Health Design Lab

  • Intro

    Design cares.

    Explore research opportunities and human-centred solutions for healthcare through collaborative industry partnerships and state-of-the-art technology at the Health Design Lab.

    Healthcare has been a vital research theme for over 20 years at Emily Carr University of Art + Design. We have successfully co-designed hundreds of healthcare and health design solutions with our partners, faculty, and students, including assistive devices and communication tools, mobile platforms and wheelchair design, plus socially relevant recommendations for structural and systemic changes for industry providers. Initiatives include research projects to boost patient engagement, designing and prototyping equipment, and focusing on emergent problems, opportunities and design thinking in the healthcare sector.

  • Contact

    The Health Design Lab values new connections:

    Caylee Raber, Director, Health Design Lab

    Caylee Raber on LinkedIn

  • Process + Methods

    Health Design is human-centred design applied in healthcare.

    Our Health Design Methodology

    1. Research Phase - Participatory research methods such as co-creation and ethnographic probes allow us to understand and empathize with our stakeholders.
    2. Design Phase - The design process is iterative and the outcomes are informed by the research findings
    3. Testing + Implementation - The design solutions are evaluated and refined based on feedback gathered through user testing.

    Download our Health Design Lab methodology

    Co-Creation in Health Design

    Co-creation is an “act of collective creativity” in which the design researcher directly involves the end-user of a product in the design process. At the heart of this method is the belief that all people are inherently creative and are able to contribute to a designed outcome. Ultimately, co-creation taps into the latent and tacit knowledge of the co-creators and provides insights into the needs, hopes, and desires that may not be captured in traditional research methods such as interviews and surveys. The design researcher will typically use a ‘co-creation kit’ to facilitate this process during a one to two hour session with the end-user. These kits include a wide range of activities in order to engage people on a variety of cognitive and emotional levels. These activities might include:

    • Mind Maps
    • Storyboarding
    • Collages and Moodboards
    • User journeys
    • Building models
    • Prototyping
    • Roleplaying
    • Drawing and Sketching

    Ethnographic Probes in Health Design

    An ethnographic probe is a kit which enables the participant in a research study to observe and record their daily activities and thoughts. Typically, this is a kit taken home by the participant, and is something they will use in their everyday life for a period of time. However, in more condensed studies the kit may be designed for use in collaboration with the researcher in an interview type format. Activities in an ethnographic probe may include:

    • Written diaries
    • Mapping
    • Timelines
    • Photography
    • Video or audio recordings
    • Blogging

    In contrast to the co-creative sessions, ethnographic probes are much more intimate and are traditionally completed by an individual over a longer period of time. Probes provide valuable insight into the user’s thoughts and emotions within the context of their daily life. This allows us to truly understand our users needs and wants, and ultimately to design a more valuable and relevant product.

  • Facts

    Creating value for people and society through evidence-informed innovations for healthcare

    The Health Design Lab at Emily Carr is committed to providing design opportunities to students and faculty through collaborative partnerships that apply solution-focused, human-centred research methodologies to complex problems in healthcare. We partner to approach complicated social problems from a uniquely creative, research-based, decentralized perspective. Human-centred, participatory research with end-users and professionals alike is applied to inform and develop specific, innovative solutions focused on measurable impacts and improved outcomes.

    In 2013 the Health Design Lab became a Research Centre. However, healthcare has been a consistent research theme for 20 years at Emily Carr. The work started with a class of undergraduate students working with clients at GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre, which continues to be a yearly event to this day. Hundreds of solutions have been co-designed with partners over the years, ranging from assistive devices and communication tools, mobile platforms and wheel chair designs, to recommendations for structural and systemic changes.

    BC Health Authority Partnerships

    Most recently we have partnered with several BC Health Authorities, which has led to the design and implementation of interactive hand sanitizers, conceptualizations of mobile apps for nursing shift hand-overs, and many ideas to boost patient engagement. Other projects include designing and prototyping an ambulatory cart for Providence Health Care.

  • Funding

    Investment in health design research improves our well-being.

    We are grateful for the support of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), and for the strategic support of Emily Carr, in focusing on the important problems and opportunities in the healthcare sector. Our work has been supported by companies like Stantec, the IBI group, and Guard RFID.

Let's innovate healthcare together.


Research welcomes inquiries from industry and community groups who wish to partner. Contact research[at] regarding partnerships, collaborations, and how to initiate access to our subject matter experts, leading edge technologies, and next generation talent.


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Access Funding

Partnership with Emily Carr Research enables industry partners and collaborators to access government funding available for innovation and the advancement of research. Review your funding opportunities on the Research page.