Schaefer Advertising Co.


As a creative leader at Schaefer, I’m thrilled to see our art directors leveraging AI prompts to enhance our visual ideation process. In our industry, innovation is paramount, and utilizing AI throughout our process opens up new avenues for creativity that were previously untapped.

In the past, our concept sessions generated great ideas, but bringing them to life digitally would require either skilled hand-drawn sketches, photo composites or extensive searching for stock imagery to bring them to life. While these methods serve us well, they often constrained our creative exploration to what was readily available or within the scope of an individual’s artistic abilities.

Vialase ai contact sheet
Vialase illustrated Yeti foot
A medical device manufacturer wanted to convey how they were making the seemingly impossible possible. We used AI to explore ways to bring this concept to life.

Now, with AI-generated images, we’re breaking free from those constraints. This exploration acts as a catalyst for imagination, sparking ideas that might not have surfaced through traditional brainstorming alone. By incorporating AI into our process, we’re pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, unveiling visual concepts that surprise and delight both ourselves and our clients.

It’s important to note that while AI plays a significant role in this stage, it doesn’t replace the human touch. Instead, it complements and propels our artistic vision, serving as a springboard for collaboration with photographers, animators, and illustrators who possess the skills to bring these ideas to fruition. Together, we’re able to realize concepts that surpass anything we could have envisioned in the past, ultimately elevating the quality and impact of our work.

Kyzatrex ai contact sheet
A new pharmaceutical brand wanted to convey the way testosterone replacement therapy made everyday activities heroic. AI helped us manifest this idea with an engaging jumpstart.

In essence, AI prompts are revolutionizing our creative journey, empowering us to explore uncharted territory and deliver visuals that captivate and inspire. By embracing this technology, we’re not just adapting to change – we’re driving it, leading the way in innovative design and storytelling.

The Journey to Patients Goes Through Emotions

In health care, as in life, design is everything. It’s the difference between a website that meets a user’s needs and one that frustrates them. Or, why one medical device gains adherence and why another just gathers dust. 

While the user experience (UX) has been on the rise in recent years as a key differentiator in other industries, healthcare lags behind. Sure, healthcare is complex and regulated, but those limitations are what makes a creative challenge so enticing. I’d argue that too often those who design healthcare websites, apps or product packages fail to put themselves in the shoes of their users: patients.

When we think about patients, we often think about them as “consumers” or “customers.” But they are so much more than that. They are people with real problems and anxieties who are navigating a complex system. They need our help. And that’s where patient-centric design comes in. Patient-centric design is all about creating on- and offline experiences that put the patients’ needs first and foremost. It puts their goals at the center of every decision made – from content to functionality to messaging.

You can find multiple case studies showing value from a patient-centered approach. One pharmaceutical company re-imagined its packaging and messaging for a key medication — the size of the bottle opening, label design and overall pack size to accommodate a purse or pocket — and they saw significant improvements in medication compliance because of it.

Beyond academic papers and third-party case studies, our instincts as designers or marketers (heck, as people) tell us patient-centered design is the right thing to do.

So how can you as a brand leader adopt a patient-centric approach? Here are a few key steps:

Health Care Prosoria Packaging
  1. Start by understanding your patients. Take the time to research and understand the needs, values, preferences and motivations of your patient.
    • With a package design we developed for multi-step psoriasis treatment, Schaefer leveraged patient conversations, secondary research and best practices from consumer packaged goods to identify a simple, clear way to engage the patient in her treatment journey.
Health Care Podimetrics Packaging
  1. Develop a patient-centric messaging and packaging strategy. Once you have a deep understanding of your patients, develop a strategy that puts their needs and concerns at the center of all marketing and product design decisions.
    • For an at-home diabetes diagnostic, Schaefer created a packaging system that was as friendly as the device itself (which was incredibly friendly, by the way!). Knowing the patient profile was one who was less tech-savvy, we scrutinized every step of the unboxing/setup process to ensure everything remained simple, intuitive and frictionless.
  2. Test and refine your patient-centric approach. You’ve got to test and refine your approach over time. New products, across non-healthcare industries, change our expectations of convenience, accessibility and ease. You should conduct surveys, hold focus groups, or monitor customer service feedback on a regular basis to stay on top of trends.

Bottom line, it’s about humanizing healthcare. 

When you think about how your product, messaging or packaging interacts with the patient at each stage of the journey, you demonstrate a commitment to the relationship. It shows you care about the patient and want them to succeed. After all, isn’t that what we all want? Someone in our corner? 

Using Illustrations to Connect with Diverse Audiences

As healthcare marketers, we all know how challenging it can be to convey complex concepts in a way that resonates with a diverse audience. Whether we’re speaking to patients, healthcare professionals or other stakeholders, it can be difficult to create a message that connects with people of all cultures, ages and backgrounds. 

UNTHSC Campaign Advertising

At Schaefer, we’ve found that illustration can be an effective means of broadening the appeal of a message, while also conveying a clearer understanding of the brand’s mechanism of action (MOA) and differentiating features. When we step away from the clinical aspect and think about emotions, we find that illustrations can help brands connect with the reader on a deeper level:

  1. Illustrations break down complex medical concepts, procedures, or treatments into easy-to-understand visuals. This makes your message more accessible to a wider audience, regardless of their background, education or level of medical knowledge. 
  2. Illustrations also have the ability to tap into emotions by creating a visceral connection with patients, helping to build trust, empathy and approachability. 
  3. Using illustrations to showcase people living with disabilities, chronic illnesses, or mental health conditions can help reduce the fear or stigma surrounding them. This type of advertising not only educates, but also helps patients overcome their reluctance to seek help when they need it.
Omni Surgical - Go for Three

In addition to reaching people on a more human level, the Schaefer team has found a number of occasions when illustrations solved particular strategic or tactical goals. 

For example, when we needed to evolve positioning for an ophthalmic surgical device, we settled on an approach that used an illustrated metaphor. This technique allowed ophthalmologists to see themselves in the role of making the game-winning shot in the competition for efficacy. This helped the client rapidly propel from startup to the #2 position in their market. 

myForte App

In another case, a popular acne treatment wanted to optimize outcomes by using an app to improve adherence. We employed gender and skin-tone neutral illustrations to drive engagement. As a result, the app saw more than 90,000 downloads and a 40% return use rate. By effectively appealing to a broad and diverse audience, illustration helped humanize the brand and boost adherence. 

Illustration can also provide a more affordable — and practical — alternative to traditional photo shoots. This was true in a case involving an academic institution that wanted to embrace diversity in their marketing. Illustration allowed us to appeal to a wide range of cultures, ages, and backgrounds. It also provided the flexibility and agility to change things quickly and react to our client needs.

Clarifying a message. Breaking down demographic barriers. Removing the stigma from an illness. Building trust and empathy. In the end, it’s all about humanizing healthcare. 

When you communicate on a more human level, your message resonates more effectively. At Schaefer, we’ve found that illustration is a great way to forge a deeper bond with patients, professionals and the general public, and connect with them in more meaningful ways.