By Rachael Steven

Illustrator and designer Nick Deakin has created a new series of murals for the eye department at Sheffield Children’s Hospital, which aim to brighten up treatment rooms and make clinical assessments less daunting. Deakin’s artworks are the latest in a series commissioned for the hospital by Artfelt, and form part of a wider plan to transform its patient spaces using art and design.

Deakin’s illustrations have been applied to 14 rooms in the department. Each features a colourful modular design with a different theme, from space to the park and the beach. In some rooms, illustrations also help with clinical assessments – artwork on the ceiling in orthoptic rooms provide images to look at during eye examinations – while light boxes in dark corridors, inspired by the Snellen charts used in eye tests, feature interchangeable illustrations printed on acetate.

Deakin says his illustrations are designed to appeal to both adults and children: “I like to make things as simple as possible, but with a layer of meaning so that it appeals to both kids and adults,” he says. “The idea was to create something modular, that could be drawn upon across the different spaces which were at times small and intricate … we decided upon using a group of friends as our characters, and worked with that as the theme.”

Artfelt manager Cat Powell says the artwork was designed to transform the space from somewhere “that could feel quite claustrophobic” into “a bright, airy department”. She also plans to launch a range of merchandise with Deakin which can be sold to raise money for Artfelt.

The project is the latest in a series commissioned by Artfelt, which aim to make the hospital’s spaces more welcoming and provide visual distractions for young patients. It has also commissioned illustrations for a swimming room at the hospital’s Ryegate centre, cheerful photography for its emergency department, traffic themed murals for a neurological assessment block and mosaics, textiles and landscape paintings for the critical care unit.

The group also holds regular exhibitions in a dedicated gallery space, which is currently displaying work by screen printing artist Florence Blanchard, and recently commissioned over 200 artists to salvage toys used to test young children’s hearing, which were going to be thrown away after their manufacturer went out of business. The group regularly works with local artists and designers, and runs weekly art workshops for children facing long stays or operations.

We’ve covered several arts projects in hospitals in the past – from the brilliant work Vital Arts has been doing for the Royal London Children’s Hospital and Barts Health NHS Trust, to plans to transform the new Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool with 3D installations and artistic commissions (you can read Mark Sinclair’s in-depth feature on the subject in our April issue, which looks at creativity in healthcare).

It’s great to see artistic commissions becoming more commonplace in hospitals and treatment rooms around the UK, and to see hospitals investing in art and design to help relieve stress and improve patient wellbeing. The Children’s Hospital Charity, which Artfelt is part of, is currently trying to raise £20 million to improve Sheffield Children’s Hospital’s increasingly cramped and dated waiting rooms and plans to build a new patient garden, as well as making the hospital “brighter, more child friendly and designed with children in mind”.

Artfelt says it has yet to quantify the effect of its arts programme on patients, but is looking to conduct research in the near future, and has had positive feedback on installations and exhibitions from several patients, parents and staff. Theatre admissions manager Jackie Sanderson also claims art workshops prior to surgery time have helped reduce the need to put children under general anaesthetic, adding: “The workshops help to alleviate anxieties and stress from children prior to theatre. I think that the workshops actually negate the need for sedation in some children.

[With the workshops], the waiting time prior to going to theatre can be fun.”

For more info about Artfelt or the Children’s Hospital Charity’s work, see

Read more here:: Nick Deakin's cheerful designs for Sheffield Children's Hospital