June 9, 2016

Community Support- Recognizing the value of Donor Recognition

Miller Children’s and Women’s Hospital, Long Beach, CA
Funding a modern Medical Center is a costly enterprise. These vital institutions are tasked with matters of life and death, and we all depend on them at some point in our lives. Medical Centers, in turn, depend on the funding of their many benefactors so that they may continue their ongoing operations and undertake capital construction, while at the same time conducting clinical research. Donor recognition programs are an essential means of recognizing benefactors, and thanking the organizations, concerned individuals and patrons who have donated for their much-needed generosity.

Aesthetics, Inc. has been assisting health care organizations by developing personalized donor recognition programs that evolve over time as conditions change. Peggy McCartney, Aesthetic’s Senior Designer, recently completed a donor recognition program for a children’s hospital and shared some of her insights with the Aesthetically Speaking Blog.


Peggy, what makes a good donor display?
I think a good display is beautiful, engaging and the appropriate to its location and those it honors. I like when artistic elements of the design invite the viewer to stop and look at it, so they can see the donor’s name and read information about the hospital and community.
Good donor display designs recognize the different sizes of contributions too, and encourage donors to give more. They are easily updated so that the facility can modify the display to reflect their different benefactors and contributions made as they change over time.

What are the special considerations of designing donor recognition for a children’s hospital?
Safety is of primary importance, of course, as it is with any hospital or healthcare facility. The inclusion of interesting and engaging elements at kid-friendly levels enables children to stop and interact with the display.For this project, an interactive display with monitors at different viewing levels was used to showcase the art of children who have been part of the hospital. One of the monitors, located at a child’s height, featured artwork created by the patients, with others featuring both artwork and donor contributions.

When you put together a design for a medical center, how do you do it? Who do you work with?
The first step is to put together a committee that will work with Aesthetics to establish the vision and priorities of the donor recognition program. It’s critical to get input from the foundation's board of directors, marketing departments and potentially the IT (Information Technology) department if there are going to be any electronic displays involved.


Once the committee has been established, we review the organization's mission and values statement, and encourage committee members to contribute ideas. We want to know what their vision of the project is, and what they seek to accomplish with the display, as well as what design elements and materials they would like to see. If possible, we visit the installation space and examine finishes the interior designers will be using, so that we as a group can understand what is appropriate for the area where the donor recognition will be displayed. We also determine if the design needs to incorporate pre-existing artwork or design elements.

Miller Children’s and Women’s
Hospital, Long Beach, CA
What happens when a hospital is engaged in more than one campaign?
Sometimes it is beneficial to develop a larger display and incorporate multiple campaigns within it instead of creating several different stand-alone displays in different bits and pieces. The display we created for this children’s hospital incorporates multiple campaigns, including the Cancer Center Capital Campaign, the Legacy Giving campaign, and the Cumulative Gifts Campaign, with individual tiles for gifts above $250,000.

The Cancer Center Capital Campaign, which is an older fund raising effort that the foundation wanted to continue to acknowledge, is featured on the center monitor and alternates between donor names and children's' artwork. This display also allows for a Foundation marketing message and provides ample room for 10 years of expansion and growth.
Having multiple campaigns within a display depends mostly on the wall space made available for it. In this case there was a large area they were able to utilize for multiple campaigns; some medical centers simply don’t have enough space for more than one. Creating donor recognition is an opportunity for collaboration, creativity, and helping those who contribute feel good about the experience – feel appreciated and part of the medical center’s community. 


Who were the key partners in your recent program for the children’s hospital?
This display was a collaborative effort between the foundation and marketing departments at the hospital. They had a very specific vision that the display should be like a gallery, with different points of interest, surfaces that are bright and colorful, and that it should contain art created by children, especially children connected with the hospital.

Miller Children’s and Women’s Hospital, Long Beach, CA
How does the design reinforce the brand, wayfinding and interior design of the hospital?
The vibrant colors of the display are accent colors that are used in the interior finishes throughout the hospital. The graphic elements found on four of the larger panels reinforce the wayfinding themes found on each floor, for example Under the Sea, The Beach, The Garden, and The City. Dimensional layering of glass panels with digital displays highlighted art created by patients and offered many points of interest along the 22-foot wide display. The hospital's values are also included, in both English and Spanish, to reinforce their branding message.

