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The art of design in healthcare

Mental and behavioral health facilities are shedding their institutional feel in favor of designs that promote healing.

This change couldn’t come at a better time.

The National Institutes of Health estimates that in 2021, nearly one-quarter of U.S. adults suffered some form of mental illness. Among adolescents, those numbers were especially sobering, with 49.5% having some type of mental health disorder (of which 22.2% were categorized as severe).

Other than the obvious concern as a community, what can designers and their print and production partners like Franklin Imaging do to help?

Actually, quite a bit.

Meeting the need for beauty and safety

According to the New York Times, research into the health effects of our surroundings has propelled new design trends in mental healthcare facilities.

  • Adding natural elements is key, as is plenty of light. The art of incorporating these environmental elements into spaces to increase mental wellness and connectivity even has a name: biophilic design.

  • Color therapy is another powerful tool. Blues and greens can support feelings of calm, while reds and oranges generate alertness.

  • Visually cluttered spaces, crowding and noise can increase stress and aggression in both staff and patients, while open spaces and symmetry have the opposite effect.

  • It’s also important to recognize that up to a third of any patient visit can be spent in an exam room. This single room can improve a patient’s overall experience.

Of course, in every area of a health care facility – particularly those in the mental and behavioral health arena – safety is crucial.

A growing need

In 2020, 40 percent of the new specialty hospitals constructed in the U.S. were psychiatric hospitals and behavioral health centers. Architecture and interior design firms with expertise in healthcare design and an ability to generate evidence-based designs have reported increases in activity.

As partners in mental and behavioral health facility projects across the country, we use specific materials and specialized production processes to transform spaces with beautiful graphics that are also safe.

Because each finished element that goes into a behavioral unit must be designed and produced so that patients can’t use any of the materials to self-injure or injure others, projects must be created with materials that can include:

  • Polycarbonate that looks like acrylic but won’t shatter. This results in gleaming graphics that elevate any space.

  • Tamper proof hardware that requires a custom tool for removal so visitors can’t use it to harm themselves or others. We can also use strong adhesives to completely remove the need for any installation hardware.

  • Eased edges and radius corners to eliminate ligature points.

  • Graphics printed on softer textures to help absorb more noise.

While you can find more specific building requirements for clinical spaces in publications such as the FGI Guidelines, we’re happy to answer any questions or provide an overview of available production methods for any of your healthcare design ideas. Ask us anything…we’re here to help!

What’s the most creative design element you’ve seen in a hospital or clinical space? We hope you’ll share it with others in the comments – maybe it will spark a new idea for healing!



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