Kelly Heitkamp

by Kelly Heitkamp

Interior Designer

Low Vision and Pediatric Optometry Clinic Design

  • DECEMBER 29, 2015
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One of my favorite parts of being a designer in our industry is building relationships with clients and understanding their background, user population, location, and brand. All of these components make each group unique and I love having the opportunity to translate those qualities into a built environment. It may take several meetings, it may happen the first time you step foot on the project site, or maybe it doesn’t hit until you start to put something down on paper, but it always inevitably occurs – that a-ha moment when your vision for a space starts to take shape. This process was no different with our recent clinic design renovation for The Ohio State University's Fry Hall, where our vision for their space materialized after just a few meetings with their College of Optometry project team.

The potential for a meaningful renovation of Fry Hall's Low Vision Rehabilitation and Pediatric Optometry Clinic was driven by the unique requirements of their patient population, the potential to make a statement for the staff and students, as well as recruitment of future students. Before we began to design, our team researched guidelines for low vision and pediatric populations, the two groups that would be sharing the first floor clinic space. Using the guidelines from the National Institute of Building Sciences Low Vision Design Committee, research conducted regarding pediatric design, and feedback from the college staff, we set overarching clinic design goals to create a set of guidelines for design decisions throughout the project.

Themes for the Clinic Design:
Entire Clinic
Modern, high contrast, graphic

Low Vision Clinic
Simple, sophisticated High contrast - Dark floor to ground the space. Light walls to reflect light. Contrasting door frames to distinguish entryways. Bold color palette – OSU themed!

Pediatric Clinic
Playful - yet appropriate for toddlers and teenagers. Continue high contrast theme from Low Vision in a fun, graphic way Colored columns and door graphics help with wayfinding


clinic design Clinic Design features an entrance that creates instant visual hierarchy.

ENTRANCE – Wayfinding and Visual Hierarchy (above)
This clinic is one of two clinics in the State of Ohio that provides the exam required for people with low vision impairment to be tested for driver’s license renewal — meaning patients from all over the state travel to the clinic for day-long exams. Because of the high demand nature of the Low Vision Clinic’s services, patients are often coming in and out of the space and navigating through the entire clinic and the first floor of the Optometry building. Knowing this frequent activity, a key visual element at the entrance of the space was an important objective for OSU staff. Bringing an abundance of light into the space was also key, but we needed to ensure it wouldn’t be a safety concern for those who could not perceive the difference between clear glass and an opening. Our team utilized glass film to help create a visual difference, which also presented an opportunity for branding.

clinic design The reception desk is an integral part of the clinic design and makes a purposeful and visual statement catering to both user groups.

RECEPTION – Visual Contrast Using Light and Color (above)
To make it clear to patients where to go upon entering the clinic, the reception desk was designed to make a bold, visual statement. Contrast in color and light are the two elements that are most obvious to a person with impaired vision. Keeping this in mind we used contrasting colors in the carpet, ceiling and desk and chose pendants as beacons of light to help direct visiting patients to the front desk. Also keeping in mind that this desk would greet the pediatric patients, we used fun patterns and a playful curved transaction panel to keep things attractive to visiting families and all in a branded Buckeye spirit.

clinic design The clinic design features intentional low vision specific way-finding.

LOW VISION PATIENT CORRIDOR – Wayfinding through High Contrast and Oversized Graphics (above)
Helping low vision patients navigate to their exam rooms was a high priority of the staff members. They wanted the door openings to be very obvious with oversized signage, but not to the point that might insult patients who could view the space as a place “for blind people”. We designed custom door jambs that were deeper than standard, painted the inside profile scarlet, and included lighting over each of the doors to help them stand out from the white walls and dark carpet. We chose a carpet with an edge accent to help accentuate the openings as well. Bold, modern vinyl graphics help to distinguish the door numbers.

clinic design Ageless, custom wall graphics are a play on the traditional eye chart.

PEDIATRIC CORRIDOR – Wayfinding through Fun, Ageless Graphics (above)
Creating a fun experience that appealed to all ages — from toddler to teenager — was an important objective for the pediatric clinic. We wrapped existing columns in custom vinyl wall graphics resembling a jumbled eye chart. The wall graphics incorporated OSU's scarlet and gray brand, as well as a fun secondary palette of colors with small scale letters. Inside the exam rooms, the same graphic was used at a larger scale with a variety of background colors to help distinguish the spaces. The doors of the exam rooms feature animals with glasses and background colors that match the accent wallcovering in the room.


This project illustrates a blend of both science and art. It challenged the design team to give equal attention to specific functional requirements and fine-tuned aesthetic detail, all while keeping the user’s defined needs at the forefront. Since its opening we've received some very positive feedback from the Low Vision Clinic:

“You listened exquisitely well to our special needs and brought us options that were creative, functional, and gorgeous.  As a result, we have created an extraordinary new space that is taking our work to all new levels.”  - Roanne E. Flom, OD, Chief, OSU Low Vision Rehabilitation Service, Professor of Clinical Optometry

Getting positive feedback from clients and patients is the greatest reward; it helped close out the project on a high note. We love to hear that the space was successful at aesthetically emphasizing the brand of the clinic, but also easily navigated and enjoyed by patients and staff alike.

Kelly Heitkamp

by Kelly Heitkamp

Interior Designer

Kelly is an interior designer at M+A and graduated from The Ohio State University. She enjoys cheering on the buckeyes and eating a good weekend brunch.