Donor recognition can often just seem like a wall of names, clearly you’ve gone away from that approach.
Today we have so many more tools in our toolbox. We have works of art, interactive videos, different types of materials, and unique design features that tie in with the overall aesthetic of the medical center. We allow the wall to function on a variety of levels, attracting people of all ages, while being a sincere expression of gratitude from the organization to those who have been so generous.

Miller Children’s and Women’s
Hospital, Long Beach, CA
Do you find yourself repeating designs?
None our designs are quite the same. Every medical center is really unique, and we try to celebrate what it is that is special about it, so it can reflect a sense of place and the community it serves. Now it is true that we do have a few clients that fall in love with a display of ours and want exactly that same thing. Even so, I will take that concept and make it fit the vision and values of that particular medical center.

Please tell us a little about your background.
I have a degree in Interior Design at Fresno State. As I am also very interested in graphic design and I have several years of schooling in that as well. Moving to San Diego and finding the people at Aesthetics was very beneficial to me personally, as it provided the opportunity to draw upon both of these interests.

What do you like about working on donor recognition projects?

I like the challenge of taking an existing display and redesigning it so it will fit better with an updated facility. It is fun to come up with a new concept or idea, and then get the client’s reaction to it. I like helping clients discover the direction they want to take with a project, and seeing their reaction as it is unveiled. Most especially I like that we work with health care organizations, where the money raised goes to a good cause.

May 9, 2016

Ancient Symbols comprise the Aesthetics Logo

Experiencing the unique art, artifacts, and architecture of indigenous cultures has long been a passion of Annette Ridenour.

In her travels, Annette noticed that prehistoric peoples often used symbols that feature the circle, triangle and spiral.

“These symbols are part of our cultural DNA,” said Ridenour. “When founding Aesthetics, I wanted to use them as well, to represent what we do and anchor our work.”

The prevalence of the circle, triangle and spiral show ancient peoples had understanding of the healing importance of the arts, and incorporated what they had learned in their movements, music, storytelling, and rituals. There are many surviving examples.

This understanding was perhaps exemplified by the Greek physician Galen (129-217 AD), who in his efforts to develop the theory and practice of medicine brought his Roman patients out into the market place to be uplifted by people at work and play.

Storytelling was used by the Mansur Hospital in Cairo around 1248 AD. It was believed storytelling reduced
a patient's experience of pain.

Florence Nightingale, one of the best-known people in Victorian medicine, understood the healing benefits of natural light, color, and a patient’s ability to see nature.

“It’s very exciting to see science and research finally catch up with what has been intuitively known for centuries,” said Ridenour.

“They have learned that in the right environment, people can have less anxiety and stress, and allow themselves to enter a healing harmonic state.

Our work draws on this research, and puts what we have learned to use in many different clinical environments."

You can close your eyes, but you can’t close your ears


Early on at Aesthetics, it was realized that the visual built environment doesn’t function in exclusion of the audible environment, or without the other sensory aspects of life. There is a wonderful expression that illustrates the point, “You can close your eyes, but you can’t close your ears.” Thus, if you have a serene visual environment but are inundated by a cacophony of noise by machines and people, then the overall environment is not one of healing.

“The number one area of patient dissatisfaction in hospitals is sound,” says Ridenour.

As a result, planners world-wide have spent millions of dollars trying to suppress noise in hospitals. What has not been addressed, however,  is what sounds are needed to create a more healing environment.

Over the past ten years Aesthetics has been working on this challenge through clinical studies of how specifically designed music affects healing. There are many studies about how music supports the healing of individuals and addresses specific health challenges, but few that look at how to specifically design music for the ambient environment of healthcare.



Many answers can be found in the past or in our intuitive understanding of the world we already possess. Aesthetics is dedicated to bringing this knowledge to clinical environments.

April 18, 2016

Aesthetically Speaking- In the Beginning

Annette Ridenour receiving the 2014 HFSC Award
Annette Ridenour founded Aesthetics; then an artist transplanted from the Bronx, NY to San Diego, CA and managing an art gallery in La Jolla. The year was 1977. An architect approached her asking to put together an arts program in a hospital, an experience that was new to her.

