Wall Mural – BC Children’s Hospital

Making a Hospital Stay for Kids Less Scary: A Case Study

Even the smallest visit to a hospital can be scary, even traumatic for children. BC Children’s Hospital has gone to extraordinary lengths to create an environment that helps the healing process by covering walls and sometimes ceilings with colourful and calming artwork. The artwork provides a focal point for the young patients, something to take their minds off the matter at hand, easing anxieties and fears.

The Burn Unit was the latest to have murals created for it and I was contacted to develop a series of murals that were to be digitally printed on adhesive vinyl to help children through the experience. The murals were to revolve around the bathing room in the Burn Unit with two joined recovery rooms and a waiting room.

Extensive conversations were had discussing the experience patients would have. We talked about every aspect of their journey through the spaces, why they were there, what they were feeling both physically and emotionally and who would be with them. It was an emotional consultation process as being empathetic to what the kids are going through as they go through the Burn Ward can be difficult to process. But that empathy only had me thinking better to make their difficult experience as easy and pleasant as possible. Speeding the process of recovery so they can return to their lives again.

Concepts were developed with different themes and styles. After sharing the ideas with the team at BCCH, one was determined to be the best fit for what the medical team thought would best help the healing process.

The consultation process didn’t stop with the medical team. The artwork was reviewed by various stakeholders, including a small group of youth who helped guide the artwork-creation process. as they found favourite characters who they wanted to see more of. And some they didn’t like who were removed as the artwork developed.

The next step was to create templates from the floor plans and elevations for the building. The design process was complex as the space available for each wall was not a clean rectangle. Each wall was broken up by built-in cupboards, doorways and panels for the numerous pieces of medical equipment each room required.

Each room features a common setting of a forest with a waterfall and body of water in the mid-ground with a cast of forest animals occupying it. The time of day and actions of the characters change from room to room. Careful attention was paid to the time of day for each room. The waiting room where family would say their temporary goodbyes is bright, midday sun with forest animals enjoying the sunshine and water. The bathing room is a night scene with cool, calming colours and the recovery rooms have a sunrise/sunset palette with soft golden tones to ease kids back into their lives.

The characters have humanistic actions. They’re throwing frisbees, playing music, patrolling by flashlight, climbing trees with headlamps, waving flags, swimming and sometimes they’re just chilling out. Characters are carefully distributed both high and low without cluttering the scenes as the experience kids are going through can occasionally only have them look in a certain direction. No matter where they look, there’s something to see.

The feedback during the process has been invaluable and even fun when hearing about some of the favourite characters and hidden elements in the illustrations. Attention was paid to exclude triggers of what may have brought kids to the Burn Ward in the first place. No campfires, candles, hot liquids or high-heat objects. Feedback came from kids and occasionally requests came from adults to make sure a certain element made the cut.

This project has been highly rewarding and I’m glad I’ve been able to play a small part in the healing journey of the children who spend time in the space.

Client: BC Children’s Hospital
Role: Art Direction / Graphic Design / Illustration
Strategic Partners
Printing / Installation: AMPCO Graphics
Photography: Originelle Designs Photography
Year: 2022-2023

Bathing Unit in BC Children's Hospital with colourful digitally printed mural.

Thank you so much for these designs, we are so happy with them!