A hospital room is an environment as thougthfully designed as it gets. The lessons of modernism have been learned, all form follows function and yet, as a patient, one feels forlorn, helpless and depressed. How come?
The good news and I don´t want to take it for granted: everything works. The most ingenious piece of furniture is of course the bed. For the duration of your stay, you and the bed are one. If one of you gets lost you can be matched back together. From the point of view of hospital administration you ARE a bed, which is either taken or vacant.
The bed is a transport tool that moves you from the operating table to your room. It can be lifted up and down by staff, the patient can control if she wants to lie or sit in it (or something in between which gives you neck ache) and it can even be adjusted to your size. Controls to adjust the lights, turn on TV and summon the nurse are easily reached. There are hooks for blood and urine bags and you can add lots of useful features to a hospital bed, such as a holder for crutches, if needed.
The only problem with the bed is, that you lie in it and thus your perspective changes. What do you see?
Not much. Lying in my carefully designed and individualized hospital bed, I felt depressed and was wondering what was missing. Friends and loved ones had shown their sympathy. Architects, interior-, furniture-, product- and service designers had done their best and friendly hospital staff was taking care of all my physical requirements. And then I realized, that what I was craving for was aesthetic comfort, a visual plaster for the soul.
There´s a blank state, why not do something with it?
Does this wall really only get animated by a television image? What if the humans that have stayed here before, would have left a trace?
And is this a room with a view? Would it not be much nicer to be able to see the sky, have a link to the outside world, not just look at another wing of the hospital? I am not suggesting to rebuild the hospital, but maybe you could do something with mirrors?
I do not want to talk about the food, as it seems cooking decent food in such quantities is simply not yet possible. But why not make this slip more personal and cheerful?
Design is now being hailed as a profession that may change the world for the better. In that context, people usually think of design disciplines that create tangible physical artifacts or environments, such as product design or architecture. Graphic design creates images, dreams and feelings, which seems in comparison a bit frivolous and insincere. But when you feel weak and low it is a friendly voice, somebody to talk to that is needed. And that is what graphic is really good at: communicating.
So, here is my advice to hospital management: Bring in the graphic designers, they will be best suited to deal with caring for the soul.
© Rose Epple, 2020