Records for Life

File Under: Product Design.

A submission to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation competition to redesign health records. I designed a paper record housed inside a plastic vessel that each child would receive. When a child is given a vaccine, the health worker will clip a small, colored, plastic piece into the face of the plastic vessel; each vaccine has a corresponding color and each dosage, a shape. Designed to accommodate all the early life vaccines, the puzzle aspect of the record both keeps track of vaccinations and serves as a piece of interaction for parents, while the immunization record inside is also filled out. The record and the vessel work in tandem to bring understanding and participation to the parents, reliability and simplicity to the healthcare professional, and to, above all, bring the proper healthcare to as many children as possible.


I came early to the conclusion that I wanted to design something physical that could be interacted with. A physical manifestation would be a keepsake, and could work to keep the record safe: from the elements and fallible humans. I also spent a lot of time thinking about how a record could work even with a language barrier or illiteracy. I was drawn to the idea of a puzzle. A simple geometric puzzle could have multiple visual cues, such as unique shapes and colors, to help someone keep track of the vaccinations. Should the record be lost or inaccessible, my thinking was that while you may be unsure whether or not your child received 3 MMR vaccines, perhaps you could remember a color or configuration of a few puzzle pieces.

It also adds to the “event” of a doctors visit. It’s nice and exciting to receive something when you come to the doctor. And puzzles also by their nature inspire an incentive to finish. Psychologically we have a need for closure, we also recall uncompleted tasks better so it pushes it front of mind. The vessel/puzzle helps frame (literally) getting vaccines as a finishable task and affords catharsis and satisfaction from completing.

front and back of vessel
elevation of vessel
timeline animation


The transparent vessel acts as a viewport to the front and back of the health record card. Made of plastic it is a 5 inch square and 1/2 inch thick. With it’s clip in pieces, it gives a progress report for the parent. They can see just how far along their child is in the course of their vaccinations. It also, through shape and color, impress upon them that vaccines work best when they are completed.

The vessel and its cover puzzle went through multiple revisions. I experimented with 3D printing, but found the results too flimsy and too opaque. I finally settled on acrylic, which is strong and transparent. The puzzle began as a more ornate and abstract pictograph, but under the tutelage of my graduate advisor I refined my concept towards a more simple approach. Ultimately, a geometric shape was more easily understood and I think being able to imagine how it would look when completely was an advantage.

close up
health record spread
health record spread
health record spread


When I first began looking at vaccines a few things struck me. First: Vaccines and dosages are not standardized: they vary based on the pharmaceutical companies that produced them. Also, many vaccines are now combined into a single drug but they also can be administered individually. This posed an interesting design challenge since my solution would have to account for these different outcomes.

Second: Confusion can easily arise from a vaccine’s due date (when a patient should come in for it) and a received date (when the vaccine was administered), in an ideal world these would be the same, but in reality if you miss an appointment it’s easy to see how a medical practitioner could confuse what a medical record was saying.

The interior pages are organized by vaccine and then subdivided by row into dosage with designated spaces for due date and a separate vaccination date as well as room for notes. It’s designed so that at quick glance it is immediately understood how far along a patient is in terms of a specific vaccination. Following the specified vaccination spreads is a third spread of blank vaccine records where additional vaccines may be tracked. Thus allowing the design to be flexible and accommodating to new or different vaccines.

back of vessel