The Challenge

Dana-Farber couldn’t help patients if patients were reluctant to reach out.

Dana-Farber’s pioneering breakthroughs in cancer research have saved millions of lives. Worldwide, people know Dana-Farber as a place that delivers the most advanced cancer treatments available. So why then were patients and their families, particularly in the Northeast, not choosing Dana-Farber?

The Insight

"My cancer is too ordinary for Dana-Farber."

Dana-Farber’s reputation for taking on the most challenging cases had a curious side effect:  for many patients and their families, Dana-Farber was never even considered an option. Why? People believed their cancer was too ordinary for Dana-Farber and the institution inaccessible.

Dana-Farber website on different devices

The Research

Ask probing questions, listen carefully and check the data.

We spoke with patients, their families, referring physicians, researchers and a wide range of professionals on the Dana-Farber team. We conducted one-on-one interviews, focus groups and surveys…asking about their experiences, friction points, perceptions and desires. Our data and design leads analyzed web traffic data to understand site behaviors and patterns. Our content leads conducted site audits to uncover content gaps as well as opportunities.

Doctor with pediatric patient and sibling.
Researcher in lab.
Physicians looking at scans.
Researcher looking at lab results

The Ideation

Magic markers lead to meaningful moments.

A defining revelation came during an early whiteboard brainstorm session with Dana-Farber. As we sketched the patient journey, it became clear why patients, or anyone for that matter, might feel intimidated. The site's visuals and content were clinical and inwardly focused. Basic contact information was neither inviting nor comforting. More important, a revelation: Dana-Farber simply wasn't telling people clearly they could see a physician or get a second opinion within 48 hours. 

Sketch of Dana-Farber website

Smarter Experience

A design process that inspires clients to reveal their story.

We followed a design process intended to ease Dana-Farber's stakeholders away from their clinical legacy to a more personable, human sensibility. We started with concept boards that used metaphors, colors, typeface and word-associations to inspire and activate the creative instincts of the Dana-Farber team. We engaged Dana-Farber in storytelling exercises to help reveal the various dimensions of the brand and richness of their personality. This early foundational exercise formed the basis for our design approach and content strategy.

Dana-Farber storyboards
Wireframes of Dana-Farber website
Doctor at Dana-Farber
Dana-Farber tablet screens

The Outcome

A phased site launch helped Dana-Farber go live sooner... and saner.

Dana-Farber needed their site live as soon as possible. Their team was limited in size, and content development for the website fell on top of their day-to-day workload. We developed a phased roll-out project plan that was as creative as any design. We focused first efforts on designing and developing high-traffic/high priority pages for the initial launch. Then we worked with Dana-Farber on a realistic roll-out for the remaining work.