A personal experience that gave us the insight to create designs that really resonated
A doodled stick figure and a few coloured lines were, sort of, the start of a design that struck a chord with the critical care community – (over one million twitter views and enquiries from around the world for our ICU equipment diagram).
Design for healthcare has always been a part of our business, but the reaction was astonishing. Looking back, it’s clear that this didn’t start with a sketch – it was a rather more personal experience that gave us the insight to create a design that really resonated.
A change of perspective
In 2018, a commission for artwork in a Bristol hospital coincided with a cancer diagnosis for Gill. Her prognosis was good and, hopefully, a single operation would be all the treatment needed. With hindsight it seems obvious that designing for hospitals whilst being patient and visitor (in a different hospital), would change our perspective.
The NHS care Gill received was amazing - but post-operation, with monitors, machines and wires attached – she felt anxious and disoriented. The unfamiliarity of her environment and lack of understanding added to her stress and discomfort. Fortunately this was all fairly short lived – the treatment was successful and the all-clear came soon after.
Meanwhile Southmead hospital ICU had commissioned us to create artwork to make the empty corridors more welcoming and to improve visitor information. A visit to their hi-tech unit was a reminder of Gill’s experience and informed an idea: a simple diagram of the bedside equipment - explaining their function and trying to make the environment a little less intimidating ...while also bringing decorative appeal. The London Underground Tube map was an influence – an iconic design that simplifies a complex system – functional, informative and beautiful – just what we needed to achieve for the ICU artwork.
We created simple colourful icons of each machine and along with written descriptions that were accurate but free from medical jargon. The finished design was installed as a very large vinyl artwork (over 2 metres high and four metres wide). It has great visual impact, but more importantly is a point of reference for visitors and a useful tool for clinical staff to explain treatment and procedures – a small part of improving the experience for visiting families and friends.
Voices of experience
There is no doubt that the personal experience affected our approach and makes us keener to listen to other experiences and understand how we can improve other points along the patient and visitor journey.