ARDS Projects

The Auckland Regional Dental Service (ARDS) provides free dental treatment for people under 18 for the greater Auckland region. ARDS has more than 80 clinics across Auckland in permanent locations and mobile clinics. ARDS were interested in a complete rebrand and a fresh identity that speaks to their proactive community-based and holistic approach to oral care and hygiene. Some children experience anxiety when entering the dental environment, so ARDS was also interested in how the interior of their clinics could be redesigned to create welcoming and friendly spaces for their clients.

The Process.

As part of their research, the ARDS group visited the Auckland Regional Dental Service where Frances, an ARDS Service Delivery Manager, gave the students an overview of the service and some of the challenges they faced. They later visited three of ARDS' dental clinics in across Auckland to understand the current clinic spaces and what the experience for children might be like. This gave the team a chance to identify opportunities for them to design solutions that addressed key pain points or issues for the service.

"Their work was amazing. It was innovative, fun and creative – really clever ideas. There are many design solutions that we are seriously considering to implement within the service as we believe the deigns would benefit our children and their experience with our service. It’s amazing to think that students – who aren’t yet experts in their field – can design something that assists us to improve our service which ultimately assists in improving health outcomes of our children. We really valued their input and expertise."

— Frances Cullinane, ARDS Service Delivery Manager

The Projects.

The ARDS team approached this project with three solutions; a) a new brand identity to raise awareness of the brand and inspire attendance, b) a redesign of the dental clinic spaces to be more child friendly and welcoming, and c) a resource kit of card games to educate children around healthy dental habits. View each project in more detail below.

Children's Community Dental Service.
Oscar Zhong, Allen Gao, Jessica Chen + Nikhita Prasad.

ARDS struggles to be recognise and engage children. The ARDS name is not easily recognised and understood, nor does the current brand reflect a children's dental service. There was an opportunity to revitalise and refresh the current ARDS brand. Through the new brand, our aim is to create an enjoyable experience to inspire attendance, and advocate for a brighter smile which brings a better future for our tamariki.

Building on the previous work of summer students Lesley Ung and Alyssa Tang, we felt it would be powerful and appropriate to incorporate a character or mascot into the brand to strengthen the connection between children and the service. It was also a more memorable way to communicate to children and get them engaged in their oral health.

We went with the name ARDS has been favouring, the Children's Community Dental Service and have incorporated the Māori proverb Te kaha ō te mangō, kō ōna niho (The strength of the shark, is its teeth) into the essence of the brand. In Māori culture, sharks are seen as a symbol of strength and as a guardian spirit in many legends. Children find both sharks and dental care scary. This provides an opportunity for us to develop a friendly shark character that can help alleviate these fears. Using the original shark character Finn (designed by Lesley Ung), we created an older sibling character Mako, to act as a guide for the child throughout their dental journey, and show the importance of the whānau in children's dental care.

"[A highlight] would be the collaboration process, how I collaborate with people from some other design background. That’s a really nice experience. To know what’s their perspective and what’s their knowledge and their capability, like how can we blend our strengths together."

— Allen Gao, Spatial Design Student

"It’s something different from normal studio and more challenging, if you want to step up and be out there more, I think this is a great opportunity to take Integrated Studio."

— Jessica Chen, Communication Design Student

"You learn a lot outside of your discipline. Like for me, I learnt a lot about branding in this case, which I would have never learnt in my original major, which was good."

— Oscar Zhong, Industrial Design Student

"This was a journey, but one which was very interesting and one I would do again if I had the opportunity."

— Nikhita Prasad, Spatial Design Student

ARDS Clinic Spaces.
Luke Bretnall, Holly Anaru + Emma Poole

Many children visiting ARDS experience feelings of fear and anxiety. Research shows that up to 74% of children experience dental anxiety (Blondin, 2016). This is due to things like boredom in the waiting rooms, lack of control and sensory overload. When a child develops dental anxiety, fear or phobia, this can continue into adulthood. Design of the dental space can play a key role in a child’s experience in improving a child's experience.

This project aimed to create a more welcoming environment that empowers and educates children throughout their oral health care journey.Our solution is a redesign of the dental clinic that is more playful, using shapes, colours and characters to keep children distracted and reduce their anxiety. Activity cards are designed to engage children throughout their journey within the clinic, encouraging them to complete the journey and collect a stamp as a reward at the end. The waiting room is designed to be highly interactive, from slide up panels in the seating that reveal characters, to modular furniture in a range of different shapes, for kids to play with. Colours are representative of the characters, Finn, Spike, Peanut, Toothy and Mako. All the surfaces are easy to clean and the furniture is light to move.

The wayfinding lines from the hallway lead clients into the treatment rooms and extend across the floor and walls. This creates a better flow between transitional spaces. The treatment rooms focuses on the idea of hiding away the scary dental tools and equipment, then bringing forward the more child-friendly nature of the space. Foot pedals are integrated into the design to allow hygienic access to wall storage.

