Overview

Columbus, Ohio
710,000 ft² new construction
1,494,500 ft² renovation

BRIEF

Develop clear wayfinding for the nation’s second-largest children’s hospital that unites a diversity of buildings while creating a humanizing experience for patients and families.

SERVICES

Research assessment, testing, design and documentation (2007-2012), phased implementation (2012-2015), nomenclature design and development, parking structure graphics, pedestrian wayfinding, donor recognition standards, concept and thematic architectural development

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SITE ANALYSIS

  • Disjointed feeling between multiple generations of buildings
  • Overly technical nomenclature confused visitors
  • Destinations were assigned multiple names
  • Out-of-sequence alphanumeric room-numbering system
  • Majority of users surveyed expressed a preference for a wayfinding system based on paths rather than districts

Case Study

SOLVING FOR A COMPLEX CAMPUS

Nationwide map before
fig. a Building density had increased to an extent that occupants were unable to identify thresholds between individual buildings.

This sprawling campus was constructed over the course of 50 years, resulting in a dissonant naming and building identification system. fig. a

Our solution eliminated the concept of distinct buildings as destinations altogether, instead drawing a series of identifiable public paths—akin to a subway system—connecting destinations throughout the building mass. fig. b

Nationwide map after
fig. b Elevators and key amenities function as 'stops' along each path, enabling concise verbal direction-giving: "Take the blue path to the pharmacy."
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fig. c Room locations are baked into the new room numbering system. For example, room H12.22 is the 22nd room on the 12th floor of the Day Hospital building.

Most people remember only four or five directions at a time and require guidance on their journey. By using instructional design to direct people to parking first and then the appropriate elevator, floor level, and room number, we reduced the necessary cognitive load.

We designed a system that provides patients with information cards in printed and digital formats prior to their visit. fig. c These cards reduce the stress of parking and navigating while introducing visitors to the in-building experience ahead of time.

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fig. d Colorful walls and leaf motifs on the floor provide clear wayfinding and visual cues for patients and families by reinforcing public paths throughout the campus. An empty interstitial space between buildings is transformed into a magical forest that stimulates imagination.
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fig. e
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Thematic elements persist at all scales, from monumental installations to small details.

NOMENCLATURE

NCH nomenclature
fig. f Acronym-heavy clinical terminology is a barrier to understanding that can hinder wayfinding.

Studies show most technical and medical terms are not understood by all patients and visitors. Our team collaborated with physicians and administrators to develop a comprehensible terminology system that helps users better find their way. fig. f

PROTOTYPING LAB

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fig. g
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A prototyping lab allowed the team to work through concepts at scale and perform user tests.

Each component of the wayfinding system was prototyped at scale in a former grocery store adjacent to the Nationwide campus, which the client had purchased to turn into an iterative design lab. fig. g

Our team ran multiple rounds of user tests with patients and hospital stakeholders; the success of the resulting system is due in large part to these tests.

PLACEMAKING

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fig. h
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Place-making through supergraphics and sculptural landmarks.

Oversized typography, supergraphics, and dimensional landmarks provide a constant sense of place. fig. h The wooden animals were custom-carved by a local maker of carousel animals.

Less heavily-trafficked areas received special treatments like digital kiosks to help viewers find their way. fig. i These kiosks also served as wayfinding landmarks to communicate nearby amenities, marketing announcements, and priority messaging.

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fig. i Custom digital kiosks allow patients and visitors to search for information about their destination and nearby amenities on campus.

PROJECT CREDITS

PROJECT PARTNERS

AWARDS

  • Industrial Designers Society of America
  • Graphis Silver
  • Communication Arts Design Annual