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.

    The Health Design Lab is a research and design centre at Emily Carr University. Within the lab, faculty and students work collaboratively with industry and community partners to address complex challenges in health and healthcare through a human-centred design approach. Our work places an emphasis on participatory design research and the involvement of patients, care providers and healthcare staff throughout the design process. 

    We work with a range of partners including Health Authorities, hospitals, public organizations, non-profits, private business and local start-ups. Projects often result in the conceptualization and design of tangible products such as communication materials, websites, applications, wearables or medical products. Other projects focus on the improvement of services and experiences through human-centred participatory research methods. In these cases our projects begin with problem-finding and sense-making through ethnographic research and co-creation workshops to engage users or participants in the design process and gain insights into their needs. These projects allow our partners to design more patient and user-centred products and services by surfacing a better understanding of the users’ needs and providing recommendations for how to meet these. 

    Faculty and students working in the Health Design Lab primarily come from four key programs at Emily Carr University: Communication Design, Interaction Design, Industrial Design and our Master of Design program.

    We seek partners who are committed to catalyzing and empowering change in our health systems and services through a people and community centred approach.


  • Process + Methods

    Our Methodology

    The Health Design Lab employs human-centred, participatory design research methods to to improve the health and wellbeing of our community.

    Human-centred design puts people at the core of the research process. It ensures that the actual stakeholders in a problem, have a voice. At the core of our practice is the use of co-creation sessions, largely following the methodologies established by Sanders and Stappers. Co-creation is the creative act of making, telling and enacting, wherein designers prompt participants to interpret and answer ambiguous questions; discuss problems; describe future experiences, concerns or opportunities; make artifacts or “things”; and create prototypes.  Co-creation taps into the latent and tacit knowledge of the co-creators (participants) and provides insights into the needs, hopes, and desires that may not be captured in traditional research methods such as interviews and surveys. This involvement results in more innovative outcomes, higher acceptance rates of proposed solutions, and ultimately ensures that those whose health needs are being addressed have a voice in the process. 

    At the health Design Lab, we...
    • support and generate new ideas and approaches for health and wellbeing;
    • work through an iterative process of research, user engagement, ideation, prototyping, and user testing; 
    • conceive of new products, services, experiences, and knowledge;
    • engage users in the design process to develop insights and drive outcomes;
    • advocate with empathy;
    • strive to improve the physical, mental and social health of our community.


  • Facts

    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, participatory and community-based perspective. 

    In 2013 the Health Design Lab became a Research Centre. However, 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 health and healthcare sector.

  • Funding

    The Health Design Lab is grateful for funding from a wide range of organizations including:

    Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC
    Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)
    Kids Brain Health Network (KBHN)
    Canadian Centre for Aging and Brain Health (CC-ABHI)
    Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR)
    Vancouver Coastal Health
    Providence Health Care
    Provincial Health Services Authority
    Fraser Health Authority
    Pacific Autism Family Network Foundation
    Kenneth Gordon Maplewood School
    IRAP
    University of British Columbia

  • Contact

    The Health Design Lab values new connections:

    Caylee Raber, Director, Health Design Lab
    raber[at]ecuad.ca

    Caylee Raber on LinkedIn

    Follow the Health Design Lab on Twitter and Instagram at @EmilyCarrHDL