August 20, 2014

ESI Partners with City Health Works


Every year, DesigNYC, the nonprofit incubated at ESI Design, partners about ten nonprofits with designers and architects on need-based projects. This year, ESI itself partnered with one of the selected organizations — City Health Works — on a healthcare design project. Many of us at ESI are very interested in human-focused design, especially related to healthcare and health education, and this is a great chance for us to make positive contribution to a  cause we believe in.

The healthcare industry in general has been embracing design more and more, because it realizes that design can improve client management and recovery rates, and can simplify fundamental activities like sharing files between doctors and hospitals. Moreover, in today’s healthcare marketplace, designers can help create a way for more people to learn about access to healthcare through effective design.

City Health Works (CHW), a Harlem-based community organization, helps type 2 diabetic patients develop a healthier lifestyle. CHW is running a new training program in collaboration with Mount Sinai Hospital, which refers patients (clients) to the program. Currently CHW has 7 coaches who teach 60 clients how to manage their diabetes by making healthy lifestyle choices on a daily basis and how to plan for long-term health.

The coaches work with the clients for 12 sessions, each one dedicated to a specific topic, such as how diabetes medication works, how to read food labels, and how to use portion control and carb counting to make meals healthier. The goal is to give the client the tools and knowledge that will help them to improve their health and reduce risks associated with diabetes.

The team works together on the redesign of CHW's graphic identity and tools.

The team works together on the redesign of CHW’s graphic identity and tools.

The CHW/ESI project began in February with an evaluation period. We interviewed CHW coaches and observed a mock session with a client, which allowed us as designers to see both the training methods that coaches use and how they interact with clients. We also conducted extensive research on design precedents and possibilities.

We used our learnings from this initial work to develop a Master Plan, an outline of the holistic design strategy and all of the design components needed by CHW to streamline their operations, better support the coaches, and improve communications and engagement with clients. The focus was less on creating brand-new tools than on enhancing the tools CHW already has, integrating them, and branding them, all to make the tools more accessible and effective. CHW chose several specific design components from this Master Plan for ESI to fully design and help them produce as part of the DesigNYC partnership, and CHW will be able to use the Master Plan as a blueprint for development of further design components in the future.

We’ll write more about our work with CHW as the design process continues through October. The concept phase is now done, and we will be developing the design of the selected components over the next three months. Our team includes the standard ESI array of disciplined designers: a writer, a user experience designer, two physical designers, and a graphic designer. We take our pro-bono work just as seriously as we do other studio work, even though we do much of this work on our own time.