"I think this paper, like the core purpose of it, is that it is something every aspiring designer should want to do because it forces you to work in a real design context, and forces you to work with other people which everyone will do in the real world."

— Luke Bretnall, Spatial Design Student

"I think it’s really good working with people from different design disciplines. A really interesting part."

— Holly Anaru, Spatial Design Student

"I learnt that I quite enjoy teamwork and group work because I feel like it gets more ideas out, cause if you are just doing it by yourself, you seem, like you’re kind of closed off from other opportunities that you could design. For other people’s opinions and stuff, if you build on it, you can create… so I learnt that I like to work with other people, because my design ideas gets better."

— Emma Poole, Industrial Design Student

Kete Menemene.
Phoebe Lee, Jessica Kwong, Zora Situ + Harry Pearce

The Auckland Regional Dental Service (ARDS) would like to improve their engagement with tamariki and their whānau to increase equitable access to dental care.

Two out of five tamariki who visit the dentist have tooth decay. This is a leading cause of preventable hospital stays in Aotearoa. Research demonstrates Māori and Pasifika communities are less likely to engage with ARDS (compared to other ethnic groups). We explored the opportunity to encourage tamariki and their whānau to care for their teeth and gums and support ARDS to become more welcoming.

Problems of equitable access to dental services result from a range of systemic challenges. In this project, we focused on increasing awareness and education on the importance of oral health. In order, to inspire attendance and engagement within our vulnerable communities.  

The foundational kaupapa for our project was: 

  • The whakataukī, 'Te kaha ō te mangō, kō ōna niho,' (the strength of the shark, is its teeth).
  • Teeth are a healthy reflection of the individual. They are the vessel which epitomises wellbeing. Falling under Te Taha Tinana, one of the four cornerstones of Te Whare Tapa Whā.
  • Our shark character is representative of a guardian throughout your entire dental journey. This echoes traditional Māori legends of Māngōroa as a protector.
  • Aim to create an enjoyable experience to inspire attendance, dissolve stigma surrounding dentistry, and promote healthy dental habits.
  • Every tamaiti should have great dental care and a smile they are proud of. This builds self-esteem and confidence and impacts on their entire life. Every tamaiti should have the same opportunities afforded by a healthy smile.
  • A bright smile means a better future for our tamariki. Treatments due to tooth decay are costly - to ARDS, to the taxpayer, and the whānau. 

Kete Menemene is an interactive card game for tamariki and their whānau to take ownership of their wellbeing. Kinesthetic learning helps to remove barriers for illiterate and atypical tamariki. We have taken a cheeky approach in our character illustrations to appeal to a younger audience. There are 2 decks of cards to play 3 games. Each game caters to a different age range. Kete Menemene is for the community at schools, libraries, and extracurricular groups. Aimed towards the whole whānau, older children can teach younger ones how to play the games. 

Our proposed solution has low overheads aligning with DHB budgets. It can be made available online furthering our audience reach. Most importantly, it provides an approachable way for tamariki to learn about ARDS and the importance of oral health. We acknowledge our game design is only a part of a larger oral health promotion programme. However, our approach aims to challenge current ‘clinically focused’ conventions to the promotion of healthcare services in Aotearoa.

"It was a roller coaster but it was great. It was really hard and frustrating and difficult, but I think the end result was amazing. I learnt lots of little technical things from other students that are quite particular to their design discipline, but also working with other people, and learning how to manage working in bigger groups."

— Phoebe Lee, Industrial Design Student

"I think it was really interesting designing especially for children, and for such a large age range and target audience, especially because ARDS works with people from so many different socio-economic backgrounds, cultures. It was quite difficult to figure out how to design for that, but I think this is a really great experience to develop the skills to do that."

— Jessica Kwong, Communication Design Student

"[I learnt] I can be more patient than I thought I was. Working with a lot of different people from different backgrounds, so we learn a little bit from each person, which was really nice."

— Zora Situ, Industrial Design Student

"Constraints were a big factor that helped us to evolve outside the box and learn differently, and yeah, sort of being creative, in that sort of sense. I think that really brought out our creativity and how we can do things differently, and how can we do things in a way that works with the circumstances that we are under."

— Harry Pearce, Communication Design Student

"Looking at the children’s dental service, and thinking, wow this is really cool to see this from a different way. So often our communication is practical, but not inviting at all. And so from our point of view, we think we’re saying all the things that we need to say, but in fact the people who we’re trying to communicate to, may not get the information that we’re trying to express at all. Having little characters and a little animation can say so much more than we could, you know these are the things you need to do, or these are the things you need to think about. So, I think that whole imagining and inviting possibilities that we hadn’t previously thought about, has been really exciting."

— Johanne Egan, Emergency Medicine, Senior Medical Officer, i3 Clinical Lead People & Culture, Waitematā DHB

Check out the WARD team projects too.