February 22, 2011

RISD presents Make It Better: A Symposium on Art, Design and the Future of Healthcare

Rhode Island School of Design (RISD)
Supported by a grant from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, these conversations frame an expanded role for art and design in healthcare innovation

Supported by a grant from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation [RWJF], this vital series of conversations will bring leading artists, designers and activists together with health professionals, policy-makers, entrepreneurs and members of the RISD community to frame an expanded role for art and design in healthcare innovation and change. The symposium is free and open to the public, but requires registration in advance.

Make It Better will look at how artists and designers – both at RISD and elsewhere – engage with issues of health and wellness in innovative and unexpected ways. It will focus on the role of these visually astute critical thinkers and problem solvers in helping to improve healthcare delivery, public health and everyday wellness. Designed to stimulate ongoing conversations among participants and the larger fields they represent, the symposium will explore how to bring more creativity to the realm of healthcare by expanding, collaborating on and developing new, more integrative models for art and design research. The challenge is to create spaces, products, systems, policies and messages that offer fresh, effective and humane approaches to maintaining health and delivering healthcare.

Make It Better will begin with a RISD student discussion on their art and design research in health-related fields on Friday afternoon, March 11, followed at 5:00PM by a keynote address delivered by Dr. Howard K. Koh, Assistant Secretary for Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. A second keynote will be delivered by Donna Garland, Associate Director for Communication, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The symposium will continue on Saturday, March 12 with a full day of talks, panel discussions and conversations including prominent members of the art, design, medical and research communities.

Detailed programming and registration – which is required even though there is no feeis available at

“At RISD we are redefining an institutional model for art and design research that incorporates expanded engagement with problem solving for the public good,” notes Deborah Bright, RISD’s Dean of Fine Arts. “As part of this, we are asking questions such as: What are the forms of practice that enable artists and designers to engage with healthcare beyond conventional models and narrow instrumentality? How can artists and designers contribute to public discourse on the complex issues associated with health and healthcare – from medical and ethical considerations to economic, political and cultural concerns?”

In hosting this type of multidisciplinary conversation, RISD can help transform creative practices by asking them to be more issue-oriented, publicly engaged and ready to address everyday needs. “By bridging the qualitative approaches of art and design with the quantitative methods typical of modern medicine, we can make meaningful and innovative contributions to patients’ wellbeing – ultimately turning STEM to STEAM [],” says John Maeda, RISD’s president.

RWJF is supporting this effort through its Pioneer Portfolio, which focuses on health and healthcare innovation, in an ongoing effort to support innovators whose bold ideas push beyond conventional thinking to explore solutions at the cutting edge of health and healthcare. According to Steve Downs, Assistant Vice President, Health, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, “Catalyzing partnerships between the health and design communities can refocus problems and lead to transformative change in health and healthcare.”

Media contact:
Jaime Marland
[email protected]

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