CAREful Painting


Hannah’s research investigated the growing recognition for the benefits to staff and patients of visual art and colourful communication design in the often rigid and system-focused healthcare context. Using paint as medium for both co-design research and communication design prototypes, Hannah undertook three healthcare-based case studies and developed a research toolkit, Thinking Through Colour.

The design of patient and family-focused information in healthcare is often poorly considered and executed. However, there is a growing recognition for the benefits to staff and patients when the arts are evident in a healthcare context. This research used painting, communication design and co-design to explore the potential for the often difficult and system-focused experience of a healthcare journey, to be balanced by a handmade aesthetic. Clinical and non-clinical stakeholders and experts, as well as end-users of healthcare, were engaged through creative workshops and three case studies to explore the ‘handmade’ in healthcare communication design.

The three case studies focused on diverse patient and staff experiences including;(a) the outpatient experience for the Deaf community, (b) communicating with clinicians, stroke patients and their caregivers about setting up telehealth sessions, and (c) communicating care to older adult patients in an Assessment,Treatment and Rehabilitation (AT&R) ward. The prototypes developed for each case study acted as applications of what was uncovered in co-design workshops and expert interviews, challenging the boundaries of what more colourful and insight-driven healthcare communication might look like.

A paint-based toolkit, ‘Thinking Through Colour,’ was also developed over a series of workshops to discover how thinking through the act of painting, colour choices and mark-making, might enhance the experience of sharing meaningful conversation in a group setting. Painting methods were found to be valuable in creatively engaging patients and staff in co-design activities, and helped them to consider the focus topic at hand. My hope is for this toolkit to be useful in other research studies, enabling creative and thoughtful discussion around a chosen topic.

Designers and clinicians alike, working in healthcare, are often constrained by its systems and hierarchical staff structures, despite a shared desire to offer patient-centred care. With institutional challenges and time constraints of this research, it is important to consider that the outputs for the case studies remain in prototype phase with further end-user testing and feedback required. However, they demonstrate the opportunities that exist in humanising healthcare communication design, and the potential positive impact that arts-based environmental design can have in the healthcare context.

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Here's what Hannah had to say about the Masters' experience:
"After my Masters, I took the leap into running my own freelance design and illustration business, Studio Rosey. My hope is to take what I have learned from this experience and transfer that to new projects with a variety of clients. My focus is on working with others who want to use art and design to promote joy, care and understanding or to create solutions to challenges in wellbeing and healthcare contexts.

Completing a Masters offers a rare opportunity to be able to focus on something that truly fascinates you for a concentrated period of time. It is an incredible personal journey that simultaneously may help others, be it through your design outcome or the research you present. You come to learn more about the ways in which you work, both in a research context and creatively, what challenges you the most, and most importantly, how you overcome those challenges. I was encouraged to find new ways of thinking, to create with intention and to discover how I might bring about positive change or knowledge to others. At the end of it all, the power that art and design has to connect and make humans feel something, to encourage conversation and inspire discussion, or to be able to create a safe and healing environment was one of the biggest lessons."

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