The Health Design Lab (HDL) is a research and design centre at Emily Carr University of Art and Design. We use participatory design methods to catalyze, support and amplify initiatives that address complex health challenges. To us, health is more than healthcare. Health is about community, culture, equity, agency, and much more. As a team of designers, including faculty, research associates and students, we work collaboratively with communities through storytelling, visualizing, making and co-design. Collaborations and projects seek to foster new ideas, uncover needs or opportunities, improve systems and services, amplify voices and stories.

How can we amplify insights, ideas and stories from people’s lived experience?


Mindset + Methods + Collaborators

How we work is informed by our mindset, participatory design methods and our collaborators on any given project.  We adapt our methods and approaches to each project, context and community – working in flexible, emergent and exploratory modes. 

01 Mindset

  • We centre lived experience and community-based knowledge as expertise.
  • We view designers as collaborators, story-listeners and facilitators.
  • We believe creative strategies, hands-on activities and opportunities for expression through images, objects and metaphors can help to draw out ideas, insights and stories.
  • We value ways of working that are inquiry-based, exploratory and relational.

In order to gain an understanding of someone’s perspective, we must include them in describing and sharing that experience

02 Methods

  • We work with people who are directly impacted through participatory design methods.
  • We use creative activities and making to support self-expression, story-sharing and dialogue.
  • We support sense-making through visualizing to map and share knowledge.

Who we collaborate with, shapes who we are

03 Collaborators

Design is inherently collaborative — we never work alone. The Health Design Lab is a dynamic team that adapts to meet our project and research needs.  At our core, our team includes a range of design students who work as Research Assistants, and are led by HDL staff, design faculty and design research associates. We form collaborative teams with our partners and the communities they serve.

We seek partners and collaborators that want to incorporate participatory design methods and tools into their initiative by including people with lived experience in the process. 

we seek partners that:

  • want to form a collaborative working team
  • prioritize time and space for meaningful community engagement.
  • are open to trying new approaches, taking risks, and exploring new ways of working and knowing — allowing a project to unfold in emergent ways.

Our partners are often community and not-for-profit organizations, academic researchers, health authorities, or local businesses. We collaborate via direct funding from  our partners, or through grants.

current research interests:

  • Collaborations to support Indigenous-led projects and initiatives
  • Projects related to aging and dementia that are inclusive and participatory
  • Projects that gather, centre and highlight stories as research knowledge/evidence
  • Projects that seek to engage people and communities that are often missed and that may benefit from creative strategies for collaboration

Our Partners