Boston Children's Hospital Hale Family Building - Experiential Graphic Design - CODAworx

Boston Children’s Hospital Hale Family Building – Experiential Graphic Design

Submitted by Elisabeth Gordon

Client: Boston Children's Hospital

Location: Boston, MA, United States

Completion date: 2022

Project Team

Client/Design Direction

Elisabeth Gordon

Boston Children's Hospital


Marty Gregg/Beth Rosa

ArtHouse Design

Fabricators and Installers

Mike Dillon

Dillon Works


Boston Children’s Hospital and ArtHouse Design teamed up to create an immersive experiential graphic design (EGD) program for the 12-story, 575,000-square-foot Hale Family Building at Boston Children’s Hospital. The EGD program centers around a 3-D pop-up book theme and features interactive, multi-layer automatons in expansive, built-in niches. On the outpatient floors, the designs welcome patients and families and provide positive distraction; on the inpatient floors, they provide wayfinding cues, destination points and guide patients, families and visitors towards the unit entrances.

Each floor of the Hale Building has a unique theme based on the concept “From Earth to Sky.” Incorporating New England iconography—from mountains to harbors to swan boats—these experiential graphics support the theme and invite exploration. The City/Transportation floor features an interactive map of the Boston subway, “The T”, and buttons that kids can push to light up the different routes. On the Space Floor, an interactive panel allows visitors to learn about different constellations. As an additional seek and find element, a friendly lobster is hidden somewhere in the graphics on each level.


A trip to the hospital can be intimidating for patients and their families, and our goal with the artwork throughout the hospital is to make their experience as pleasant as possible. Our intent with this project was to create immersive art experiences in our new Hale Building that would be as sophisticated as the state-of-the-art medical care found in the hospital without relying on high tech. Our collaboration with ArtHouse Design helped us to achieve that goal; the design is compelling and inviting while the interactive components are mechanical and do not rely on digital screens. The diorama-like niches offer enchanting moments--penguins waddling, beavers swimming, squirrels scampering--while the captivating scenes in the environmental graphics create positive distraction and destination points for patients as they recover.


ArtHouse Design worked closely with our BCH team--which included end users, administrators, and patient/family advisors--to develop a concept that would be well-received by the many stakeholders. A few different approaches were shared among this group. Ultimately, the 3-D pop-up book format was selected as it appealed to a broad range of ages, nationalities and abilities.

Because of the complexity of the design, which included involved building special architectural niches, custom-fabricated mechanical auomatons, and incorporating motion sensors and special lighting--coordination between the designers, architects, contractors, the fabricator, and the installer, was critical to the success of the project. Early planning allowed the team to determine where the needs would be and constant communication between the parties helped to overcome challenges when they arose.

During installation, in the field adjustments and design decisions had to be made, and it was critical that the design team and installers worked together collaboratively to achieve the design intent.

Additional Information

Because of the various layers and components that came from different fabricators, the order and precision of operations for install mattered—and it varied from floor to floor. Extra attention needed to be paid to scalability, lighting, and positioning due to the range of materials used in the fabrication of the artwork, from hand-painted and hand-sculpted polymer clay to etched and paint-filled wood to acrylic and print pieces. Our team carefully thought out and coordinated every detail throughout the design process—from each design element to how it was built. As a hospital that treats a variety of conditions and hosts people from across the world, inclusivity and accessibility were behind every design decision. For example: interactive elements are designed to be at a child and wheelchair level and the automatons are all activated by motion sensors. An increasing number of studies show that incorporating art into health care environments can have beneficial effects on patient recovery, and we feel that our designs offer unexpected moments of respite and wonderment during what can be an otherwise stressful time.