Posts Tagged ‘intangibles’

Functional, efficient, light and bright hospital design is pretty much the norm for new construction today. There’s solid evidence that links design with reduced need for medication and shorter hospital stays. This proof is vital, but there is also a need to explore unproven intangible design qualities.

Before funds are invested in new hospital construction, it’s worthwhile to articulate the kind of space people seek when they’re at their most vulnerable due to illness. Is it enough to simply choose from the current healthcare design influences of corporate office, chic hotel or upscale health spa? Or should the design aim to address spiritual needs?

Dissatisfaction with proven norms can lead to breakthroughs. A spark of innovation is ignited when someone says: “We can do better than that!”

Credit Valley Hospital was not afraid to wade into emotional conversations when they set out to define their vision several years ago. That level of commitment, combined with their willingness to break from conventional “healing environment” rhetoric, has made all the difference. Here’s how their inspiring words guided this hospital’s memorable design:

– Sharon VanderKaay

Innovation applies to tangibles, such as new buildings and products, as well as intangibles such as methods of construction and ways of working. Traditionally, tangibles and intangibles have been seen as distinct states. Back in 2005 I gave a presentation at a design conference in Chicago on how design intangibles, for example “creating an uplifting feeling” or “instilling a sense of confidence” become tangible when they translate into hard numbers such as increased  revenue. During that presentation, “Calculating the Value of Design,” I used the term pre-tangible to emphasize the connection between design and business results. Since then I’ve become even more convinced that decision makers need to “see” a stronger relationship between intangibles and tangibles. Here’s the image I used at the conference:


Recently I created a set of slides for a business audience that further explain the concept of pre-tangibles.

-Sharon VanderKaay

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