Workshopping Facility Refurbishments

This project focussed on improving a waiting area at the Cancer and Blood service at Auckland City Hospital. The role of the DHW Lab was to facilitate design workshops with clinical stakeholders and Facilities, with a view to develop refurbishment options to improve the experience for patients and families. Building on existing patient research (carried out by the DHW Lab and Performance Improvement) at the Auckland DHB, patients and families had the opportunity to vote and provide feedback on design concepts.


The focus of the first workshop was to establish a shared understanding of the current waiting room experience, in order to distil a set of guiding design principles for the refurbishment. Together with the patient feedback already gathered, we compiled a set of ‘how might we’ statements. These provocations acted as a ‘design brief’ for translating users needs into concepts.


Using scale models and representative furniture blocks, the second workshop began to bring form to the design principles established in first workshop. Participants experimented with furniture layouts using a scale model—discussing how different configurations would improve the room’s function and the patient experience. 

waiting room model.jpg

In a subsequent activity, the DHW Lab team sourced a range of inspiration images around the themes of: privacy, nature, furniture, and activities/interactions. We asked each other, 'which of these examples might be suitable references for this environment?' Using the models as a basis, the two groups annotated their concepts with visuals and notes. At the conclusion of the workshop, two layouts were presented to the public to provide feedback on.

top view model.jpg

The final workshop moved beyond function and layout to explore how the space should look and feel, based on this session the DHW Lab put together a final set of design recommendations to be taken forward by Facilities.  

Concept A render_colour exploration.jpg







The lab is an environment for collaboration, prototyping and experimentation. The nature of our studio space reflects this, through its use of lightweight, mobile furniture and infrastructure. As the scale of projects undertaken by the lab expands, alongside our growing team, we've adapted the studio to create a unique, private workspace that allows for focused collaboration and 'war room' style workshops. 


Situated towards the rear of the lab, Backspace is a light-filled mini studio constructed entirely of existing structures and materials. White coreflute panels sit within tall timber frames, combined with a lowered wave-like fabric ceiling to create a soft, elegant space that encourages fresh thinking and a greater sense of focus. 

Backspace is an example of prototyping within work environments to create low cost but highly effective spaces for collaboration and creativity. 

If only we could do something about the sound… 


ID/Lab x DHW Lab collab


This past year the DHW Lab has been working on improving wayfinding at Auckland City Hospital. To provide expertise around the strategic elements of wayfinding, such as designing and problem-solving for a campus-wide system, wayfinding strategists ID/Lab were engaged. Specialising in hospital wayfinding, they have designed for over 40 hospitals world-wide. 

Unlike a traditional client/consultant relationship, this was a collaborative venture between the two studios. Strategists and designers from the firm worked over an intensive 7 days with designers from the DHW Lab. We explored the campus using journey mapping, personas, and prioritised areas for improvement. As part of this collab, ID/Lab coached members of the team in the dark arts of wayfinding, providing insight into their strategic approach and methods in solving complex, multi-layered problems.

For both studios this was a positive new experience, and we look forward to more collaborative opportunities like this in the future. The clarity they provided in their wealth of experience was refreshing and inspiring. As part of their time with us the wayfinding work the DHW Lab had completed to date was critiqued, and many of our ideas validated and made more robust. They will continue to support us till early next year, as we compile the wayfinding strategy, recommendations, and updated design guideline for the Auckland DHB to take forward.


Learn about our Illustrator_Emma Scheltema

Over the next little while we will be doing feature articles on our postgrad students. This is a chance to learn a bit more about them and what they have been doing at the lab.  

This week the spotlight is on our honours student – Emma Scheltema. Emma has a Bachelor of Science (Ecology and Conversation) along with currently doing her Bachelor of Design Honours with a focus on medical illustration.

Illustrations of the heart (showing the Fontan procedure) as part of an honours project looking into the effective design of medical illustrations for different users in the hospital. 
Illustrations of the heart (showing the Fontan procedure) as part of an honours project looking into the effective design of medical illustrations for different users in the hospital. 

Emma’s primary focus is to create illustrations that communicate complex scientific concepts to people, whether it be a diagram that visualises research findings for a scientific journal, or a fun illustration that explains migration to children . 

Miniature anatomical model of the heart, cast in resin, created as part of an honours project
Miniature anatomical model of the heart, cast in resin, created as part of an honours project

The focus for her honours project is exploring the ways in which illustration might be used to aid the communication of complex medical information within a hospital environment. In particular, the focus will be on comparing the way in which traditional (2D) and digital (primarily 3D) medical illustrations may affect user understanding and experience when used as educational tools. 

When she isn’t doing scientific or medical illustrations she is creating illustrations for children’s books. Emma has been spending most of her spare time working on illustrating a cool science based project that is aimed at raising awareness about NZ insects alongside an entomologist at UoA. She can’t say too much about this project yet as it hasn't been released, but it has been about a years worth of work and she’s pretty excited to see it come out later this year.

Emma is really into science and conversation and over the past few years has been doing a bit of wildlife rehabilitation volunteer work (at NZ Bird Rescue). After her honours is completed she is looking forward to getting back into it.

What inspires our talented Emma? Well she originally started combining her interest in art with her other interest- science, while studying Ecology and Conservation. Which is where her inspiration stems from. Visual design has a lot to offer in terms of making scientific information more accessible and enhancing scientific communication, in both natural sciences and medicine.


Emma’s fav illustration from this year (so far) is the ear anatomy illustration. She has been working on as part of a series of illustrations for the ENT department at Starship. Its not particularly special in terms of medical illustration but it was significant for Emma in terms of learning quite a bit about the technical limitations of the medium she was using (watercolour) and how it could be applied for medical subjects. 

After her honours project is over Emma hopes to do an internship with scientific/medical illustrators to gain some more experience, and is hoping to do some travel too. Emma is looking forward to applying what she’s learnt this year to carrying on with freelance scientific and medical illustration work. An eventually would like to translate this visual science communication into books for children. 

Keep up the awesome work Emma! We look forward to seeing your completed honours project!

To check out more of Emma’s great work click here.


Card sort activity to organise content and information
Card sort activity to organise content and information

Yesterday, Nick and Ivana ran a second co-design workshop with young adults with psychosis. Unlike the first workshop, this workshop was based in the community at the Taylor Centre in Ponsonby. We had a range of participants who each shared their own experiences of living with psychosis, and helped us understand their day-to-day challenges. Through a series of interactive activities, we explored how an app or website could support their needs and help them live well with psychosis. 


The findings we collected will help to inform the direction and design of early concepts and the types of content users value. 

Co-designing with adolescents with psychosis

Prototyping workshop activities
Prototyping workshop activities

As part of our ongoing work with Pharmacy, Nick and Ivana ran a fantastic co-design workshop yesterday with a group of adolescents with psychosis, supported by their family members. The goal of the first workshop was to explore the lived experience of psychosis for patients and their families, and work together to create a digital tool or resource that helps them better manage their condition and supports healthy mental wellbeing.

Using a variety of interactive activities, we uncovered a great deal of insight and ideas into how an app or website could support their needs. 

'Emoji Stories' activity
'Emoji Stories' activity
Prioritising content through card sorting
Prioritising content through card sorting
Using personas to explore participants lived experiences
Using personas to explore participants lived experiences
Exploring ideas for an app or website 
Exploring ideas for an app or website 

This is the first of a number of workshops that the Lab will run with patients at Auckland hospital and the wider community in an effort to create a tool that support a wide range of people's needs.