Jerry the Bear
Creating an interactive teddy bear that educates and comforts children with type 1 diabetes.
By taking care of Jerry’s diabetes, children learn about the daily routines of diabetes care. Children count carbs, monitor Jerry’s blood sugar, and give Jerry insulin with the accompanying app.
Jerry the Bear is a living product that has been around for more than ten years. First launched in 2013, more than 8,000 children worldwide have shared their type 1 diabetes (T1D) journey with Jerry. In 2022, Jerry the Bear integrated with JDRF’s mascot, Rufus.
Beyond Type 1
Jerry the Bear
(2009 – 2014)
(2016 – 2020)
Awards & Press
GOOD Magazine Best of Design
Most Creative Award – DiabetesMine
Demo-ed Jerry to President Obama at the White House
Jerry the Bear started back in 2009 when I was a student at Northwestern University. Inspired due to my family history of diabetes, Jerry had a mission to help children with diabetes. In 2012, my co-founder and I started Sproutel as a business to bring the product to life.
My Design Approach
As a design leader, I brought new approaches, technologies, and workflows to the team as we navigated uncertainties and discovered new opportunities.
Design & User Experience
When leading the team through the design and product development process, I guided the team to strive for a clear design system that led to creating delightful design experiences that were visual, interactive, and fun for children.
I aligned the team on the design vision by fostering communication and documentation practices. We effectively created a visual and intuitive user experience for children at different development levels across a wide age group.
Throughout the 10 years of Jerry, I created a strategy and execution plan that aligned product and business goals. I continuously iterated ways to deliver products on schedule and achieve milestones with high-quality designs, user feedback, and clear storytelling.
I led all design research and user testing in creating Jerry the Bear. Through interviews, co-design sessions, and secondary research, we identified that learning about T1D is challenging, isolating, and sometimes scary. Existing educational materials are outdated for families. Some children did medical play with their stuffed animals as if they had T1D. These insights led to an opportunity to create “a friend just like them.”
How might we improve the lives of children with type 1 diabetes through comfort, education, and joy?
The First Jerry the Bear
Before launch, my co-founder and I created 29 prototypes and user-tested with over 350 children. In addition to leading the user testing process, I led product and interaction design by creating all UI/UX, visual design, and curriculum.
By taking care of Jerry’s diabetes, children learn about the daily routines of diabetes care. Children count carbs, monitor Jerry’s blood sugar, and give Jerry insulin with the accompanying accessories.
Jerry has 21 interactive storybooks that cover various topics such as understanding the basics of T1D, carb counting, and dealing with lows in social situations. To advance to the next story, children complete various tasks with Jerry to achieve learning goals on building routines in managing their T1D.
Located on Jerry’s belly, we created a touch screen interface (called Glucopal) on a custom-designed Android tablet.
We sold out the first production of 500 bears priced at $300. These bears were sold directly to families only in the U.S.
In 2014, we launched an Indiegogo Campaign and successfully raised over $50,000 for the second round of production run.
While we received overwhelmingly positive PR and stories from families, we weren’t meeting our business revenue goals. Although families loved Jerry the Bear, the product was expensive because it was manufactured in low volume and at a high cost. The existing B2C business model brought a lot of challenges in distribution – we felt a need to switch to a B2B model and find a distribution partner.
With the large adoption of Continuous Glucose Monitors (CGMs), smartphones became a necessary device for children with T1D to monitor their blood sugar.
In 2016, Pokémon Go introduced Augmented Reality (AR) in gameplay. Their significant commercial success inspired us to integrate AR technology in the next design of Jerry the Bear.
The Re-designed Jerry the Bear
It took us nine months to redesign Jerry the Bear. I led design and art in all plush, character, and app development.
We separated the plush and the app for the new Jerry. We created a mobile app that enhanced the existing diabetes interaction using AR and transferred storybooks that were well-received by families. The simplified plush reduced the manufacturing cost and price by 85%. This improvement, paired with the new B2B business model, helped the company reach a bulk pricepoint that was appealing to distribution partners.
The new Jerry has 10 unique patches that trigger AR interactions when scanned using the mobile app.
As I designed the patches, I sourced appropriate fabric and tested color combinations in different light settings to ensure the highest readability.
New and Improved Character Design
With the new plush, Jerry’s character needed an upgrade. I researched cartoon trends and visuals that appealed to a broader age group of children from 3 to 11. This led to a new character design of Jerry with expressive emotions and dynamic actions.
I worked closely with the engineering team to oversee the app development and asset incorporation. I created all 2D and 3D visual assets to build Jerry’s world where children can perform key diabetes interactions and play with animations.
Isabella, Jerry’s sister, provides hints on Jerry’s diabetes care. Children can check tasks with Navi the Bus and messages from Cori the Mailbox.
There are 6 available interactions: AR Scanning, Glucometer, Insulin Pen, Insulin Pump, Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM), and Handwashing.
Children scan the patches to trigger AR interactions.
Children check Jerry’s blood sugar by scanning the patches on Jerry’s hands.
Children administer Jerry’s insulin by scanning one of Jerry’s sites on its legs, belly, arms, and butt. Children can also install CGM on these sites.
Children learn how to count carbs and build a plate to feed Jerry.
With the new B2B business model, Sproutel secured a major distribution partner, Beyond Type 1, who helped expand Jerry’s reach to families worldwide. As of 2020, Jerry has been a part of more than 8,000 children’s T1D journey.
In 2022, JDRF acquired Jerry’s technology for their mascot, Rufus, for their global T1D education program.
“We just gave Jerry to our daughter 2 weeks ago. Already she has learned how to understand her highs and lows based on Jerry’s highs and lows. She now wants to take her own blood sugar and asks lots of questions.” – Parent
“Jerry, in our home, has been used to help my daughter understand her mother’s diabetes. He’s been a teaching tool to show kids in her class and our neighborhood what diabetes is all about. Jerry could be a powerful conduit for conversation for all people touched by diabetes.” – Parent
“Some children don’t meet anyone else with diabetes for over a year. Knowing that even something else has it (like Jerry) is an immediate comfort.” – Registered Nurse