Pattern Design for Healthcare Pediatrics

Author: Kristen Dettoni,

Design is art that happens to be specific to a product, and art has been proven to have healing powers. Psychologist Dr. Dacher Keltner, of University of California, Berkeley, wrote in the Telegraph, “That awe, wonder and beauty promote healthier levels of cytokines suggests that the things we do to experience these emotions – a walk in nature, losing oneself in music, beholding art – has a direct influence upon health and life expectancy.”

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Evidence-based design suggests that a person’s surroundings have an impact on outcomes.  In healthcare and pediatrics there are numerous studies highlighting how the physical environment and design of hospitals, clinics, patient rooms, and even doctor offices can positively or negatively impact patient attitudes and outcomes. Art and design can literally boost your immune system!

I’ve seen firsthand how important design is in putting patients at ease. For more than twenty-five years I’ve been working with domestic textiles manufacturers and had the opportunity to manage a textile healthcare division, which included woven privacy curtains and upholstery. I learned that in many healthcare settings, the privacy screen is the only item in a room with any design elements (other than a visitor chair).

There is a tremendous opportunity for designers to use printed textiles as part of a healthcare design to create a unique patient experience on privacy screens, interiors and more. The key is understanding your audience and designing towards their needs.



When designing for pediatrics, it is critical that the designs be calming, fun, and playful. Calming and fun may feel like an oxymoron to us adults, but not so much for kids. A calming mood can be created when kids are in a space that is fun and playful, and such a mood can be achieved through appropriate graphics and color palette.

For the artwork, it is important to keep the graphics non-gender specific. Ideal imagery involves animals, fish, and outdoor scenes such as barnyards and playgrounds.

You can also add an element of fun by creating interactive design scenes that encourage a child to spend time looking at the art while in bed: perhaps a counting or find-the-animal game. When kids are in beds for several hours or several days, this added element can draw them in to an image.

It is also important to consider avoiding certain motifs, such as shapes that have hard spikes (which would remind a child of needles), or anything that looks too biological, such as kidney shapes. No child (or adult) wants to be reminded that they are in a hospital.


Since most of the privacy curtains are woven textiles, those inherently have a small amount of physical dimension. Prints, on the other hand, emerge onto a flat scene. In order to add an additional element of visual dimension and keep the eye moving around the design, I recommend incorporating textured swatches to the graphics.

Proper colors and color schemes are essential to healthcare. For pediatrics, it is important to have a saturated, but sophisticated color palette. Primary colors and secondary colors are great for pediatrics: by toning down the hue a bit, the palette becomes sophisticated while still being kid-friendly.

The fact that you can print almost any design on textiles opens up a world of possibilities. With some products, such as those from Kwickscreen, you even have the ability to print a different pattern on each side. You can also easily refresh your image by simply unzipping the screen and zipping in a new design.

In the end, the ideal pediatric printable design is the perfect blend of fun, texture, and sophistication. It calms a child while also keeping them engaged and upbeat. All this works together to help make a difficult experience a little bit easier.

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