Client: Boston Children's Hospital (BCH)
Location: Boston, MA, United States
Completion date: 2015
Artwork budget: $450,000
Design brief: Create a unique, high-end DIGITAL display that will:
1) Showcase BCH’s largest donors
2) Engage and inspire children/families, donors, researchers, medical staff
3) Reflect BCH’s stature, spirit through the quality of the installation's artistic treatment, tone, visual and emotional impact
4) Capture the personality and identity of BCH’s Donor Recognition program (honoring, leading-edge, warm, caring)
In response, we created a “first” in Donor Recognition: permanent but changeable, sophisticated yet child friendly. It consists of classic hand-carved crystal panels surrounding a cutting-edge digital LCD display of changeable donor names on an interactive, animated and programmed storybook background. 18’ x 9’
Our client wanted a project that was customized for their hospital, the historic Boston area, their care about children and families, and philosophy on recognizing high-end donors. Our vision was for an old-fashioned puppet theater gone modern. The “modern” would come from the animation and interactivity of the 4K digital high-def screens across which “elements” would move. The “puppets” would be the work of Elly MacKay, a highly creative, up and coming children’s book illustrator.
Elly was a perfect fit with our philosophy and style. Like us, she works in dimensional registered layers of translucent glowing art. Her multilayered cut-vellum figures are back-illuminated in colors that communicate times of day and other effects. This concept is much like the toy puppet theaters of old: children would cut out figures, animals and objects, paint them, and make interactive shows!
The commissioned artwork also had to share our goal of deeply honoring children and donors plus celebrating them in the luminosity of everything we do. We call our work Acts of Light, both in the literal and spiritual sense. We saw that Elly was already working this way, literally and by portraying kindness, sharing, and delight in a child’s point of view.
Christina worked with Elly on images to tell the story of life on the city's historic harbor. Its animated elements (thanks to our animation/engineering collaborator, Tim Feldman) – such as a sailboat skimming the water; a family of chickadees flitting about; a fruit tree that buds, fruits, then drops its leaves -- glow with 25 rich color shifts reflecting the times of day and changing seasons.
When a person approaches the screens, they trigger a ceiling proximity sensor to create interactivity-- two chickadees take flight, are joined by the rest of their family, swooping across the screen to “say hello,” perch on its lower edge (toddler height), then go home. (Chickadees, the state bird, are an element of the hospital's family friendly philanthropic branding.)
This installation is also interactive in the sense that children and adult visitors alike are enthralled by the animated scenes. They often express their reaction vocally and take several steps toward the digital screens, reaching out hands to touch them. It is a delight for everyone — even the security guard! — to have the little chickadee mascots welcome them. Evoking emotional interactivity like this is often neglected in the design of digital displays.
BCH’s current year's donor names float in the animated scene along with warm words of gratitude. Names are updated annually via flash drive. Lifetime donors’ names are elegantly hand-carved in classic crystal panels mounted in sparkling white Corian to form “curtains” surrounding the puppet theater. In a national competition, this installation won a Nightingale Gold Award for product excellence in the healthcare environment. This award specifically recognizes product design and innovation that contributes to healing. The client told us, “Your digital work is light-years beyond what other recognition companies do. It is so creative, sensitive, child-oriented, and fresh.”