“I began by inviting over twenty-five artists I knew well to design artworks specifically for the hospital,” said Ridenour. “It became a transformative experience for the artists and myself as well. I was affected by the awareness that art at its deepest level could impact people’s lives who are going through a journey of healing.”

This first project inspired Ridenour to build a career in arts in health. In looking for a name for her new company, she wanted something that was descriptive of the effect of bringing arts to healthcare. The word aesthetics appealed to her because it is the study of beauty and art in all things. The other impetus for how the word Aesthetics was selected was her own personal and spiritual journey.

“In my twenties I discovered Rudolf Steiner and his philosophies of architecture, design, color, and art,” said Ridenour. “Steiner did a lot of writing about the spiritual aspects of the physical environment and art. He started many Waldorf schools in Europe and the United States. Many of them were designed for children with special needs with a deep   understanding of the important role the arts has in nurturing their emotional and educational well-being through creating and being surrounded by art.”

Steiner felt that color and spirituality were deeply connected. His color theory is based on the German philosopher and poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s views on color; how they are perceived in a variety of circumstances and affect our emotions. The emotional benefits of using the full spectrum of color found in nature became a founding principle for how Ridenour believed health care environments should be designed.

Annette Ridenour 1988
“As Aesthetics grew it became important to me that the art was not isolated from the physical environment and an afterthought,” said Ridenour. “The next step was to bring to the table people who understood the spiritual quality of the physical environment to form an interior design department that could support the artwork. Having an interior design department allowed us to integrate the art more fully into the hospital environment rather than just hanging it on the walls.”

At the same time, Ridenour understood that there was a lot of messaging that happens in a hospital environment, messaging about branding, aspirations, mission, vision, and values, history, and culture. As a consequence, a display department was established to address those concerns. Various focus areas within the company that addressed wayfinding, donor recognition, and history displays were developed.

Over the years, the company combined all these departments into a multi-disciplined practice that we call Customer Experience Design. The practice is based on the reality that when a person enters an environment, architecture, color, lighting, materials, art, and messaging should all work together and in harmony to support the institution’s ultimate goals.

December 8, 2015

Installing Art in Hospitals

Art by Kerry Methner
As we mentioned in the introduction to this blog, Aesthetics would like to share real life examples of lessons learned in the field of Health Care Art, where we can start a dialogue with artists, arts administrators and healthcare workers. 

We are talking about artwork that is purchased or commissioned for specific areas with specific intentional goals.

The Role of the Arts Consultant as Artist Advocate and Liaison to the Medical Center
There may be no more complex environment to install artwork than in hospitals. There are national standards of ADA, fire and life safety standards, joint commission standards, infection control standards, as well as independent state regulatory bodies like California's OSHPD, that regulate weights, materials, sizes and methods of installation and attachment. 

Art by Lucy Liew
A professional art consultant needs to be well versed in each of these regulatory environments to advise the artists, and in most cases, guide the artists through this journey.

In addition to the facility requirements, artwork has healing goals as positive distractions for specific patient populations, in specific clinical areas, which exist in specific geographic areas and cultures.

 It is the art consultant’s role to work with administrative, clinical and patient representative teams to gain knowledge about these requirements and translate this information to the artists.
Art by Solomon Bassoff
At the same time, the arts consultant needs to understand the artistic intentions of the artist and ensure that conforming to these regulations does not water down or diminish the final artwork. So, at the same time the art consultant becomes the protector of the authenticity of the art. Who knew?





Presenting the Aesthetically Speaking Blog!

Aesthetics has been in business for nearly three decades, developing arts collections, arts programming, wayfinding systems, donor recognition displays and arts planning, as well as interior and architectural services for hospitals and other health institutions. Our consultants have written articles and presented at conferences worldwide, investing in research and serving on the boards of national services agencies in the field of arts and health.

Our goal is to advance the patient experience and create healing environments, thereby increasing the quality of experience for everyone.

To do this, we believe we must share the lessons we have learned, for we have benefited greatly from the wisdom and  experiences of our colleagues, clients, and those who have experienced our work firsthand.

Consequently, we have decided to launch a blog that will feature insights into the many services offered here at Aesthetics.

As a part of that, we look forward to your requests from the field. If you have an issue you’d like to see addressed in this blog, just send an email to: aestheticallyspeaking@aesthetics.net.