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Our hands are the Superbug Super-highway

I read a piece in the paper recently about how washing our hands properly – by following the 5-step guide to effective hand washing – could be vital not just for our own or our family’s health, but for that of the country and even the species.

Colds, flu, gastroenteric bugs, even ‘man-flu’ – they’re all hanging around on our hands and every time we touch something or someone there’s a chance that we’ll pass on a bug. Research concludes that only one in five of us washes our hands when we should. I guess that means before and after cooking, eating, going to the loo, using a keyboard, sneezing, coughing, touching other people… In fact touching, or even thinking of touching, anything at all.

This has become a serious issue in hospitals where one in 16 NHS patients ends up with a hospital-acquired infection (according to NICE). Hospitals are meant to be sterile, safe places where we get better, while thousands of patients each year actually end up sicker through systemic poor hygiene habits. Some types of superbug can live for years on hospital surfaces. On a trip last week with my son to the Emergency Department, I noted that the doctor who treated him didn’t wash her hands before or after touching him, the bed rails and the other equipment in the room. She did a great job doctor-wise apart from the potential infection-spreading.

This year in our studio we’ve been designing infection control graphics for healthcare environments – we’ve integrated visual communications onto hospital walls to encourage patients and visitors to wash their hands. We’re adapting the design to remind the busy medical staff too and we’ll measure the effectiveness to check it’s working for everyone.

Sir David Brailsford famously transformed British Cycling’s fortunes with his concept of ‘the aggregation of marginal gains’. His belief was that if you improve every area related to cycling by just 1% then those gains would add up to remarkable improvement. And teaching riders the best way to wash their hands to avoid infection and illness was one area that led to success.

Meanwhile, Andy Murray carries hand sanitiser gel in his pocket and uses it every time he shakes hands as a precaution against catching bugs that might interfere with his optimum health and performance.

So what can we all do to save the world?

Global Handwashing Day is on 15 October… It’s not the most inspiring-sounding day on the calendar but it’s a great reminder and a call to action. We should be following the 5 steps and washing our hands thoroughly at every opportunity.

And, where possible, stay away from hospitals.


Lucy Richards

Getting Kids Active


I love sport and football has always been my passion. Through school, Boys’ Brigade, Spartans FC and now, in the very competitive over-35s league, football has kept me fit and healthy (save for two broken legs).

To be fair I never really gave the wider benefits of sport a thought until now. Why? Because my eight year old son has just told me he isn’t in the football team at school.

No big deal, except that his school doesn’t offer any other sport options that he likes. So, how do children who don’t like competitive sports but need lots of exercise (at least one hour per day if current advice is to be believed), get involved in sustainable healthy activity?

Some adults don’t like opting for indoor play centres. Yes, getting outdoors in the fresh air is best but the thought of standing around in a cold play park isn’t always so appealing to me. The next generation of play centres are an excellent ‘healthy option’. Free running, trampolining, climbing walls, scooter parks… my kids love them all and some even serve a decent coffee and offer WiFi so I like them too. Win / Win.

There’s a great privately-run breakdance class in Edinburgh – it’s run by a young, cool, super-fit guy and the kids love him. My son is having great fun there, building his confidence and getting fitter by the week – that’s brilliant.

Let’s get some creative thinking shared between schools, councils and the private sector to make exercise easy, sustainable, exciting, affordable, challenging and most of all fun. It shouldn’t be too difficult… should it?

PS. The picture was taken in my local council sports centre… you couldn’t make it up!


Andy Gray

#3 Do-Good Friday

At StudioLR we get up in the morning to make a difference in the world.

We love to challenge convention and firmly believe that design is the most powerful tool we can use to effect positive change. Of course! 

So, for Good Friday we’ve been looking at the work we’re doing that will really do some goodAnd we’re pleased to say that most of what we get up to fits the bill.

There’s the signage we’ve designed with the help of Edinburgh and Stirling University to increase independence in dementia care environments; and the health intervention campaign that encourages NHS staff outside to get active during the working day; there’s the transformational change project that encourages a whole workforce to put the customer first; and the hospital wayfinding project where we’ve removed all medical ‘ology’ words from signs for clear, simple, stress-free visitor journeys.

We’ll share each of these projects with you as they launch over the coming months. In the meantime here’s something that might inspire you – we’ll offer a nice prize to the best do-gooder.

Doing something good for somebody else is good for you too. Psychologists call it the ‘helper’s high’ and it can help you live a longer, healthier and infinitely happier life.

Wishing you all a very Good Friday.


