For most people, entering a hospital is an unwanted if not traumatic experience: the dizzying bustle of doctors and nurses, technical jargon and hi-tech equipment, the confrontation with illness, death, and injury. Many feel a lack of control and a loss of their autonomy, something that the California media consulting company Roundtree Visuals understands and attempts to alleviate with their various welcoming and informational art installations.

“Roundtree Visuals is all about pioneering a sensory art experience so that people can begin to develop a relationship with their healthcare provider,” says Deborah Roundtree, the company's visual director. “We use engaging art installations that help give people a sense of control when they have health issues that may be beyond their control.”

The company's main focus is creating a complete sensory experience, one in which the patient or visitor is able to better understand and control the situation he/she is experiencing. To do so, Roundtree Visuals extends far beyond traditional design, pioneering new art forms with interactive, visual media, as well as variations on more common types of healthcare art installations. Says Roundtree, “It's no longer about putting pretty pictures up on the wall. It's about using a methodology, using the organization's marketing and brand assets, their message, and building that into the art program to create a sensory art experience.”


It's that methodology that drives all of the work that Roundtree Visuals creates. Rather than simply creating ambiguous pieces of artwork for unnamed hospitals, Roundtree Visuals integrates the specific local community into their application of technology and company branding—something that is familiar to Roundtree, whose background includes not only hospice training but also advertising. “When we're looking at the branding opportunities, we're looking at what we can do in the art program that will integrate who this company is in relationship to the experiences people will have. When I'm talking about branding, I'm talking about the idea of community,” says Roundtree. This methodology is executed through four very basic steps: gather information—primarily using evidence-based design techniques—involve key stakeholders, understand the budget, and establish the goals and objectives as a team.

Roundtree Visuals' latest creation, the Welcome Artwall, is just such a creation: a 5′ x 7′ holographic film display that blends an interactive interface, community outreach, and information such as donor or employee recognition and physician profiles. Designed for the Synergy 4 Health Healthcare Showroom—an exhibit made to supply hospitals and healthcare members with the latest technology and available advancements—the Welcome Artwall is a template-based interactive display that can easily be applied to any hospital. “The Welcome Artwall has a template design that involves sections that can be changed out by the client,” says Roundtree. “The template is designed so that it can be changed by using the Internet. The client can preprogram upcoming events in advance. They can choose fonts as part of the template and choose sections within a design where the information is going to be shown.”

Aside from being an aesthetically minded installation, the Welcome Artwall has a number of informational applications. “People will walk into the lobby and have this beautiful landscape and moving images of dolphins swimming across the display. When they touch it, information comes up about where to find a clinic, how to find a physician, upcoming events, growing your gratitude, and recognizing employees. We're really building the art into the message through the technology,” says Roundtree.

Much of this personalization and information stems from trends that Roundtree Visuals is witnessing in the healthcare field as a whole. Roundtree believes that many people feel somewhat alienated by healthcare's increasingly sterile, isolating atmosphere. “I think, in the age of the Internet and high technology where you're with your care provider for 12 minutes, that you want to feel like you're connected to that organization in ways beyond the visit of your primary provider.” Brian Crotty, Roundtree Visuals' media and interactive director echoes Roundtree's sentiment but with a slight twist, “The idea of bringing a sense of community is not even just for the patients. Part of it is bringing a community to the nurses and the staff members. A lot of what we do now is really bringing the artwork all the way through the hospital. It's not just concentrated and centered in the main waiting areas.”

But Roundtree Visuals is always looking for new directions to take future installations. After having done living, community murals, interactive comic books, and material-imbedded resin walls, the company knows that it simply can't sit back and stay content with what they've already accomplished. “We're really looking at using sound and images with sculptures as a way to engage the visitor,” says Roundtree. “One of the projects that we're developing right now is using the idea of sculpture that would be in a lobby or waiting area, where a visitor would walk in and, as they walked by, their presence is picked up by a sensor. That sensor activates a landscape that moves from one sculpture to another sculpture. Once in the sculpture area, the sound of birds chirping, crickets, or water cascading down a stream is merged with the images and becomes part of their hospital experience.”

Though for as much as the healthcare field and its subsequent design may change, Roundtree Visuals will almost certainly be patient-centric, connecting the community, patients, and hospital together. “I think those are the experiences that we really want to create,” says Crotty, “that we can connect people back and forth so that everyone feels a sense of ownership: the hospital to the community and the community to the hospital.” HD