Spark COVID Call


The COVID Call & Design on the Frontline

The COVID-call was set up to seek problems affecting our healthcare workers and present these problems to the finest minds innovation and design minds in Ireland. We put two simple questions to our frontline staff – ‘what current challenges are preventing you from doing your job well today?’ And ‘what is currently causing your patient's distress or leading to negative experiences?’ The response was overwhelming. Dozens of healthcare workers were selected to attend a design thinking and innovation workshop led by Trevor Vaugh. From this we developed 3 design briefs which capture the most cited challenges, ‘PPE Improvement & Sustainability’, ‘Frailty and Wellbeing’ and ‘Communication, Isolation and Boredom’. From the frontline we have identified ‘Healthcare Champions’ who will continue to provide insight relating to the specific briefs. These are the type of challenges that we know designers are excellent at solving - challenges that require huge empathy, creativity, innovativeness, grit, and agility.


Design on the frontline is an effort to share these pressing challenges with the design and innovation community. Our hope is that design can bring new thinking, new ideas by challenging existing orthodoxies and proposing preferred futures. This is a call to all members of the design and innovation community, from students to seasoned professionals.

Working closely with frontline staff, we identified healthcare challenges which have arisen, or have been amplified by the Covid-19 pandemic. We expect that the ideas we receive will be innovative, implementable, and most importantly, they must be Human-centred. And this is where design comes in. We trust the intuitiveness, creativity, and ingenuity of designers. We know designers have been eager to help during this crisis but struggled know how. This an opportunity to help by sharing their ideas and to see their idea implemented. We firmly believe that our community of designers and innovators can make a profound impact on healthcare, by proposing solutions that understand the root cause, challenge orthodoxies and that Design on the frontline will represent the merits of the design community and form part of building the case for Human-Centred design to be a key component in our health service

A group of experts will help us select the most desirable, implementable and exciting concepts. The selected concepts and designers will have an opportunity to present their concepts and process to HSE leadership and we are planning a national event at which we hope to hear from the creative and those in the vulnerable group and hope to get a very positive response from all involved. We are committing to putting all our effort into getting the solutions implemented. The goal of Design on the frontline is to find elegant, implementable solutions which will be fast tracked and supported onto the frontline so as that they can start to help as quickly as possible.

The Design on the Frontline initiative has emerged as a result of Covid-19, but the concept has been incubating for longer. In the Spark Programme, we work closely with frontline healthcare workers to support existing and emerging needs. The need for Innovation, creativity and change have always been high on that list, and so, over the past 4 years we have introduced 100’s of our frontline staff to the practices, principles, tools and mind-sets of Human-Centred design and innovation. As a result, there is an increasing awareness of what good and bad design looks like and growing desire for design to play a bigger part in shaping our healthcare system. 

To learn more about Design on the Frontline please visit