PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology


Visual health information
Participatory design with vulnerable target groups

Ronella Grootens-Wiegers  

To improve the chance of successful communication, the intended audience can be involved as co-creators in the design process. However, it is often unclear which level of participation in co-creating the design is optimal under which circumstance. As an example, interventions in patient information as a means to increase social inclusion in healthcare are received with varying success. This workshop aims to provide insight in how to use co-creation, and the opportunities and challenges of including vulnerable audiences in the development of visual information.

The facilitators of this workshop lead projects in which visual information has been developed and evaluated with sometimes vulnerable end-users, i.e. children and people with low (health) literacy. The design process comprized methods with various levels of participation, ranging from end-users as a subject to end-users as partners - in the form of surveys, interviews, pre-design and evaluative focus group discussions to interactive exercises.

Without doubt, the target groups provided unique insights into their visual needs, preferences and perceptions. More interactive approaches led to design solutions coming directly from the target group. Each evaluation round in the iterative design process showed improvement of the materials. At the same time, there was a limit to the cognitive load that could be placed on the participants during the process. Also, sometimes design decisions needed to be taken by the researchers and designers, either for practical purposes or to guarantee the quality of the content.

Contributions to the design process of visual information by the intended audience are indispensable for the development of well-targeted materials. However, the highest level of target group participation may prove to be unattainable: some stages of the design still require the expertise of communication and/or design professionals, especially when dealing with vulnerable target groups. It therefore should be carefully considered which design decisions require more, and which require less participatory approaches to optimize the success of this strategy.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.