Finding your way - graphics for healthcare

Large-scale graphics are becoming a popular addition to hospital interior design schemes, offering distraction and aiding with wayfinding

Hospitals are big buildings – with endless corridors, various floors and wings, and thousands of rooms.

Such huge developments can make the environment seem daunting, not to mention the negative effect this has on successfully navigating the space.

Add to this the fact that many people visiting, working or staying in hospitals are anxious or stressed, and what should be a place promoting healing and wellbeing suddenly becomes the exact opposite.

But trusts are increasingly realising this and, as a result, the use of graphics in healthcare settings is becoming more commonplace.

Graphics are a popular way of improving the patient environment. They can add interest to walls and help to normalise the environment by creating an almost hotel-like feel to a space

Miles Thomas of Simons Group said the company had commissioned graphics for a number of its hospital developments across the UK.

He told BBH: “Graphics are a popular way of improving the patient environment. They can add interest to walls and help to normalise the environment by creating an almost hotel-like feel to a space.”

Holding your attention

Most commonly graphics are used to break up large walls or to help patients to relax. For example, Simons Group installed a number of graphics into the MRI scanner room at Nuffield Hospital in Cambridge. These will help to take patients’ minds off of the procedure, cutting down on wasted appointments, the number of repeat scans needed, and the level of anxiety felt by patients using the equipment. It is particularly useful when imaging young children, who often have to be sedated or anaesthetised.

Working with Avanti Architects and hospital charity, Artfelt, Simons Group is also leading a project at Sheffield Children’s Hospital, using artwork and graphics within the play area in the reception.

And painted and coloured glass was used as graphics at Astley Court learning disabilities unit in Hertfordshire.

Thomas said: “It’s about giving the patient something to look at or something to keep their attention. A lot of wall images are used to break up long corridors and to add interest to patient areas.”

Linking graphics to lighting is important to help you get the desired impact. Solutions also need to be robust as they will have to stand up to some abuse, particularly in certain settings such as in mental health units

Grosvenor Interiors has also worked with a number of NHS and private hospitals to enhance both new and existing buildings.

Managing director, Colin Horn, said: “Graphics can be anything from figures, letters and large-scale digital imagery through to real-life images. We use both quite extensively within the healthcare marketplace, right from paediatric units where children can feel immersed within the space and are distracted from the clinical procedures being undertaken; right through to elderly care facilities, where imagery may take that person back to their youth, or help them to find their bed.”

Very often images of the natural world work particularly well.

Horn said: “From a very early age people are aware of nature and the outside world and in hospital you tend not to see too much of that. Bringing some of the outside inside is therefore a really good thing.”

But making sure the images are suitable for the user group is key.

Ease of use

Horn said: “You have to be careful not to upset or offend, so you need to choose something that is not going to be too contentious.

“We have found that large abstract images look really good and are fine for places you walk through, like corridors, but they do not hold the attention for very long. So, in rooms where you may stay for a while, such as waiting areas, we use images with more to look at or things to find.

“One project we worked on a patient said that by the end of his time on the ward he knew how many leaves were on the tree in one of the pictures. This sort of detail is important in certain settings.”

Other important considerations include the location and associated lighting.

Thomas said: “Linking graphics to lighting is important to help you get the desired impact. Solutions also need to be robust as they will have to stand up to some abuse, particularly in certain settings such as in mental health units.

“Also important is that the graphics themselves are easy to clean and maintain.”

Grosvenor Interiors’ Wall Glamour range is a sticky vinyl material with a printed surface. It is strong and hardwearing and can be applied directly to painted walls. It is also waterproof and washable and comes in a variety of designs, making it a popular choice for hospital environments.

It has been used on a number of schemes including the Teenage Cancer Trust units in Nottingham and Leicester; the Maternity Bereavement Suite at Leicester General Hospital; and within a children’s playroom at Kingston Hospital.

Wayfinding is an important consideration in hospitals, and increasingly graphics are being used to help people find their way around and, in particular, within dementia care facilities to help residents find their own beds.

Horn said: “Hospital environments can never be a ‘home from home’, but our objective through the use of graphics in this way is to avoid the hospital stereotype as much as possible.”

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