Visually explaining palliative care

The Stratton Foundation

Health Communication Design
Thomas Jefferson University

︎︎︎ Creative direction
︎︎︎ Typography
︎︎︎ Illustration 
“Palliative care has a branding problem,” said Jeannette, my partner from the Jefferson School of Nursing. In our first meeting together she explained that in her research, most people equate palliative care with hospice care, but that she worked “upstream.” Her goal was to initiate conversations about quality of life well in advance of hospice. With a grant from the Stratton Foundation, Jeanette piloted a telehealth program with chronic lung disease patients to get them on the same page with their doctors, nurses, and caregivers. My task was to convey this idea in a patient-facing poster.

Jeannette Kates
Maribeth Kradel-Weitzel

1. Sketching to understand the subject matter

I explored the concept of upstream health in a number of ways. I was especially interested in the various players (patients, caregivers, nurses, doctors) and how they come together. I initially thought of them like tributaries on a river.

A sketchbook with drawings of the palliative care process. My attempt to explain how different people in the care team can act together upstream.

2. Finding inspiration

A sunset and rolling green hills. Poster for the 2020 Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts by Lanny Sommese.

The late Lanny Sommese created hopeful, whimsical posters including this 2020 poster for the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts.

The back of a white man's head who is wearing a green uniform. The text says Adieu!

This poster from 1989 by Istvan Orosz prompted me to think of older patients looking forward to the future. What might they see?

3. Presenting visual directions

When Jeannette and I met again, I presented her with a series of sketches offering different directions for the poster. The third direction with bird imagery was the visual winner and we workshopped the copy to match.

Sketch of four people, two men and two women, all of an older age. They are facing towards views illuminated in different colors. Text says "the future is yours if you look ahead" and "advance planning helps you make decisions."
A sketch of a series of doors with one door open in the middle where lines of perspective draw your eye. The text reads "the choice is up to you. which door is yours?" and below "advance care planning via telehealth helps you make quality of life decisions with your entire care team."
Image is of birds in a V formation flying upwards through the words "lead your care team." Above reads "advance care planning via telehealth helps you take charge of quality of life."

4. Determining the correct medium

An image of feet next to watercolor paints brushes and a series of small paintings on cardboard on the floor.
Earlier attempts with entirely digital texture did not hold the same emotional resonance as watercolor.

5. Integrating digital and analog

The birds flying together in a V-shape formation shows the team effort amongst patients and caregivers in a successful palliative care series. The italicized type indicates movement in what might have been a stuck process. The birds are flying towards a sunset, symbolizing something beautiful and transitory.

Birds flying right in a V-shape into the sunset and through the words "move ahead as a care team." Below reads "talk with your healthcare provider about advance care planning."

Close up from the same poster of the purple silhouette of a bird flying through an orange letter O.
Close up of the bottom text of the poster.

A waiting room with two chairs and a plant. Behind them is the poster hanging up on the wall.

A mockup of a postcard version of the poster. The small text is moved to the backside and the large text and image remains on the front with the birds and sunset.


Platform: ︎
Fonts: Piazzolla Black, Monument Grotesk Semi-Mono Regular