VCD/KSU Graduate Program

Healthcare Communication – Kibera, Kenya

During the spring 2012 semester, VCD graduate students partnered with Life in Abundance and Rule 29 to research and design healthcare communication solutions for the citizens of Kibera, Kenya, one of the largest slums in Africa. Under the direction of Professor Ken Visocky O’Grady, the students engaged in a comprehensive research and design process that enabled them to understand pertinent issues related to healthcare to people living in the slum, and then realize possible solutions to help solve them.

The partnership with Life in Abundance was crucial in supplying students with as much first hand information as was possible. While a variety of tactics were used in the project, one of the most valuable pieces of research given to the team was the comprehensive supply of photos and videos taken by Rule 29’s Principal, Justin Ahrens, and LIA members. Since the design team was unable to travel to Kibera, they relied heavily on these photos to give context to the rest of their research as well as to gather as much additional information about the environment, people, artwork, and visual systems that that they could now see. What was learned was that multiple factors like low literacy, extreme poverty, and condensed living conditions all played a crucial role into how locals prioritized healthcare.

As the research phase of the project concluded, the students then engaged in a intensive brainstorming and prototyping phase based on research, which enabled them to design and iterate multiple prototypes. The completed prototypes included: a brochure in both English and Swahili aimed at helping citizens to understand how to take Malaria medication; flashcards based on simple iconography to aid in doctor patient communication about health symptoms; children’s games and activities to help teach healthcare habits to youths in an exciting way; and an outline for a comprehensive branding strategy that could be applied to a healthy living campaign in Kibera.

Over the summer of 2012 Rule 29 and Life in Abundance took the prototypes to Kibera for the first round of testing. There were favorable opinions towards much of what was presented, and the project will continue to be developed in the spring of 2013.

View the prototype book here


Video footage of prototypes being tested in Rumbek South Sudan


The videos below show the feedback given by 3 healthcare officials for a variety communication symbols and malaria medications instructions designed by the students.


Video 1, Video 2, Video 3


The video below shows school children interacting with a healthcare education activity book designed by the students.


Video 1

Students brainstorming possible conceptual directions

Preliminary prototype testing

Research organization

Prototype: Icon based signage system

Prototype: Malaria medication brochure

Prototype: Doctor patient communication cards


Challenge Conventions
The School of Visual Communication Design is committed to fostering innovation, respecting traditions and pushing boundaries in pursuit of new knowledge in visual communication. The curriculum is flexible enough to meet the needs of applicants with varied backgrounds—supporting a broad range of intellectual and creative pursuits while providing a strong grounding in design research. Graduate faculty members are recognized nationally and internationally for their abilities to integrate practice and research to solve relevant challenges in today’s global community.