Case Study: Health Quality Ontario

posted on July 13th 2017 in Branding & Case Studies with 0 Comments

How do you work with established identity guidelines and visual brand, yet make the new program stand out?

How do you design a system that is fresh, has longevity, may be used to present more than 200 subjects over several years, presents equally well in English and French and is fully AODA-compliant?

The answer: very carefully!

Health Quality Ontario launched the Quality Standards program in 2016, to outline what quality care looks like for clinicians and patients. (For some background on the initiative itself, take a look at the portfolio here.)

The visual language of the Quality Standards program had to denote value and assurance, be friendly and approachable, and look like part of the Health Quality Ontario agency, yet be different enough to set it apart from other HQO initiatives.

When you’re thinking through how to execute an AODA-compliant document design and layout system that may be implemented over 200+ subjects over several years, you need to plan ahead – far ahead! Below are a few of the considerations we took into account, to help you plan an equally complex branding project.

Visual Process

Logos: All of the guides also displayed the Health Quality Ontario logo and the “Let’s make our health system healthier” tagline. We were asked to allot additional space for sponsor logos that may be applied in some cases. A very delicate balancing act.

Audience: The clinical guides present technical content in a clear, organized manner for easy navigation by physicians, a busy audience. The patient reference guides summarize the clinical guide in plain language accompanied by full-colour images to invite the reader in.

Flexibility: The design system had to be organized and flexible to account for many possible differences between subjects. For example, the layout had to be able to accommodate guide titles and content of different lengths. We had to allot room to place additional sponsor logos, but have the logo areas look complete without them. For patient guides, we had to accommodate diverse and inclusive images that reflect specific subject matter.

Diversity: Choosing images for the patient guides required balancing subject matter with cultural diversity and inclusion so that as the series rolled out, all people of Ontario would feel they were represented.

AODA Compliance: From the beginning, we established the colour, contrast and design parameters that would meet AODA requirements and worked within them to avoid surprises later! By developing an elegant, minimalist layout, the templates would be easy for others to work with and for screen readers to read.

Future Use: Although we were designing to fill an immediate requirement, we knew we were planning for the rollout of a long-term program. So the layout, style sheets, production parameters, stock choices and process had to be clear, concise and easy to work with.

Design and Production

Format: After exploring portrait and landscape formats, we chose a square format to introduce the new program in a memorable way. The square format gives the Quality Standards program instant brand recognition. In addition, because most times the documentation would be viewed digitally, information would be displayed inclusively on a page to reduce scrolling per page.

Layout: On the covers, we arranged the content to create a visual hierarchy of information so that the Quality Standards logo graphic approach read first followed by the title of the guide. On the interior pages, we organized information in a straightforward, approachable manner, placing main information in a wide column, and supporting information in a side column. We deliberately broke the content into “bite-size, digestible chunks” that could be easily skimmed or scrolled through.

Image Library: HQO has corporate colour palettes in place, as well as photographic standards, that mandate images should captures the humanity and multicultural diversity of healthcare providers and those who receive healthcare services. For the three completed standards, the images and colours chosen (from the palette) created a mood to reflect the subject matter and to evoke a certain response.

Paper Stock: Cougar Super Smooth was chosen for its brightness, on-press performance, durability, price point and environmental certifications (FSC® Certified, SFI® Certified Sourcing and Rainforest Alliance Certified™).

AODA Expertise: Preparing PDFs for AODA compliance falls between art and science. With many years of experience under our belt, we always strive to ensure proper, logical and easy-to-follow reading order for the visually impaired. And since HQO had an extensive colour palette, we developed an internal tool to analyze colour combinations and choose those that were optimal.


We are very proud of the work completed for the HQO Quality Standards program. Client feedback has been very positive. We are most pleased with the fantastic relationships we’ve fostered with our HQO clients and the faith they’ve had in our capabilities.


  • Planning pays off. From start to finish, a master plan was in place. With a project of this magnitude and with so many deliverables, planning was paramount – not just in design and implementation, but scheduling as well.
  • Do your best to be ahead of the learning curve.
  • Be super organized – or bust.
  • Don’t ever be afraid to ask questions! The brief is an outline. To truly do your job well, think outside the brief box.

We would love to hear your comments