Design on the frontline is an open call to the design & innovation community for ideas to some of our most pressing challenges.

Our frontline staff are currently facing intense new challenges and Covid-19 has exposed cracks in many of our existing services and processes. Our healthcare system and our people are under pressure. 

In response, we have created 'Design on the frontline' - a national call to the design and innovation community for help. We believe that bringing design and healthcare closer together could offer an incredible opportunity to tackle current challenges and shape where we go next.


We see Design on the Frontline as a way to explore, demonstrate and highlight this opportunity and bring new ideas and fresh thinking when we need them most. 



We asked our frontline healthcare staff about the challenges they face today as they work tirelessly to get us through this difficult time. We had an overwhelming response, and from this we identified three challenges that we need solutions for. They are; 

How might we tackle some of the interaction, efficiency & comfort challenges arising as a result of increased PPE usage?

How might we identify, prevent, reduce or manage the onset of frailty in older adults while socially isolating / cocooning?

How might we mitigate some of the negative impacts of social isolation, poor communication and boredom to, enable more meaningful connections for people with amplified needs?




Open Call to Creatives We Urgently Need

View / download the online briefing document

“I had to tell a young fit man he most likely had lung cancer last year in full PPE, after that conversation he was able to self isolate at home having been a covid contact too and we organised all his next steps over the phone.


Probably one of the biggest conversations in his life, 6 weeks later I saw him in the foyer of the hospital and despite us having a good relationship he walked right by me and I realised it was because he had no idea what I looked like. I checked later and it was operable and I heard he was doing well. But that was an intimate conversation where he clearly had no visual input from me other than doctor in a giant white boiler suit mask and goggles”



Relevance over perfection

We know designers like time and space to do rigorous and beautiful work, but for this call we are looking, not for perfection, but for insightful, considered and creative concepts that may provide an implementable solution in the short to medium term.


Find insight anywhere you can

We know designers like time and space to do rigorous and beautiful work, but for this call we are looking, not for perfection, but for insightful, considered and creative concepts that may provide an implementable solution in the short to medium term.


Your too simple could be our perfect

Something that is obvious or too simple to you, could be game-changing in the hands of a healthcare worker. Proposals don't have to be masterpieces, they just need to demonstrate how they could make a difference.  


Don't be afraid of existing solutions

Innovation is not always about conceiving and creating something new, it is also about bringing existing things together new ways. If you think something out there could be used, perhaps in a new way or configuration, please put it forward. 


Trust your designer instincts


Designers have an incredible ability to understand people and identify ways of helping them make progress. Our three challenges are very human challenges, with the potential for many solutions. Don't be afraid to reframe and interpret the challenges as you see fit.         



Dates updated



Call, registration

& Q&A opens

The Design On The Frontline call launches on February 8th 2021 and will remain open until April 6th. Individuals & teams must register their interest in order to receive important project updates



Feedback from 
Judging panel

The shortlisted projects will be shared with our healthcare champions and relevant HSE stakeholders. 


Feedback and advice will be provided and the project owner(s) will have an opportunity to add to and refine their projects based on this feedback.



Q&A close

Entrants will have an opportunity to submit specific questions relating to each brief before March 19th. Questions will be answered by our healthcare champions, or another healthcare worker with expertise and experience of the area. Selected questions and answers will be categorised and posted on the call website. 



Presentation to HSE leadership

As a means of demonstrating the power and potential of design in healthcare, the shortlisted project owners will be given an opportunity to present and discuss their concept with HSE senior leadership.  



Entries close

All entries must be submitted through the call website before 11:59 pm on March 22nd. Only one high-resolution PDF file per entry will be accepted. More than one entry may be submitted. Please insure that all members of the team are named on the first presentation board. 



The Design On The Frontline call 

Based on the judges decision and feedback from the HSE leadership presentation, one overall student entry and one professional entry for each of the three briefs will be selected. National DOTFL Award and certificate. 

National media coverage
Project development support & mentoring




Shortlist announced

The Judging panel, made up of experts from Design and Healthcare, will review submissions. 

On April 15th, up to four student entries and four professional entries from each brief will be shortlisted and announced. These entries will progress to the next phase.  



Why submit a concept?

