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Innovation By Design

How Zocdoc's "Zee" Avatar Makes Health Care More Human

With a thoughtful rebrand, the popular platform is putting a friendlier face on medicine.

What’s up, Zoc? Branding expert Tim Allen and his team helped health care platform Zocdoc tweak its image.

[Photo: Sacha Maric]

When health care platform Zocdoc launched almost a decade ago, it didn’t give much thought to its logo, opting for a traditional, conservative design that cost just $80. Since then, the site—which connects patients to doctors and manages appointments—has blown up into a business valued at $1.8 billion, expanding to reach more than 60% of the U.S. population and working with large hospital systems such as New York’s Mount Sinai. In 2015, the company decided it was time for a rebrand, and it tapped global design agency Wolff Olins to reimagine its overall look and feel. The result is friendly and human-centered, complete with an anthropomorphic logo that turns the letter Z into an expressive, emoticonlike face. Wolff Olins North America president Tim Allen explains the changes.

What are the problems with the branding used by traditional health care companies?

There are all these familiar visual cues like shields and crosses. Everything is blue and green. It is all about security and authority, which are needed in this market, but it’s gotten unbalanced. There’s also this inherent hierarchy that happens: You’re the patient, we’re the caregiver. For Zocdoc, we were trying to create a partnership between patients and health care providers and create an identity and an architecture that expressed that.

Central to your solution is Zee, an adaptable avatar that expresses human emotions like perplexity, happiness, and relief. What was your approach?

We wanted to make the logo dynamic, responding to the patient’s needs and emotions. Zocdoc wanted something a little more grown-up, but still retaining that spirit of being smart, caring, intuitive, and compelling. Health care is too often a frustrating and bewildering experience. Zocdoc is on a mission to cut through that confusion, so we reimagined the brand experience from the patient’s perspective, aiming to make Zocdoc a place of trust and ease. We created a visual identity that could put a smile on your face when appropriate.

How important is design in shaping the future of the health care industry?

At the root of design is the process of solving problems with creativity. There’s no way to take on the new health care challenges of affordability, access, obesity, wellness, or preventive care without design. Functionally, you’re designing for people so that they can achieve goals. Emotionally, you’re hopefully creating a sense of wonder and delight.

Click here for the 2016 Innovation by Design Awards finalists and winners.

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