The Seattle Children’s Hospital wayfinding and graphics program eases navigation through a growing campus while offering an ongoing source of serenity and imagination.
Studio SC’s challenge was to balance signage clarity and brand warmth within a complex system that unified old and new parts of the hospital experience. Prior to this project, Seattle Children’s was divided into six zones with undefined boundaries and naming that did not reflect the hospital’s brand. Studio SC simplified the hospital’s navigational structure from six to four zones named to engage and sooth patients and visitors: Ocean, Mountain, River, and Forest. Each Pacific-Northwest-inspired zone now has a specific name, color, and icon to reflect the geographic region served by the hospital.
The heart of the project is the illustrative artwork that reinforces identification for each zone. Floor-to-ceiling murals appear at the zone entrances, bringing to life the landscapes and animals found in each namesake region. From a bear and its cubs playing in the forest to a family of otters swimming in the ocean, the zone murals reflect the hospital’s brand of compassionate care through the pairing and interaction of animals in healing environments.
Signage components compliment the murals and reinforce zone identification within the hospital while providing clear wayfinding information. Elevators are named after distinctive animals found in each zone. A single color for each zone unifies directories and directional signs. Icons appear as large illuminated disks at zone entries and in smaller scale on every room sign. Finally, the design team created a room-numbering strategy based on zone, subzone, level, and room number to help patient families and code response teams understand quickly where specific rooms are located. Ultimately, the hospital-wide navigation system and graphics program unites Seattle Children’s’ expanded footprint and creates an emotional connection to the hospital’s brand by calming anxieties and offering positive distractions for all ages.
“This year there were several entries for children's hospital environments, but this one quickly rose to the top. The lovely illustrations are at the heart of it. They managed to be sophisticated and friendly at the same time, but it all ties together into effective wayfinding as well.”
“Healthcare facilities are fraught with stress. This is an excellent example of how to create an environment that is playful and comforting, while providing memorable signals for wayfinding, an important component in reducing stress. Organizing the complex into four distinct zones identified with animals, depicted and reinforced in murals, creates an easy-to-understand, calming, and playful environment—artfully executed. “
“To escape for a moment in what can be a distressing hospital environment is priceless. The use of immersive graphic landmarks and symbology creates a ubiquitous graphic language and memorable way for users of all ages and backgrounds to navigate an often-unfamiliar environment.”
Mark Sanders (project director); Billy Chen (design director); Cynthia Hall, Faith Berry, Cory Binau (designers)
ZGF Architects (project architect)
Tube Art Group (fabricator); Lab Partners (illustrator)