Lava’s designs for Elevate presented at World Design Forum 2012

Elevate is an online academy that educates international health professionals, elevating professional knowledge and improving health worldwide. Lava helped shape Elevate with strategy and design.

Elevate will be presented at the World Design Forum (WDF 2012) on friday October 19th. The forum explores the changing landscape of social entrepreneurship and investigates how design and design thinking can enable promising initiatives to improve quality of life and impact communities. The case of Elevate fits these qualifications seamlessly. For Lava it has been a challenge on several areas of our expertise: identity design, communication, brand strategy and user experience design.
The launch of the brand Elevate, including a public website and a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) is both the end as well as the beginning of an exciting time. Lava is proud to present the result of an intense process of many workshops, design and redesign over the period of 1,5 years. Now is the time to find out if the well thought through strategies and designs will live up to the expectations.

The identity, website and e-learning environment were developed in close coöperation with the founding partners of Elevate: University Medical Center Utrecht, University of Utrecht, University of Applied Sciences Utrecht.

A new name
When kicking-off the project we challenged the working title: ‘Utrecht Academic Health Portal’ (UAHP). An important requirement for a new name was that one should be able to pronounce and remember the name easily. Secondly the name had to embrace the goal of enabling growth of individual health care workers in communities worldwide. A third challenge was that it had to be a strong brand name, that will mainly live in ‘the online domain’. Therefore it needed a name that indicates exactly what it does, without means of ‘sub labeling’ or a ‘descriptor’.
Elevate is an online academy that educates international health professionals, elevating professional knowledge and improving health worldwide.

The sentence above perfectly illustrates how the verb ‘elevate’ can be used to strengthen the underlying idea of ‘elevation’. The richness of the word and possibilities of using it in different situations made the choice for ‘Elevate’ as the new brand name an obvious one.

Communication- and strategic advice
The methodology of User Centered Design (UCD) helped us structure the communication and digital strategy phase in which we, together with the client, mapped out a solid foundation for the design and communication decisions ahead.
For instance, we created personas, representing the most important groups of stakeholders in different parts of the world. One of them is Justinous Legote, a nurse from Johannesburg - South Africa. He made us realise that serious bandwidth restrictions had to be considered in the designs and functionality of both the public website and the Virtual Learning Environment. All four persona’s stayed with us throughout the project and beyond, to help us make strategic communication and design decisions.

Identity design challenges
While traditional academic identities are often iconic and ‘heavy’, Elevate had to be presented in a light and inviting way, emphasising the ambitious and innovative character of the programme. How do you create an identity that represents the academic values of the educational institutes involved, whilst ensuring that the transparent and innovative character of Elevate is communicated?
And last but not less important, the identity had to be inviting and appealing to people from all walks of life. It had to perpetuate that the community of teachers and participants of the programme shapes the soul and professional success of Elevate. A social worker in Tanzania has to identify herself with Elevate as much as a medical consultant in Singapore or a veterinarian PhD researcher in New Zealand.
The challenge we faced was to solve the question: how do these different aspects culminate to an unambiguous brand?

Designing the Elevate experience online
While in visual design we created an identity that reflects the entity that we now called ‘Elevate’, a new communication and design challenge was faced: If we can now ‘tell the story of Elevate’ in both words and a visual language, how do we move on from there and attract participants to the programme?

We created so-called ‘user scenarios’ to ensure that potential participants would discover Elevate through for example e-mail newsletters, recommendations of peers and Google searches. We created designs and content for the website and newsletter(s) that focused on the user’s need for information and affirmation of Elevate as the best online programme to improve professional knowledge on health or health related topics.

The next step in the design process focussed on engaging the websites’ visitors in the story of Elevate to ultimately motivate potential participants of the programme to enroll for one or more courses.
The experience of the website visitor had to confirm the professional and community focussed approach of Elevate.

This focus should not only resonate in the ‘marketing’ designs of the public website. It should be prolonged and come across as strong, if not stronger, in the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). The teams of Lava and Elevate researched and reviewed several online software solutions that ‘ensured’ a solid user experience for both participants and teaching staff, baring in mind the promise and educational models of Elevate. None really worked. The decision was made that we would custom design a VLE. The educational expertise of the Elevate team was combined with the user experience (UX) knowledge of Lava. We ultimately created an interface design that supports the flow of a course participant through a course in an optimal way.

Being educated by Elevate now truly is a memorable experience. Not only because the content of the courses offered adds to elevating the professional knowledge of health workers. The combined experience of both the substantive and UX designs, truly adds to the goal of improving health by education on a worldwide scale.

Result and future challenges
Now that Elevate is launched, the true challenge is dawning. With the enrollment of the first participants both the educational model and the designs supporting that, will have to prove their worth.

Elevate is and will remain innovative. Elevate will take learnings from the participants’ experiences to continuously improve both the content and the design of the courses. Participants ultimately have to become ambassadors of the Elevate programme and courses.

  • Client: Elevate team
  • Brand concept and experience design: Lava
  • Technical implementation: Lucius Websystems (public website),  Fingertips (public website homepage carrousel) and Michiel Boerman (VLE)
  • Public website content: City Savvy
About Lava


Lava is a design agency with offices in Amsterdam and Beijing. Within Lava people from a variety of backgrounds collaborate: from brand strategy to digital, motion and print design. Together we create concepts that enable brands and organisations to communicate and interact in ever more digital environments.


Lava is een Nederlands ontwerpbureau met vestigingen in Amsterdam en Beijing. Mensen met verschillende achtergronden werken binnen Lava: van merkstrategie naar digitaal, motion en print design. Samen creëren we concepten die merken en organisaties in staat stellen om te communiceren en interacteren in toenemend digitale omgevingen.