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Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Envisioning a Culture of Health

The Challenge

Dismantling health inequity is no easy feat. RWJF, however, knows the way forward. But they cannot get there alone. After formally launching the Culture of Health initiative in 2015, the Foundation tapped us to create an engaging, empowering digital platform for encouraging action and collaboration.


Public Sector



Together, we redesigned Cul​ture​OfHealth​.org as a powerful resource for policymakers, civic leaders, educators, care providers and organizers working to improve public health. Rich with interactive data and in-depth case studies, the site offers proven, actionable solutions for strengthening communities.


Building a Culture of Health requires bold vision, leadership and collaboration.

Workshop worksheet closeup

From Vision to Action

The data is clear—where you live affects how long you live. RWJF’s cutting-edge research has demonstrated time and again how social determinants like food access and housing affordability affect overall well-being. How could we make that knowledge more accessible, discoverable and engaging for a broad, diverse (and often overtasked) audience?

Human-Centered Design

We hosted the Foundation’s Creative and Research, Evaluation and Learning teams for a series of co-creation workshops to empathize with our users, strategize around site goals and generate ideas for translating their extensive knowledge into web-friendly content. We had a long haul ahead of us; building alignment early would prove critical to our success.

Collaborative workshops with team members
Co-creation workshops with team members
Collaborative workshops with team members

From Complexity to Clarity

While we can’t simplify complex ideas, we can make them more understandable. Public health is complex — there are no simple answers to solving early onset diabetes, chronic stress or opioid addiction. But there are paths forward. First we have to clear the way, then guide our followers step by step.

By getting in a room with the brainiacs at RWJF, spending time with the research ourselves and—this part is important—speaking directly to our users, we developed a cohesive strategy for clarifying and organizing content intuitively, creating an overall more productive, positive user experience.

  • 76

    user surveys, captured via intercept and representing all audience segments, helped us understand what site visitors needed most from a clear explanation of the vision and Action Framework, as well real-life examples of effective, community-level interventions.

  • 197%

    increase in success finding key information on the site by using conversational, action-oriented page names like "What We're Learning" and "Why Equity Matters." We conducted three rounds of tree testing to validate the new information architecture and labeling conventions.

Two children playing together at a playground

A Call to (Inter)Action

One of the first design tasks on our to-do list: bring the Action Framework to life. We created a simple graphic, showing the four core tenets of healthy communities, each one equally weighted and intrinsically connected to equity. On the site, the graphic does double duty, functioning as a navigation menu, driving visitors to learn more about each topic.

Clearing the Path

Using the Core Model, we created clear journeys through different areas of the site, leveraging user needs and Foundation goals to develop useful, compelling content and intentional forward paths. Simple animations and interactions help keep visitors on track and engaged, every step of the way.

Setting the Pace

Understanding the high stakes and often limited bandwidth of public health projects, we embraced the principles of progressive disclosure. To avoid information overload, we balanced clean visuals and streamlined copy to keep things digestible, letting visitors choose to go deeper at will. 

Full view of Culture of Health website page
Full view of Culture of Health website page
Doctor, woman and baby together in a room


After poring through hundreds of pages of research, we figured out a few flexible structures for representing so much data. No need to reinvent the wheel — we opted for clean, crisp charts that revealed more precise detail on hover.

We followed existing brand guidelines while finding ways to push the visual language to new heights. For instance, we optimized accents for web and used them as consistent color codes across all charts, helping visitors quickly parse data.


Health is a human right.

Since launching the revitalized Cul​ture​OfHealth​.org, RWJF and Firebelly have continued our partnership, creating end-to-end conference experiences, interactive environments and simple, effective tools for sharing the Foundation’s vision and vast resources with the world. With every new project, we learn more about how to be better collaborators and accomplices in the path toward equity. In turn, we get to evangelize for human-centered design with one of the nation’s most powerful voices in public health. As always, the work continues.