Behind the urgent and well publicised challenges facing our frontline workers today, there exists an abundance of complex service, system and human experience challenges that have arising or worsened as a result of Covid-19. These challenges prevent our frontline staff doing their jobs efficiently and effectively and they impact patients comfort, experience and safety. To find answers and propose solutions will require empathy, creativity, innovativeness, grit and agility. And this is why we have put this call out to the design and innovation community. Here are 5 reasons we think you or your team should consider submitting a concept; 1/ We know designers have been eager to help during this crisis, but did not have a means. This an opportunity to help by sharing your ideas and having those ideas seen and acted on. 2/ The 3 identified briefs highlight complex and difficult challenges, but there is huge opportunity to identify solutions to hat can have and meaningful and impact. 3/ We are committing to implement any solution that our experts and frontline staff believe will make an difference. 4/ We have secured funding to run feasibility and validation on selected concepts. The designer(s) involved will be invited and supported to progress the project. 5/ We are strong advocates of design in healthcare and see this as an opportunity to build a strong case for Human-Centered design to be a key component in our health service. You can be part of this.

Who should submit a concept?

This call is open to all members of the design and innovation community, from students to professionals. We welcome entries from across all disciplines of the design and innovation. Multidisciplinary teams are strongly encouraged, but they should include at least one designer.

What do we mean by a concept?

Speed trumps perfection. Perfection is the enemy of good when it comes to emergency management" Dr Mike Ryan World Health Organisation COVID-19 is putting our healthcare system and those working in it under intense pressure. For this call we are not interested in perfection, we are interested in speed, new thinking and new ideas. We encourage submissions that identify a real problem, big or small, frame in an interesting way and propose an implementable concept that might just solve it or have some impact on it.

Our Commitment

For each of the three briefs, we will select two projects that the judges feel could make the biggest impact. One from the student category and one from the professional. Here are our commitments we are making to you, your team or your company and also to the people we aim to help; We have secured sufficient funding to further develop and implement your solutions. We will work with you to get your solution working and helping those at need as soon as possible. We will recognise you and your idea publically both when awarded for being selected and at such a time that it is implemented. You will be given the opportunity to showcase your idea to senior HSE management and in doing so support our belief that human-centred design and healthcare can .

What is the evaluation criteria?

This call aims to inspire designers and innovators to propose concepts to 4 challenge areas that have been identified as important by frontline healthcare workers. Due to the urgency of Covid-19 situation, we are seeking submissions that are implementable immediately, but were also open to be challenged and inspired by what is possible. All submission will be evaluated by our expert panel according to the following criteria; Research & insights In the absence of field research, how was the challenge investigated? Are the insights compelling and how do they inform the concept? Are the insights grounded in human needs? Creativity & Innovation Does the concept present something new, interesting or even surprising? Will add value to the challenge area and can we show evidence? Have the insights and concept been presented in a compelling/understandable manner? Potential for Impact Will the concept have a positive impact on the staff and or patients? Will it improve the lives/jobs of Healthcare staff / patients an lead to a more positive experience? Concept viability & feasibility Does the concept consider and demonstrate an understanding of the real world constraints (e.g. costs, training, maintenance, implementability etc.). Does the concept make use of existing tools, skills, infrastructure or technology? Could the concept be rolled out across the Healthcare system?

What are the submission elements?

Submitted concepts should be presented over 4-5 digital boards, demonstrating the details and features of the concept and the story of its development. The presentation boards should be saved as a high resolution, print ready PDF in landscape format. Entrants may interpret the instructions as they see fit. 1 x Final presentation board The presentation board should quickly capture our attention and explain the concept to a broad audience. This board should include a compelling ‘hero image’, concept name and a short paragraph describing the problem being solved and the and solution being proposed. 2 - 3 x Boards detailing the concept, development process and insights These boards should describe the features, details and development of the concept. The boards should respond to the four evaluation criteria sections. 1 x A3 Written description of the proposed concept This board should take the reader through the key aspects of your project. Together with visuals, the board should describe; The specific problem being tackled and its impact. (50-100 words), The process of how you investigated the problem and developed insight (50-100 words) The driving insights, their origin and why they matter (50 - 100 words) The concept you have proposed and how it could go towards tackling the challenge. Next steps regarding how this concept might be validated


To assist you in research and discovery, you will have an opportunity to submit specific questions relating to each challenge brief.  These questions questions will be answered by our healthcare champions, or another healthcare worker with an understanding of the area. 

Selected questions and answers will be categorised and posted on the call website.


Thanks for submitting!