Healthcare Graphics Need Help: Standardization Isn’t Everything.

from pres

We just stumbled upon this slide show – it’s a summary of a project to standardize signage for infection control over a number of hospitals.  The hospital system wanted to do so in order to reduce rates of multidrug-resistant infections and better meet CDC and state guidelines.

Then they make an observation that’s blindingly and stupefyingly obvious to us, but we have to give them credit as this is the first time we’ve heard a hospital system say it: Their signage is inconsistent in colour, design and wording, and this is a bad thing for many reasons. Read more ›

Posted in Healthcare Graphics Need Help

Working Together Will Take Time – Until Then, Symbols Will Recruit Help

Red Cross poster circa WW 1 - art by Henry David Souter. Image in public domain.

Red Cross poster circa WW 1 – art by Henry David Souter. Image in public domain.

Organizations in the United States and Canada have recently announced that their food safety regimes are “mutually formally recognized” as being “comparable” to each other, and this is huge news.

It says that such co-operation – the opposite of silo-thinking – is actually possible between countries, which is a radical idea in theory and rare in practice.  But it’s happened! Read more ›

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Computers, Infection Control, and Usability: How Human Factors Can Help If We Work Together.


How you could have been browsing the internet today.    Source:

The field of computing has come a very long way. From basic, obscure academic theory in the 1940s to industry in the 1970s, and homes in the 1990s, they are used everywhere today – you probably have one in your pocket right now. This is massive growth, on par with the industrial revolution in scale, scope, and social influence.

Computing started out ugly and difficult to use. Of course it was – the early computer pioneers were mathematicians and engineers, not designers. The early command line operating systems use old teletype standards, measured in lines and characters. Computers were thought of as machines to calculate, tabulate and sort, so you didn’t need much more.

When the typesetting and printing field started using computers to speed up the process of creating press-ready output, they had to create many things from scratch. From their efforts, we get modern high-resolution display adapters, Postscript, and the first true fonts – three bits of software that together can display any style of lettering at any size. Most importantly, this not only worked for desktop publishing but had ramifications that changed computing forever. Read more ›

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Healthcare Graphics Need Help: Design Matters


There are many things in this world that seem simple and understandable to the layperson, only to reveal their complexity and depth when studied on a more professional level.

You know a cold when you have one, and to most people that’s enough – a cold is a cold and you spend a few days in bed with a warm cup-o-soup.  To a doctor, your cold isn’t just a cold.  It’s probably one of a large family of rhinoviruses, each with their own particular effects – a distinction that many consider academic at best, like telling the difference between wasps and bees.  It could also be a case of influenza, which shares certain symptoms and matters a lot more, especially to the young or elderly.

Visual design is another field that is deeper than many give it credit for. Read more ›

Posted in Healthcare Graphics Need Help

We Were Right. Healthcare Graphics Do Need Help!

Yesterday was the fifth of May, which is the World Health Organization’s yearly celebration and promotion of hand hygiene and its role in saving lives.

What a day it was!  There were a great many photos of healthcare workers and policy people shared on Instagram and Twitter, each of them holding a printout of the hashtag #safeHANDS, and adding their collective energy to the proceedings.  All told, it went swimmingly for all who were involved with organizing it.

There were also teleclasses and webinars held on various subjects – one featured a retrospective on the past year in the WHO 5 Moments campaign (which has been globally successful), a look at the challenges in Afghanistan’s hospital system, and perhaps most interesting to us a look at what works and what doesn’t for promoting hand hygiene.

That particular presentation is up on Youtube, and we’ve queued it up here to the part we find most fascinating.

It sounds exactly like one of our “Healthcare Graphics Need Help” columns, doesn’t it? Read more ›

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“It’s not in the budget.”


“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” -Benjamin Franklin

Despite the truth in the above adage, with a few exceptions (vaccines being one of the few) preventative measures are not prioritized in healthcare in favour of fast-acting cures.  This is true of mental health, cardiac health and particularly infection prevention, which ironically has the word in its very name. Read more ›

Posted in Articles

Healthcare Graphics Need Help: Mixed Messages

Visual communication is difficult, especially if you aren’t steeped in it every day like we are.  So difficult in fact that once again we’re using a communication from the venerable Centers for Disease Control:

CDC Poster

Today we’re talking about communicating through symbols and the importance of matching your visuals with your message – which this poster does not do.  Now, that’s not to say that the information in the poster is bad.  The content itself is good and very important to share if a bit wordy, but even the best campaigns can get derailed by poor visuals. Read more ›

Posted in Healthcare Graphics Need Help

Healthcare Graphics Need Help: Hand Hygiene’s Visibility Problem

If you follow our tweets or have been to our sites you’ve probably noticed that we tend to talk about hand hygiene a great deal.  It’s certainly the most common infection control intervention and it gets a great deal of attention as it is quite effective when performed consistently.  But that’s the rub – pun enthusiastically intended.  Consistency is an issue with any infection control measure.

The main issue isn’t the science – that’s clear.  It’s art, the art of promotion.  Promotion gets staff performing hygiene regularly and even patients and visitors will do their part.  Most methods of presenting hand hygiene in a hospital environment fall far short in this department.

Here’s what you typically see in hospitals:

il_TCH_02905_BLOG_graphics_C Read more ›

Posted in Healthcare Graphics Need Help

Healthcare Graphics Need Help: Order, Now!

As far as public health is concerned, effective communications reduce panic, promote life-saving interventions and above all create order.

However, as evidenced by the fact we have a whole column on our blog entitled “Healthcare Graphics Need Help,” it’s very, very easy to make mistakes when it comes time to actually put those above ideas into use.

Here are a few of the biggest mistakes, illustrated using salt and pepper shakers.  Why shakers?  They’re common, rely on labeling to identify their contents and misuse can lead to error – potentially ruining a meal.  Nowhere near as dangerous as containing an outbreak, of course, but the similarities remain, making them an excellent analogy to play with.


First mistake:  Neglecting visual communications.

What do these contain?  Our assumptions lead us to table salt and ground black pepper.  But if we were Hungarian we would expect that one of these might contain paprika.  We don’t know so we make assumptions.  That’s the point – assumptions lead to risk. Read more ›

Posted in Healthcare Graphics Need Help

Healthcare Graphics Need Help: The Hospital Signage Gap

Sept 15 2014 blog title

It’s about time we got another installment of Healthcare Graphics Need Help out, so let’s jump right into things.  Above are two photos of typical hospital signage.  What about them? Read more ›

Posted in Healthcare Graphics Need Help