The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC) is the world’s leading physical rehabilitation hospital and research institution in physical medicine and rehabilitation, biomedical engineering and neuroscience. It has been ranked as the No. 1 Rehabilitation Hospital in America every year since 1991.
RIC needed to differentiate itself to convey its leadership in research, care and outcomes. There are many “institutes” and word “rehabilitation” can be confusing, suggesting drug, alcohol or other forms of rehabilitation. RICs groundbreaking vision for how to connect state-of-the-art research, doctors and patients in common, technology-enabled spaces that could speed the translation of research into outcomes was being realized through the design of a new $600m 27 story building in downtown Chicago. This transformative concept, the need to avoid confusion, and a new building called for a new identity.
AbilityLab was originally conceived as a name for a division within RIC, but with the thoughtful brand strategy rationale developed by our partners, Marshall Strategy, RICs initially reluctant board embraced the value in harnessing the power of the name for the entire institute — conveying the ways in which it was redefining the field and emphasizing successful patient outcomes.
The spirit of the visual identity was anchored by a custom word mark, where the words ‘ability’ and ‘lab’ were concatenated to produce a unified hallmark. The design of the word mark brings together both human qualities — through the ‘cocooning’ of the word Ability within the mirrored shapes of the A and the Y, and the lower-case L within Lab — and the science-driven attitude conveyed by contemporary sans-serif styling.
Considerable research was done into the psychology of color in clinical settings. A rationale was developed to use atypical colors like orange and red to convey vitality, optimism and boldness, instead of the more traditional blue hues that dominate identities in health care.
As part of the overall desire to humanize the caregiving and recovery experience, a unique organic style of illustration was created to communicate areas of expertise, the illustration of concepts, and the definition of spaces within the facility. We introduced Clive Wilkinson Architects to the project who, in collaboration with EGG Office, developed an extraordinary interior design program that built off the brand strategy and identity groundwork, and redefined the expectations for what clinical settings could achieve.
A comprehensive set of guidelines served to codify all aspects of the design system, and inform the ongoing challenge of effectively communicating the unique mission of AbilityLab across printed and digital channels with multiple agencies and partners.
This program was led by Mucho Partner Brett Wickens during his tenure as Partner at Ammunition, San Francisco.
Architectural photos: Designed by HDR | Gensler in association with Clive Wilkinson Architects and EGG Office.