Gapingvoid: When motivational art meets healthcare

Gapingvoid is providing motivational art that is aimed to improve the experience for patients and staff in a healthcare space by adding some whimsy and thoughtful messages.

Many hospital and clinic waiting rooms are stark, dated, poorly lit and uninviting. As Gapingvoid CEO Jason Korman points out, the only thing to fixate on is likely a 2010 copy of People.

Not only are these generally unappealing spaces to be in, aesthetically, but sitting in a sterile room or approaching a receptionist through a sliding glass partition doesn’t exactly calm the nerves of anxious patients waiting to find out the condition of their health.

Miami-based Gapingvoid has recognized the influence unique and playful art can have in a healthcare space, both for patients and for staff.

The company, a publishing and advisory firm, has been providing consulting to businesses in a variety of industries – including Intel, Microsoft, Dewar’s Whiskey, and eHarmony – to identify company-culture problem areas and find out what messages and motivational phrases will resonate with those in leadership, employees, clients, whomever might be in a space at a given time. And then they translate it into custom illustrated art. The addition of working with those in a healthcare space was natural transition.

When a group needs to be motivated, reminded of the mission at hand, pamphlets or monthly team-building meetings around a Power Point presentation only go so far. And when people like patients need to feel comforted or more at ease, even uplifted in a healthcare space, standard, generic waiting room art and artificial plants rarely do the trick.

“One of the things that social media has taught us all is that the right pictures and a few words are far more effective to get ideas across,” says Korman. With that in mind, Korman, cartoonist Hugh MacLeod and a creative team have produced an aesthetic all their own.

The whimsical pieces not only lighten the mood in a particular setting, they also provide affirmation-like messages that can be empowering, nurturing and humorous. As Korman points out, when people go to a hospital, ideally you don’t want them to feel like they need to get in and get out and make sure they aren’t deathly ill. You want them to be in an environment that encourages feeling happy and healthy.

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Moving into healthcare spaces has been relatively recent for Gapingvoid, and pieces have now been installed in an office at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami and another office in North Miami. So far, the impact of the illustrations has been very positive, according to Dr. Jason Radick, who practices at both locations.

“On the day of installation, it was just after office hours, and the staff was literally running and skipping from one piece to the next, giggling and laughing,” Radick says. “There’s something aesthetically pleasing about it because the colors are bright or you like the caricature – but then there’s also something cerebral about what it’s saying. You can identify with it.”

Radick says the impact the illustrations have had on patients is just as significant, even after having them in the office for a year and a half. “To this day, patients are still walking through the hallway and will stop to look at each piece.” He says when anxious or worried patients enter the waiting room, the art sets the tone that it’s not a stuffy, cold place, and that the staff are there to help – not be authoritarians or disciplinarians.

The staff was surveyed to analyze their levels of motivation and general well-being at work before and after the installation, and Radick says there was definitely an improvement in attitude.

“What we do is not necessarily for everybody,” Korman says. “But we appeal to people who are smart and connected to wanting to articulate mission, purpose, and values in a way that gets people’s attention.”