San-Ai Clinic Color and Signage Design

Merit Award

San-Ai Clinic is a rehabiliation facility that recently undertook a renovation and expansion, almost doubling its usable space for rehabilitation activities.

Purposely designed free of elaborate appointments, the space features open spaces, high ceilings, and no partitions—creating a modern, friendly environment. The space is divided into 12 functional areas and patient therapy is not limited to any one space; patients can move from area to area in circuit-training fashion.

The project challenge was to offset the clinical, drab feeling of white walls and medical equipment and alleviate the harshness and drudgery of physical therapy. Designer Maya Nakamuta employed color, light, and simple, playful graphics to create a space that instills “the will to continue the struggle.” Dynamic colors were used to modulate patients’ moods. Dark blue walls in the reception area evoke a sense of reliability and are a calming counterpoint to the brighter colors within. Light blue was used to create a relaxing atmosphere in the examination area. Chartreuse and orange were used in the rehabilitation rooms to exude a feeling of healthfulness and energy.

Wayfinding through the open physical therapy areas is provided via a system of simple vinyl letters and room numbers applied directly to the painted walls. Whimsical details like a painted clock and huge message boards “attached” to the wall with painted pushpins and paper clips draw smiles from patients and, momentarily at least, distract them from the business at hand.

Jury Comments: 

“A beautiful, simple execution underscores the power of color and restrained, elegant typography to define a space that could otherwise be austere due to its main function as a rehabilitation center.” “An incredible example of integrated design with a universal approach for all. This international clinic invites you to be an active participant. Even the equipment contributes to the look and feel. A fresh approach to mundane elements such as a bulletin board or a clock define the interplay of typography, iconography, bold colors, geometric forms, and simple materials. A low budget of $15,000 demonstrates how simple color, form, and graphics can create a holistic experience. How did they do that?”

Design Firm: 



San-Ai Kai Medical Corp.

Location City: 

Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan

Project Area: 


Open Date: 


Project Budget: 


Photo Credits: 

Aioi Prophoto Co. Ltd.

Design Team: 

Maya Nakamuta


MAEDA Architects (architectural design)


MED, Canvas (vinyl, sign installation)

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