Hospital Service Design

Michael-Owen Liston: Design Research
Andrew Lovett-Baron: Design Research
Lindsay Ellerby: Design Director
Spring 2012
Contextual Inquiry, People Centered Research, Participatory Co-Design, Service Design, User Interface Design
Design research phase of an internal intranet system redesign, for an internationally recognized childrens’ hospital in Toronto.

As part of a small team at Normative, I conducted a range of research, synthesis, and strategy activities as part of a complete redesign of the SickKids hospital intranet system. Over 8,000 healthcare providers, researchers, and staff with a very diverse set of needs rely on the intranet to communicate, collaborate, and do their jobs. Intranet redesigns don’t typically have a reputation for being exciting projects, but it was clear to us from the outset of this engagement that this tool’s effictiveness would have a direct effect on the quality of care experienced by the children and families who depend on the hospital’s services.


In order to build a tool that would meet the needs of such a diverse group of stakeholders, we took a systems approach to the design. We used individual interviews, group workshops, surveys, and pop-up intercepts to engage and learn from our stakeholders. We decided to synthesize user archetypes based on a matrix of physical mobility and engagement with technology — this allowed us to design for a much more focused pattern of needs and constraints, vs. trying to design to people’s titles, roles or the org chart.

SickKids archetype sketching

Regular participatory workshops with key stakeholders ensured that we were co-developing a language and framework for the project that our client had ownership of, and contributed to a foundation of trust from the early stages of the project, which was critical in such a politically complex environment.


The major output of this three month phase was a high level strategy deck, which framed the vision, strategic recommendations, and major tactical milestones for the design/build phase of the project, which immediately followed our research and strategy work.

SickKids service archetypes

What I Learned

  • When it comes to research at scale, using multiple approaches is critical to get an array of perspectives.
  • It’s possible for a small team to synthesize incredible volumes of data, by designing your environment to support that process.
  • Job Titles ≠ Archetypes