Design Students Help to Put Stamp on City's New Birth Centre

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Expectant mothers in Worcester will be surrounded by a ‘tranquil, relaxing’ environment as their babies are born at the City’s brand-new Birth Centre, thanks in part to the work of Graphic Design students and staff from the University of Worcester.

The Meadow Birth Centre at the Worcestershire Royal Hospital was – along with the hospital’s new Oncology Unit – visited by Her Royal Highness, the Princess Royal, earlier this month.

The four-room Meadow Birth Centre is a midwife-led unit situated close to the hospital’s existing delivery suite. It has been created to give mums-to-be in Worcestershire extra choice over where they give birth, and will offer a comfortable environment led by midwives and maternity support workers.

In order to help create a suitably relaxed atmosphere, the Divisional Director of Nursing and Midwifery at the Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust turned to Helen Holmes, a Senior Lecturer in Graphic Design at the University of Worcester.

Along with a team of students, Helen has spent much of the last year working on making the Birth Centre as visually appealing and as calming as possible.

She explains: “Having chosen the meadow theme due to it evoking thoughts of tranquility and relaxation, we narrowed down the room names to a selection of wild flowers, considering the colours and semiotics associated with each flower. The Poppy, Violet, Cornflower and Daisy rooms were decided upon, and the next stage was to consider colours and an overall theme for the rooms, entrances, corridors and communal areas.

“Imagery, graphic elements and lighting were all vital parts of the environment, so inspirational quotations for wall graphics were chosen; flower shapes were drawn; window graphics were designed; colours were chosen for the walls and the surfaces; and furniture was ordered.”

Helen and her students then developed mood boards for each room and communal area, in consultation with the midwifery team, women, students, the NCT and hospital management.

Helen continues: “Throughout each stage of the process, we carried out research into the stages of labour, and any elements that may help and calm the process were considered. For example, it can help to concentrate and count when in labour, so individual leaves on the window and petals on the wall were placed in countable groups.

“I designed each flower, petal, leaf, butterfly and blade of grass, before laser cutting them in my studio. Then, with help from a third-year Graphic Design and Multimedia student, we spent three weeks in the Birth Centre, applying the graphics to the walls and windows.”

Among the prominent features in the newly-opened Centre is an 8ft high vinyl oak tree which, over time, will be adorned with individual leaves carrying the name and date of birth of every baby born at the Centre. New mothers will also be given a wooden oak leaf as a keepsake.

Midwifery and Design students were heavily involved in the entire process, and Helen believes that the project has provided them with invaluable experience.

“The Birth Centre project was an ideal opportunity to involve students and take them through the research, concept, design and application stages,” she explains. “As a live project, from conception to opening of the Centre, this was a unique opportunity for the third-year Graphic Design and Multimedia students to experience a project from beginning to end with real timescales, real issues to solve and the opportunity to develop their skill base.

“The experience was invaluable and will enhance their portfolios - any potential employer could not fail to be impressed.”

The lead student on the project was Laura McEntee, who adds: “I have loved every minute of designing the midwife-led unit at the Worcestershire Royal Hospital. I have learned many new skills throughout this project, and have also been trusted to work on some aspects independently, which has increased my confidence for future projects.

“I have really enjoyed working on such a large scale, and having such an important role within the project. It was a privilege to have been invited to the royal opening with HRH Princess Royal; it’s been a great opportunity that I’ll never forget.”