This is an interesting job that came into the studio in early 2021. The staff of Children’s Health Ireland at Temple Street Emergency Department had been given a talk about signage and wayfinding within their department. This covered how to make both the children and adults feel comfortable getting around. The thing is, this had to cater to children who maybe couldn’t read yet and adults who weren’t confident with reading or didn’t have English as their first language. So signs…but without any writing please.
The department head came to me with their plan so far; each door was being painted a bright colour, they just needed something easily recognisable to mark each door. We chatted for a bit and settled on the idea of big cartoon animals. And, as a nod to the hospital they would be in, each animal would have a bandage or piece of hospital equipment as well – elephants with stethoscopes, whales with a hurt fin, or a lion with a broken paw. This way, instead of saying ‘Go to the rapid assessment and treatment unit’, staff could ask patients to ‘go to the red door with the lion on it’ (lion roar sound effects optional) The staff had a chat about what animals they wanted most and what potential injuries or accessories they could have and, once I got the list, I started drawing up some designs
The next big headache – there’s always a few – was the durability of these signs. They had to be sturdy enough on the doors that they could handle people pressing against them hundreds of times a day, and also the paint had to be protected because they would be wiped down with strong alcohol disinfectant. I settled on using a sturdy 12mm ply which would be screwed into the door and, once the pieces were painted, I’d seal them before applying an extra hard satin varnish.
So then it was onto getting wood and cutting it to shape. I was driving a small hatchback at the time so I had to enlist some help to get the 8×4 foot sheets of ply out to the studio. Then I primed the boards white and sketched the designs on to them. After a lot of work with a jigsaw (so many tricky corners in those designs!) I had them ready to be painted up. This was the middle of lockdown so it definitely felt like I had cracked and started painting my own little pals to hang out with.
A few days of painting later, followed by three coats of varnish with sanding in between, and they were done! I again asked my Dad if we could use his jeep for the delivery and we brought them up to Dublin to their new home. It was lovely to see them make the staff smile and how excited they were to get them up. It’s nice to think they could make someone smile on what could be a really crap day for them. This was such a clear example of how murals or signs can really brighten up the mood of a space and be useful while they do it.