Eye Of The Beholder
Handsome Frank/Matt Murphy
One of my favorite features added to Healthcare Design as part of our recent redesign is the introduction of a commissioned illustration in each issue. We use these pieces to kick off the start of the In Focus section, bringing color and life into a part of the magazine that’s traditionally more text heavy.
For this issue, Ed Clark and Marty Brennan from ZGF Architects contributed a column on the benefits of using biophilic design in behavioral healthcare spaces. I reached out to U.K.-based illustration agency Handsome Frank and asked for a piece that captures the soothing power of nature—specifically, the peace and hopefulness that the outdoors can bring. When the finished product arrived from artist Matt Murphy, I was thrilled; it was just what I wanted. That is, until a couple of other staff members viewed it a bit differently, airing concerns that stands of trees felt cage-like and an orange sky could be read as dark.
It was a great lesson in perspective, and struck to the core of what Clark and Brennan were getting at in the first place: It’s important to abstract nature in behavioral health settings, especially, because what may read as therapeutic to one person may actually be quite traumatic to someone else. With a few tweaks by the illustrator to introduce more optimistic yellow tones and reduce some of those tree trunks, our staff is happy with the end result. And the illustration itself now supports the article in ways I wasn’t expecting. (Do you agree? See the illustration above or on page 43 of our digital issue and consider your own perspective.)
It can be difficult to predict how a person may perceive just about anything; yet, as designers of healthcare facilities visited by countless individuals with countless opinions, you’re no strangers to this challenge. Being charged with creating spaces that will appeal to all of those visitors, every day, is no small task. With patient and family satisfaction becoming critical contributors to a successful organization, there’s never been more pressure to get it right.
This is a theme that emerged in this month’s feature report on lobby and waiting room design (see “First Impression” here or on page 36 of the digital issue)—spaces once perceived by many as the cause of anxiety or discomfort, or simply as holding areas with little value of their own, are now seeing new life. Re-engineered and reimagined, today’s lobbies and waiting rooms are designed with features to engage and distract, or even support deeper endeavors, with educational resources to promote population health management or streamlined check-in options to contribute to more efficient operations.
With just a few tweaks, perception can be changed. What once detracted from an experience can improve it. It’s a good reminder for all of us.