The Experience

NBBJ was retained by Kaiser Permanente to connect the dots between what the organization believes and says, and what its members see and experience.

As the largest managed care organization in the US, providing medical service to nearly 9 million members from Washington DC to Hawaii, Kaiser Permanente saw an opportunity to view the built environment as a physical expression of its brand and values. They sought out NBBJ’s brand strategy consultants to better understand how their facilities and process needed to communicate a deep understanding of their customers and their needs, emotions and outlook on wellness. To deliver on this aspiration, Kaiser and the NBBJ team embarked on an 18-month research investigation.

Best illustrated through their “Thrive” campaign, Kaiser is committed to enabling a proactive, empowered lifestyle of wellness. This fundamental shift away from more conventional healthcare systems based in treatment and reaction to illness is founded in their position of “Total Health” — a balance of mind, body and spirit.

Design Research

The process began with competitor research and a review of Kaiser's existing brand literature. Next, “walk-alongs” quickly explored many different facilities to understand the overall context of Kaiser Permanente. Other tools included more in-depth observations, interviews with patients to understand their thoughts and feelings about their visits, and participatory workshops with stakeholders to imagine opportunities for the future.

21 Critical Experiences

The research identified “21 Critical Experiences,” key moments for a patient along his or her healthcare journey, as well as ways to improve them. These moments range from identifying the facility at a distance, parking the car, finding the information desk, checking in, riding elevators, receiving care and beyond. At every step, the environment should elevate the patient experience and deliver on the promise of a brand that supports “total health.”

The final product consisted of a brand strategy, in the form of a website and printed collateral, organized around the 21 experiences. For each experience, a toolkit prescribed branded components, materials and finishes, furniture details, lighting, signage and wayfinding, and space-planning strategies.


The New York Times, “A Breath of Fresh Air for Health Care,” December 13, 2009