. However, on a bottle (shown above) there was a sticker placed over the label, and Max couldn’t tell what was in it! That seemed like a notable safety concern.

Max’s FAK Needs:

After the interview, showing me his home kit and doing the demo, Max summed up his needs clearly:

“I think the biggest make-or-break thing in a first aid kit is, honestly, its ability to be organized.”

This comment on his part is consistent with my observations of him — his main complaint about the lifeguard fanny pack was its lack of compartments, and that each pack was organized differently. He also complained, rather heatedly, about a messy first aid drawer at the pool as well. When hiking, he felt much more comfortable because he had placed every item exactly where he had wanted in an organizational system that made sense to him, making that first aid kit effective at offering him peace of mind.

In terms of needs that were not directly voiced to me, I noticed that Max, while passionate about first aid supplies, did not actively care about the container they were kept in. He did not purchase his hiking first aid kit — his dad did. He did not purchase the plastic box for his home kit — his mom did. As organized of a young adult as Max is, this signifies to me that the primary buyer of a first aid kit is more likely to be a middle-aged parent.

Josie Johnson:

The next person I interviewed for a different reason than Max. Josie is a graphic design student at the University of Minnesota, and I thought she may approach a first aid kit redesign from a more aesthetic-oriented perspective.

Here are some things I found notable about our interview:

  • She believes strongly that a first aid kit should be recognizable, and thinks the current graphic on most kits is functional.
  • She keeps a compact of band-aids in her purse. “They were throwing them out at a parade, and it stuck with me, I guess.”
  • Similarly to Max, the first aid kit she has at home is a collection of first aid materials, primarily from Target, collected in a makeshift container — a Lululemon bag.
  • Similarly to the student I helped at the photo crib, one of Josie’s only instances of using a first aid kit happened at her place of work after a bike accident. “It had like little compartments in it … sometimes the contents would spill into other compartments, which made it look kind of un-neat, you had to fish around for what you need.”

Josie’s FAK Needs:

In my opinion, Josie is a great representation of a low-risk college student: first aid is not in the forefront of her mind. She’s not involved in any major injury-prone activities aside from biking and transportation, and her idea of first aid consists of a parade prize and public first aid wall mounts. This is the category that I fit into before this project, so I related heavily. Which begs the question: if Josie was the customer, what would she need? Likely, something backpack-friendly, inexpensive, and simple. This just goes to show that there is a market for minimal first aid kits.

I think the design of the first aid kit . . . is easily recognizable. Like if you even glanced at one, I bet you would know what it is.

The above quote says it all: it should scream what it is, and be easy to find.

Tina Kulzer:

Considering my suspicions that parents are the main users of at-home first aid kits, I figured I should talk to one. I connected with Tina through my mom, a working mother living in Arden Hills. Though she could not meet in person, I conducted a 35 minute interview over the phone.

Here are some things I found notable about our interview:

  • The most recent time she used a first aid kit was at her workplace (a national nonprofit) for a cut on her hand. She has worked there for a year and didn’t know where the kit was stored, and once she found it, it was out of band-aids. She had to ask her coworkers for one until someone had them in their purse.
  • Does not have a true FAK in her house: items are scattered throughout because she does not have a central location in her house to store it.
  • She is an avid essential oil collector— uses them for many first aid purposes, has over 40 bottles. “I consider my essential oil cabinet to be my first aid kit . . . . I use lavender a lot for rashes and burns, and even congestion sometimes.”
  • Tina is frustrated with the amount of garbage that accumulates after using single-use packaged supplies in the kit, and says it hurts organization.

Tina’s FAK Needs:

I would like a first aid kit to be kind of like a toolbox, I think. It should be portable, with handles and a latch…

Tina, as a mother of two young girls, is running around everywhere. She is running around so much that she can’t keep her first aid supplies in only one area of her house — having it 2 rooms away is too far. Portability and size would help Tina significantly.

Additionally, Tina would be a big fan of the FAK with the essential oils mentioned in my previous post. There is absolutely a market for aromatherapy.

Finally, I think there’s a way to reduce FAK waste and keep organization simple.


I opted to try to unpack and organize all this information using post-it notes. This took me a very significant amount of time. I’ve included photos of each post-it category, along with brief description of the connection these post-its have. Some of the bigger themes will be detailed in the next section.

Orange: Max

Green: Josie

Dark Pink: Tina

Light Pink: Survey

Large-scale shot of the whole post-it wall.
Every item in each FAK | Unusual items for a FAK | Who is using a FAK
What injuries have you used a FAK to treat? | FAK Use context | Regulations and safety concerns
Storage information/aesthetics | Insights and wants

Insights and Statements

  1. Tina needs a way to reduce single-wrap waste in first aid kits because it contributes to the larger problem of FAK disorganization.
  2. Max needs a way to easily customize a first aid kit because he has very specific organizational/product preferences.
  3. The average user needs a way to refill their first aid kit easily because they often forget when they run out of something, which could be harmful in the future.

New Ideas


Friday: Interview Max about first aid kits and lifeguard experience & interview one other person. Create survey, send it out through facebook, maybe to APX as well.

Saturday: Interview another person (Alex?).

Sunday: Unpacking exercise. Insights and statements, begin sketching new ideas.

Monday: Update blog post.




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Julia Carpenter

Julia Carpenter

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