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Thinking about design in healthcare

"People are starting to care more about feeling good rather than looking good," Jason Wachob, CEO/Founder of mindbodgreen, said when he came to speak at InterbrandHealth about upcoming wellness trends. This statement resonated with me as I thought about how I’ve approached design in healthcare/wellness in the past and how I plan to approach it in the future.

Mind Body Green logo

mindbodygreen is a wellness blog that has 15 million viewers per month and focuses solely on health and wellness content. In preparing for Jason Wachob’s lecture, I was asked to design posters to promote his discussion. In my initial design thinking, I started to explore ways to express the right message without being too literal. I started to think about what I could evoke using visuals that resonated with me and would also be relatable to my audience.

Design tends to be primarily focused on its target audience; however, I think it is important for the designer to remember to put a part of him or herself in the design to make it unique. For example, I have always had a fascination with the brain and how the mind works. So when I began envisioning the posters for mindbodygreen, I started with the mind. This immediately sparked something in me. I began to think of shapes that I relate to the brain, metaphorical movement that I connect to the process of thinking, and how each of these things could inform the design of the posters. Thinking about how the mind worked, both literally and metaphorically, sparked a train of thought and imagery that I was able to carry through all of the posters. Beginning with a personal point of view gave me the inspiration that I needed to move forward with the design. Perhaps looking deep within ourselves in the creative process is how we reach that pivotal moment when we know what is going to make our design special. It becomes imperative to make a conscious decision to think about how we as individuals can incorporate our idiosyncrasies into our designs.

Additionally, I believe that there has to be a balance between what the designer feels about his or her work and what the audience takes away it. Designers have to consider many things regarding the audience’s perception of their designs. They have to make sure their message is clear while respecting its context and expressing everything in an intriguing way. Figuring out the right formula of all these aspects can be challenging. Designing for brands can be quite difficult for a designer who wants to push the limits on creative freedom but also communicate the necessary elements.  In healthcare, it’s even more of a challenge because the stakes are higher; a person’s health should not be taken lightly.  Many of the brands we design for require a level of respect within the design.

Despite this delicate balance, right now is an exciting time for design in healthcare.  Creative work can help brands be more disruptive in the marketplace.  A large factor contributing to this shift is the growing power of the consumer in healthcare.  People are taking greater ownership of their health and participating more actively in health decisions. When considering design’s role in healthcare, it is no longer an isolated discipline, detached from the consumer.

When designing in health and wellness, patients are not our only audience; it’s the general public, and they’re looking for wellness guidance. I believe this opens doors in our design approach when designing for health and wellness clients. Good design is becoming more relevant to health and wellness brands while wellness and healthcare brands are becoming more relevant to our every day lives. This gives us more opportunity to push boundaries and come up with original ideas. Designers can make art and still communicate what they need to. We can create visual communications that have an artistic edge that move people and inspire our audiences. Maybe inspiring people should be a key aim in healthcare. Our audience should feel inspired to be healthy, and maybe the designer can ultimately assist in this pursuit of wellness.