Icon #7: “mHealth”



Over 90% of the world’s population is covered by a mobile signal (ref: @joshnesbit, Medic Mobile). There is an incredible emphasis on mHealth innovation these days and as such, this icon seems quite fitting.

Maybe it’s just me, but I find the “+” symbol to be a simple and universal way to convey “health”, and have used it a few times now. If you can think of similar symbols for “health” that could fit better or sit in for the “+” I’d love to hear.

Icon #6: “Health Data”



Iconathon, Day 6.

Big Data is a big buzzword in health nowadays. Dan Riskin’s piece from Forbes on the “The Next Revolution in Healthcare” offers up one part of the argument for data driving new innovation in healthcare:

According to a 2011 report from McKinsey Global Institute, if health care in the US used big data creatively and effectively to drive efficiency and quality, the potential value from data in this sector could be more than $300 billion in value every year. Two-thirds of this figure would influence national health care expenditures, representing an 8 percent cost reduction.

I don’t think I was overly creative with this icon, but it’s meant to be pretty simple. Does it communicate the concept to you?

Icon: “Health Hack”



Coding is an invaluable skill that I have been learning more intently since I relocated to Silicon Valley. Though my participation in a tech accelerator out here, I have found it refreshing to live in a rich environment where there is great enthusiasm to lead innovation in the (public) health sector using technology and code. While I realize that I may be a bit biased living here in San Francisco, it is clear to me that this enthusiasm is growing across the country.

Here’s a big example: Todd Park is the CTO of the United States (formerly the CTO of Health and Human Services) and founder of health care companies AthenaHealth and Castlight Health.  I recently had the pleasure of meeting him and seeing him speak at the Social Good Summit in NYC. What excites me about his current role as CTO is that he describes his work innovating within government as an entrepreneurial endeavour. (And government is not the first place I think of as being ripe for innovation or entrepreneurship). It’s refreshing to hear that he is working with entrepreneurs and innovators to advance “game-changing projects” in government that bring technology, design and a startup mentality to the forefront of problem solving around some of the toughest issues that the country is currently facing. This involves fostering the participation of people across disciplines who can take government data and apply it in meaningful ways.  At the ground level, innovation through technology is growing with the rise of health related hackathons and greater investment and incubation of health focused startups.

Public health innovation initiated at the federal level is pretty exciting to think about, wouldn’t you agree? It’s about time for a massive hack of the health system.

I also want to take this opportunity to build off of some of my own momentum here on the blog…and I’m going to change the rules of this iconathon, just a little. Revised rules:

  1. Black & White
  2. My ‘drawing board’ is a square
  3. Minimize unnecessary details that cannot be seen from a distance
  4. Don’t spend more than 1 hour creating each icon (from start to finish)
  5. Create 3 icons / week 1 icon per weekday (M-F).

Yes, this means 5 new icons a week for the month of October. I’m looking forward to it! If you have suggestions for icons, let me know in the comments below. You’ll probably notice that I made some revisions to the site and have included a sign up form in the sidebar — please sign up if you’d like to follow my posts. Thanks and have a happy & healthful weekend ahead.

Public Health Icon: “Obesity”



“Obesity” is a tough concept to iconize. I looked around for some visual inspiration and found images of rotund stick figures (e.g., Shutterstock) and detailed side profiles of overweight individuals, but I was not satisfied with what I found.

In the current public health ‘battle against obesity’, I find that images used to talk about obese or overweight individuals tend to lean towards (visual) messaging that is stigmatizing or shaming. What it often boils down to is a message that seems to suggest: “Hey you, you look fat and unhealthy. Stop eating so much food.” Maybe that’s the intent but an anti-obesity campaign from Minnesota ignited a lot of debate recently around what makes for an effective and encouraging message around healthy eating. There has also been some public blame and finger pointing at individuals who some argue should be ‘held responsible’ for their weight. In the end, I wonder if a lot of the messaging out there detracts from rather than helps meaningfully address issues around weight, food, and health.

Case in point: I was in NYC a couple of weeks ago and snapped this photo on the subway:



The campaign is run by the City of New York and is aiming to encourage folks to make healthier choices.  I think the focus here comes down to the individual and the way she/he looks and behaves, but to me the imagery seems to suggest that the figure in the poster is gluttonous and irresponsible.

I find the (visual) connection between food (junk food & quantity of food) and weight quite intuitive and obvious: The more stuff you put into the body, the heavier you’re likely to be. While there is no icon that can capture the complex nature of obesity as an issue, perhaps there are other ways to focus our attention than spending most of our time waving our fingers at junk food, fat rolls, bulging bellies and ‘poor’ body image. I wanted to create something that focused less on the body as a result.

Anyways, scale that I drew above is one starting point…I think it would be fun to jam on this a bit more. Is it any more or less powerful that the visuals you’ve seen out there?

Public Health Icons: “Pregnancy” + “Fetus”



A double whammy today: Two icons.

The icon above represents “pregnancy”. In addition to the breast and belly side profile, I wanted to include the arm and hand touching the belly to suggest that there is something growing inside. Oftentimes I find the fetus is represented by an image of a fetus/baby or heart over the belly, but I felt the icon was clear enough on its own without it. I have also seen many pregnancy images where there is an effort made to indicate gender (and subsequently sex) wherein the figure is wearing a dress but I find this takes away from the profile of the belly and isn’t necessary.



The icon above represents a fetus. The dark arc above represents the uterus wall. I gave the fetus more form than a stick figure because I think it’s easier to recognize based on its unique and recognizable form and curves.

If you have any suggestions for icons, please pop them into the comments below 🙂

Public Health Icon: “Community”



A lot of the icons I come across for the term “community” are often comprised of people holding hands, with their arms up in the air, and/or embracing in a circular formation. I wanted to play off of these common conventions and created the above. A bird’s eye view was chosen to simplify the image and avoid having to draw in the bodies of the individuals. The idea of a football huddle was floating through my mind in drawing this.

We’ve Moved + Public Health Icon, “Health 2.0”


Glad you found me at andrealyip.com!

As you may or may not know, I recently made the transition here from my “drawed” blog that was hosted on WordPress.com. I still want this space to be one where I share visuals and ideas that I’m working on (personally and professionally) and have challenged myself to get back into the blogging spirit through a personal Public Health “Iconathon” for the month of October. “Iconathon” is a term I borrow from the Noun Project to describe a visual blitz where I will create icons that can visually communicate different ideas and concepts related to health.

I have been asking and searching around these days for various health related icons and have found that a lot of concepts, particularly in public health, are under represented and/or highly abstract. A lot of them also borrow generic imagery from one other (oftentimes a “Y” shaped person with extended arms representing terms like “empowerment”, “community” and “health”). Granted, many concepts are quite complex. How does one iconize “social determinants of health” for instance? Not an easy task, but a worthwhile one nonetheless. If you could represent issues like “mental health” or the “health system” in a simplified and universal image, that would be incredibly powerful. Moreover, I think this can help build a sense of identity for concepts and topics in health, and for those working in these areas.

The “rules” I made for myself are pretty simple:

  1. Black & White
  2. My ‘drawing board’ is a square
  3. Minimize unnecessary details that cannot be seen from a distance
  4. Don’t spend more than 1 hour creating each icon (from start to finish)
  5. Create 3 icons / week.

To start, I have created an icon I’ll label “Health 2.0”. It blends the tech and medical/health side of things. I also happen to be attending Health 2.0 SF events all weekend long and next week, so it serves as a visual thought bubble of where my head will be at over the next two weeks.