On Thursday, December 3, 2020, the Arts + Business Council held the first virtual event for our new series: Industry Intersections. Joined by creative leaders from various industries, we explored the intersection of design and health, focusing on the importance of design in the health care industry, hospitals, senior living, and many more settings. We also talked about design thinking approaches to user experience and navigating daily life.

To kick the program off, we welcomed Jane Golden, Founder & Executive Director, Mural Arts Philadelphia, to speak about some of the solutions artists have developed to improve public health during the pandemic.

“Art is a tool of advocacy and education.” – Jane Golden

These words could not be any truer as Mural Arts worked to educate city residents on how to stay safe during COVID-19. Combining public health and public art, they developed their space pads project, where they partnered with the Department of Public Health and commissioned local artists to create beautiful decals that included accurate up-to-date, public health messages. Over 5,000 space pads, translated into eight different languages, were implemented all over the city where people needed them, including bodegas, markets, and food distribution sites, among other places.

Golden underscored the importance of creative and critical thinking, stating that “we can never discount the role of creativity and innovation, because our traditional interventions will fail us and so we have to always be expansive in how we think, especially as it relates to critical problems.”

Following Jane Golden, our esteemed panel of creative leaders discussed how design decisions have been impacted or influenced by COVID-19, and further examined innovative solutions in the health care industry. Our panel included:

Remaley opened up the conversation discussing the negative and positive impact of design on senior housing communities during COVID-19. At the onset of the pandemic, these communities naturally reverted to a very institutional and sterile environment due to the physical precautions. While physical health is essential, Remaley reminded us that health goes beyond the physical and that the design community needs to consider mental and social health, among other factors, as well. As a result, the WELL building standard, which focuses primarily on how the built environment impacts human health, has gained traction that Remaley hoped will remain in a post-pandemic world.

Dr. Ku went on to speak on the newfound comfortability of delivering health care virtually. With a lot of fear and uncertainty surrounding visiting health care facilities during the pandemic, virtual health care services such as telephone and video appointments became essential in keeping patients and health care workers safe.

“Now more than ever, I think, is a need for designers to enter into the health care space and make that experience a more comfortable one or more pleasant one for patients who seek care.” – Bon Ku, MD

With the line between health care and the digital sector blurred, the role of digital technologies in customer experience during this time has transformed, according to Blackwell, to help reduce the anxiety and frustration around receiving digital heath care services. While Blackwell and Dr. Ku acknowledged the communications that are already set in place, they believed that there is still a need for technologies that provide medical information in a way that is more accessible, transparent, simple, and enables asynchronous communication with a health care professional that can answer quickly enough to make sure patients feel like they’re being looked after and cared for.

Our Executive Director, Diana Lind, who moderated the discussion, pointed out that design does not only touch the efficiency of health care operations, but also affects our business relationships and well-being.

Histand talked about redesigning communication to help companies better reach customers that once relied on in-person interaction. Expanding that communication issue to employees, Histand acknowledged the challenges of maintain company culture, goals, and momentum while working remotely. A lot of the work done to continue collaboration has been centered around helping employees adapt to new technologies as well as focusing on wellness.

For Histand, one of the simplest solutions to keep employees moving has been alternating Zoom meetings with walking meetings. From a collaboration perspective, Histand mentioned utilizing technologies such as Mural and Miro, which are online tools that allow teams to organize through sticky notes and run design session together remotely.

“These technologies are…moving us in a great direction for safety, but also the design community has a responsibility to… make sure that we’re putting in things that are accessible for everyone to use” – Shannon Remaley

In agreement with Histand, Remaley expanded on the simplicity of some of the solutions she has implemented to keep residents safe in senior living communities, one of the first places that were really affected by COVID-19. What Remaley found interesting was that a lot of solutions have not called for the creation of new technology, but for the reprioritization of what’s incorporated into buildings and investment in technologies. One simple solution shared was reducing high touch surfaces by installing touchless fixtures, wave doors, and automatic lights. Remaley cautioned the design community, as these technologies are rapidly being put in place, to always go back to the basic principles of universal design.

Blackwell revealed that the key aspect that brands are starting to really pay attention to, now that they’ve made that technology leap and their users are willing to do that with them, is the human aspect and how to integrate it into those technologies. But when talking about increasing alignment between customers and their goals, Blackwell cited a drop in brand loyalty as a sign that right now customers are more willing to look for something else because of convenience and safety concerns. A more appropriate aspect to consider for companies may be their response to the pandemic and the processes they put in place to protect customers and employees. Blackwell believed that is the differentiator that people are looking at when deciding if they want to interact with a company, if companies are actually following through on their promise and taking those safety steps and introducing that human touch into their virtual experience.

Lind brought our attention to the issue of people craving beauty when she inquired about some ways spaces are being redesigned to bring some beauty back into the lives of people’s who are either struggling with COVID-19 or just overwhelmed by the world we’re living in.

“One of the core tenants of design is empathy and understanding who you’re designing for.” – Michelle Histand

Speaking specifically about the hospital setting, Dr. Ku talked about the need to humanize the experience for patients, caregivers, and even the health care workers in hospitals right now. Without loved ones being able to be by patients’ side due to a surge in COVID-19 cases, hospitals became a terrifying place to be in, especially for those being admitted. Dr. Ku cited the many patients who passed alone as a major reason why hospitals need to reimagine, rethink, and redesign that experience to be one of compassion and allow patients to have their support system while receiving health care.

Sharing the same sentiment as Dr. Ku, Remaley discussed the importance of understanding the environment and experience of those you are designing for. Remaley shared that their team would usually spend a few days in senior living communities to experience the environment and gain new perspective and knowledge on what worked and what did not to help drive design decisions.

Histand recognized the challenges of keeping those experiences in mind while designing solutions. While it may be more difficult to collaborate and speak to people virtually, Histand maintained that it is essential to continue these conversations because we cannot possibly design correctly in isolation. Histand goes on to say that instead of jumping straight to designing a solution, it’s important to remember empathy, because without it, we can’t possibly design the way we should.

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Independence Blue Cross

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CapTechexitMeyer Architecture + Interiors

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AIA Philadelphia       Fit City