Designing for wellbeing - Kate Bond interview

Designing for wellbeing - Kate Bond interview

Gradus has worked in collaboration with Kate Bond, a designer from Bath who specialises in artwork for healthcare environments using biophilic philosophy. 

Biophilic design aims to connect building occupants more closely to nature and Kate has created a beautiful mural inspired by the Peak District national park. This piece of art showcases the unique way that SureProtect Artworx® can be used to develop inspiring and healing environments in healthcare settings.


Kate has a rich history of working in the healthcare sector to create beautiful and calming environments, having previously worked with many key NHS Foundation Trusts across the UK as well as Macmillan Cancer Support and several independent hospices. We sat down with her to find out more about how she got started, and her interest in biophilic design.


What inspired you to pursue biophilic design as your field of expertise?

“Back in 2015, I was coming to the end of my Masters in Fashion and Textiles when I was asked if I would like to do a project for Willis Newson for the Bristol Royal Infirmary. Initially I was nervous of the project as it was for the viewing room of the Bereavement Suite. I had always loved drawing plants and for this project I decided to design a horizontally repeating woodland inspired print. 

After that project I applied for another, then another and another and I soon realised that I loved finding new ways of depicting plants and the landscape. I naturally have a calming aesthetic when creating artwork, but I also like to think I am helping someone feel calmer about being in a healthcare setting. It is not always easy to take plants into hospital, so I try to bring the outside in.”


What do you think are some of the benefits of biophilic design in healthcare spaces?

“I think one of best ways to explain the benefits of biophilia is to think back to lockdown. Lots of people turned to nature to help with their mental well-being. Being outside and within nature helped us to feel calmer at that stressful time, offered us distraction and gave us a focus greater than ourselves.  

“So much research has now been carried out into the benefits of biophilia. If, as designers, we can mimic those natural surroundings, boost daylight and use natural materials where possible, it has to help us in so many positive ways.”


Tell us about your collaboration with Gradus. 

I have very much enjoyed creating the artwork for Gradus. With the heart and history of Gradus in and around Macclesfield, it made sense to centre the design around The Peak District. This location offered a rich and diverse variety of visual research. References for the work were captured during summer when the Peak District is flooded with gorgeous purple heathers, lush green ferns and a huge array of grasses. These elements became the foundation of my final design.

The design has more detail than any other commission I have done, and I am excited to see it at full scale one day.”


How do you incorporate elements of nature into your design projects?

I take a lot of photos. I don’t always know why at the time, but I am gradually building up a very large catalogue of photos. 

“I draw a lot of plants and observe the changing of the seasons. I do worry about being able to record the plants I need at the right time. When projects begin in winter it can be difficult to find plants I need to draw. However, for a recent project I was able to gain access to the RHS Herbarium collection and I had permission to use the imagery in a hospital project.”


What are some of the challenges or limitations of biophilic design?

Incorporating natural materials into health settings can be difficult and this is largely down to infection control. With new buildprojects I am seeing a much stronger drive to incorporate biophilic design, both in the aesthetic details, but also in the materials chosen for the build. I am actively trying to source more environmentally friendly substrates that meet the necessary specification of healthcare, but they can be expensive.”


What are some of the trends or innovations that you see emerging?

Im seeing more use of natural materials in healthcare and hospitals looking much less clinical. People are incorporating more wood into interiors and companies are launching more sustainable products.

Now, biophilia is being considered not just at the end of a project to make the space look pretty, but it is being built into the building, which is great to see happening at last.”


How do you measure the impact of your artwork in healthcare environments?

The nicest way to measure the impact of my biophilic design is by the positive comments I hear from staff and patients once a project is complete or when I present draft designs. 

Once a project is over, I am usually on to the next, so I dont always get the chance to go back. But it means a lot when I hear that people are happy with the work and that it has enhanced their life in some way. I have met so many lovely people over the years, many of who I keep in touch with.”


How do you collaborate with other stakeholders in your design projects?

I enjoy working with interior designers and architects right at the beginning of the project. I like to know all about the interior design strategy, so I understand the bigger picture; it is not just about creating something that I like. I enjoy being involved in the consultation process.   

I taught Textiles for 20 years, so I enjoy sharing that knowledge in workshops and client engagements. I find it interesting learning all about the geographical area where each commission is based, discovering new landscapes and specific flora and fauna in that area. I love it when people share their knowledge of special placesand then finding ways to depict their vision, in my style. 

I also really enjoy seeing the end result when everything comes together, the interior, the artwork and the styling. I dont want my artwork to compete with an interior, I want it to sit harmoniously and for service users to feel comfortable and reassured.” 


What are some of your favourite projects to have worked on?

I have really enjoyed every project I have worked on; they have all been different! I have met so many lovely people and keep in touch with. I am excited to see The Dyson Cancer Centre this Spring.  It is a local project in the city of Bath where I live and is the largest project that I have worked on to date.  I am most grateful to have been involved. 

 Every project has new challenges. I love the research and finding out how to create something that is in my mind. Some people hate battling with computers, but I really enjoy finding out how to create something new.”


SureProtect Artworx® is available to be specified now. The options are endless, with the ability to print any design, complete with matching joining trims for a seamless finish. Download our dedicated SureProtect Artworx® leaflet today for more information. 


For further guidance or technical support, please contact our team via phone or email here.

Visit Kate’s website to find out more about her work.

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