#2 Bad Language

Bad language is everywhere. Confusing jargon and strange phrases have come to be expected in board rooms and council offices across the country. A few years ago the Local Government Association had to ban 200 words and phrases to stop themselves from having ‘coterminous stakeholder engagement’ rather than just talking to people. 

It’s not just the council that struggle to find the right words. Last year the Plain English Campaign slated Apple for their nonsense after Jonathan Ive claimed the new iWatch’s “simple leather classic buckle references traditional watch vocabulary”. 

This might seem funny but there actually is a problem here. The more jargon we use, the fewer people can understand us.

At StudioLR we’ve been doing a lot of work in hospitals over the last couple of years and the language used has often bothered us. We’ve seen Outpatients or Day Cases commonly referred to as Ambulatory Care – a term that was completely meaningless to me (except perhaps a mistaken connection to ambulances). And we’re not being over-sensitive – an NHS wayfinding audit found that 30% of people didn’t understand words as common as physiotherapy. Some of the words we don’t understand and some of them are just too similar…

Radiotherapy or Radiology
Paediatrics or Podiatry
Physiology or Physiotherapy
Orthopaedics or Orthodontics
Orthodontics or GUM clinic?!

Obviously health professionals use the long words (and understand them) but do we really need to see them written on signs when we’re already stressed out? They become even less relevant in children’s hospitals. Why can’t we be signposted to “Broken Bones” or “Sore Tummies”? Being in hospital is never easy so we shouldn’t make it even more difficult by communicating in another language.


Dave King

The Next Big Thing

The issue of obesity is big and it’s only getting bigger. 

Some things that alarm me: 

• M&S offers ‘Plus Fit’ clothing in their primary school uniform range. 

• School dinners provided by our local council offer a menu of choices that includes just one ‘healthy option’ for our kids (how many 6-year-olds will choose the vegebake over the pizza with chips?). 

• Bariatric care environments (just Google the images!) and bariatric furniture are a real consideration in the design of new healthcare, leisure and workplace environments. 

• Jamie Oliver warns us that ours will be the first generation to outlive the next because of the soaring diabetes rates and health problems children are faced with.

This is all wrong.

Let’s face it, we need to sit less and stand, and walk, more. We spend a lot of time working and most of that time sitting at a desk. So, at StudioLR we have taken some tiny steps to shift our culture towards a healthier workplace. 

At the start of last year we offered our employees one hour out of their working week to spend doing something healthy. By summer we had two obsessed ‘Tough Mudders’ (the 10-12 mile obstacle race designed to test mental grit and physical strength), one endurance cyclist clocking up 50 mile rides, a 100 x pull-up and press-up challenge, and we noticed the shift from crisps and biscuity snacks to oatcakes and unsalted almonds. And the occasional square of dark chocolate. 

We encourage a step-away-from-your-desk and walk-over-to-talk-to-each-other culture and a we-won’t-laugh-at-you-for-stretching policy. Only two sick days taken last year across the whole team seems remarkable – all in all a happier and healthier workforce. 


Lucy Richards

#1 Turning old cardboard into warm jumpers

About a year ago we started volunteering on the Bethany Care Van, providing hot meals and warm clothing to rough sleepers in Edinburgh. For me personally, it’s been a bit of a revelation – 12 months ago I’d have walked past a homeless person without even considering their story. Now, having shared a handful of lunch breaks with them, I know their faces, their names and enough about them to realise that with a bit of bad luck I could easily be on the other side of the serving hatch.

We’d been asked for warm clothes a few times on the van and found them to be in short supply. So, with the Christmas card season upon us, we hit on an idea. Using old cardboard boxes from the dumping ground behind our bookcase, and spare wrapping paper from our over-zealous Christmas shopping, we created an environmentally-friendly direct mailer that you just couldn’t help but open. Landing on desks on a snowy day in late December, looking like a wrapped up Christmas present and baring the line All Wrapped up for Christmas, our mailer asked for donations of warm clothing to be passed straight on to those sleeping rough in the harshest of weather. 


Within a couple of days we were flooded with warm donations and we knew those hours cutting cardboard had all been worthwhile. We received dozens of jumpers, jackets, hats and blankets. Every single item really did make a huge difference. A warm pair of socks and a waterproof can go a long way towards making the cold nights more bearable and thanks to the generosity of our friends I think we spread a wee bit of warmth this Christmas. 


If you’d like to help out it isn’t too late (it’s still freezing outside and over 350 people sleep rough in Edinburgh). If you have warm clothing to donate please get in touch with any of the team or email


Dave King

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