Emergency Care Centre
Aberdeen Royal Infirmary

The Emergency Care Centre is the new building for what was formerly know as A & E (Accident and Emergency) in Aberdeen Royal Infirmary. OpenBoxDesign were asked to pitch for creating signage for patients in the newly built facility.

We researched the then current building and presented our findings during this pitch. It was very clear that the patient experience within the hospital could and should be addressed and we were lucky to be presenting to professionals who also had this passion and vision for the service they provide and the roll of healthcare for the public. It was clear that this was not a simply a job of making signs for a building; it was about the roll of information as an essential and integral part of the patient experience.

Suffice to say, we were successful in our presentation and were awarded the contract. The commission was awarded through the NHS and GHAT (Grampian Hospitals Art Trust)

The Brief

The brief was to look at making the patient/visitor experience manageable and informative during what many see as a very stressful time. We researched the Arts Council paper on ‘Violence and Aggression in A+E’ as well as studies in other large-scale A+E departments across the world.

The Process

From this initial research we completely revised the way that signage was created and also produced a rationale behind a series of information panels which explain the journey that patients take through the Emergency Depratment as well as informing of rights and responsibilities. Each Emergency Department (otherwise knows as A + E) has specific circumstances that need to be considered. This could be how, for example, waiting rooms are occupied – whether they are for those using the services of one department or many, or whether treatment diagrams should include scheduled patients or not. Then of course, we needed to address direction panels – how to get from A to B – and this radically changes between hospitals and departments. Although the over-aching design of the panels must be kept uniform, all the specific needs of a department need to be addressed.

The Result

The project has been a resounding success with the Scottish Government now looking to roll out the same ethos across further hospitals in Scotland. The work has been showcased by the Scottish Government as a leader in information and direction systems for healthcare.

An update:

We have very recently completed a full installation for Dr. Gray’s Hospital in Elgin which is a re-interpretation of the work created here, but adapted for location. We have now successfully rolled out panels and signage for four more hospitals in the North East of Scotland: Peterhead, Fraserburgh, Banff and Huntly.


OpenBoxDesign have made a concerted effort to fully understand the design and installation concept we wished to develop. They integrated with staff and patients/service users as well as spending time familiarising themselves fully with the existing challenges that staff and patients experience.

They used different approaches to further engage with patients and staff as the design developed, including workshops and patient consultation. OpenBoxDesign’s palpable energy and enthusiasm for the project inspired those working with them to deliver an innovative way of conveying information about patients’ journeys through an A&E dept.

This work has been a source of great interest and received positive comments from patients, staff and those visiting the Emergency Care Centre, including colleagues from the Scottish Government Department of Health.

Kate Livock

ECC Project Manager, The NHS

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