COANIQUEM: The Healing Tree




The Healing Tree is a comprehensive system of environmental graphics, a storybook and a ‘passport’ that transforms the campus of COANIQUEM, a nonprofit treatment center for pediatric burn survivors, into a magical land where patients and their families go on a healing journey accompanied by characters Camilla and Lucas and a cast of animal characters that represent the different treatments offered at COANIQUEM.

The Healing Tree has been fully implemented at COANIQUEM thanks to a generous grant from Sappi Ideas That Matter. The project was developed by students Alvin Oei (Lead Designer/Environmental Design), Belle Lee (Illustrator/Illustration), Lori Nishikawa (Research & Strategy/Product Design) and Lauren Medina (Communications Strategy/Interaction Design) and guided by faculty Stella Hernandez (Project Manager).




The Healing Tree is an outcome of the Spring 2016 Safe Niños Studio & Summer 2016 Safe Niños Development Seminar in partnership with ArtCenter’s Environmental Design Department and COANIQUEM, led by faculty Penny Herscovitch, Dan Gottlieb and Stella Hernandez.

COANIQUEM is a nonprofit treatment center that treats pediatric burn survivors free of charge, providing cutting-edge medical procedures, comprehensive therapy and education and housing for the children and their families. The main campus is located in Santiago, Chile, and each year treats 8,000 patients from all across South America. Founded in 1979 by the visionary Dr. Jorge Rojas-Zeger, COANIQUEM has treated more than 100,000 children suffering from burn injuries.

COANIQUEM challenged students in the Safe Niños Studio to reimagine the 6-acre campus as a healing, human-centered environment that celebrates and promotes well-being for patients, their families and medical staff. The faculty and 14 students traveled to COANIQUEM to conduct research and co-create with the patients, their families and medical staff. Upon their return to ArtCenter, inspired by the holistic nature of the treatments at COANIQUEM, the student teams decided to work together to ensure all of their projects were connected and would make sense for the campus of COANIQUEM as a whole. Four deeply connected projects were developed through the concept stage, all addressing different areas of the campus and needs of different stakeholders at COANIQUEM.

A subset of students from the original studio, along with new students especially recruited for their unique skillsets, came together with the Safe Niños faculty for the Safe Niños Development Seminar in Summer 2016. This small group of dedicated students continued to develop the vision of the original studio with the goal of creating cost-effective and innovative ways to bring several of the projects proposed in the first studio to implementation readiness. At the conclusion of the Development Seminar, the students traveled back to COANIQUEM to continue to refine with user feedback, test prototypes, and implement the Teen Zone, developed by Behnia Rahmati and the first stage of The Healing Tree, developed by Alvin Oei and Belle Lee from an original concept by Alvin, Lori Nishikawa and Lauren Medina.

Project Research and Development



During the Safe Niños Studio, students Alvin Oei, Lori Nishikawa and Lauren Medina decided to build upon the work of a previous team of ArtCenter students by expanding on the brand of Santi, Camilla and Lucas characters originally developed for COANIQUEM by students in the Spring 2013 Designmatters Graphic Design Studio The Healing Cloud, led by faculty Guillaume Wolf. Now used by COANIQUEM in national burn prevention campaigns, Santi is recognized and beloved by children throughout Chile. Alvin, Lori and Lauren created The World of Santi and Friends, a whole new cast of animal characters to accompany burn patients throughout their experience at COANIQUEM. The team conceived a system that used environmental graphics, a storybook and an “adventure journal” to take children on a magical journey through their treatments at COANIQUEM and towards The Healing Tree, representing wellbeing.

Alvin Oei continued on to the Safe Niños Development Seminar, bringing Illustration student Belle Lee on to the team to further develop the visual style and characters of Camilla, Lucas, and their animal friends. Responding to stakeholder feedback, Alvin and Belle renamed the project The Healing Tree and worked to refine the characters to represent each treatment offered at COANIQUEM. The team also created a low-cost passport design that could be easily replicated and printed at COANIQUEM for children to use as they encounter and complete various phases of their treatment journey. Alvin was part of the group of students who traveled to COANIQUEM in August 2016, and helped install the first stage of environmental graphics in the waiting room and on some doors of treatment rooms with the help of the staff of COANIQUEM and volunteers from Duoc UC, a university in Chile. Alvin was also able to start refining and testing the mythology and storyline for the book and passport system.

In October 2016, Alvin Oei was awarded a $50,000 grant from Sappi Ideas that Matter, a competition run by Sappi North America, to continue the development and full implementation of all elements of The Healing Tree project. Alvin was the only undergraduate student to receive an award for 2016. Alvin continued to work with Belle and began working closely with faculty member Stella Hernandez to prepare to implement The Healing Tree in Chile. Alvin and Stella met several times a week to review designs and work plans, and coordinate with COANIQUEM’s staff to ensure they had the correct measurements and specifications for the decals for the walls, doors and windows.

Alvin and Stella traveled to COANIQUEM in March 2017 to oversee the installation of environmental graphics in one of the main treatment hallways and several treatment rooms. While at COANIQUEM, Alvin met multiple times with each treatment team, medical staff and Dr. Rojas to review the language and messaging of the storybook and passports to ensure the materials captured the essence and holistic mission of COANIQUEM and reflected the diverse cultures and geography of Chile. Characters and the story were carefully crafted over several hours of meetings. Alvin also worked with José Tomás Marchant Verdugo, an Industrial Designer from Duoc UC, to create custom stamps for each treatment room to use for the passports. When Alvin returned to Pasadena in April, he worked with Belle Lee to ensure the illustrations matched the refined messages and story.

Alvin continued to work with Stella to create a second set of environmental graphics for the remaining treatment rooms and hallways at COANIQUEM. The remaining environmental graphics were installed and 200 copies of the completed storybooks and 1,000 passports were delivered to COANIQUEM in July 2017, bringing The Healing Tree to full implementation after two studios and an additional year of development.




The project immerses patients into to the world of The Healing Tree through a 3 layered system, beginning with a storybook.


Developed as a 30 page children’s book, “The Healing Tree” serves as a prequel to “The Healing Cloud” and follows the adventure of 2 burned children, Camillia and Lucas, on their quest to find a magical tree. Inspired by the mission and holistic practices of COANIQUEM, the story aims to capture the essence of COANIQUEM, the unique treatment departments and diverse cultures and geography of Chile into a dynamic and unique story, with details that will be instantly recognizable to the staff and long-term patients of COANIQUEM. The storybooks will be available in the lobby and other areas of COANIQUEM, and will be given to some longer-term patients to take home with them between visits.


A series of 10 small custom made activity booklets that contextualize story elements and animal character representatives of each treatment department and provide fun, simple activities for the patients to engage with. Children collect the activity booklets as they visit each new department. These small booklets also serve as reminders of the next visits as a supplement to COANIQUEM’s digital check-in system. The booklets are collected into a passport holder which has an empty tree on the cover, meant to be stamped upon each visit to each department with new leaves. Patients will earn prizes, like animal toys and books after a certain amount of leaves have been stamped onto their tree.

The Healing Tree Animal Characters

  • Occupational therapy – Dog
  • Physical Therapy – Rabbit
  • Psychology – Mouse
  • Wound Dressing – Peacock
  • Casabierta Residence – Horse
  • School – Owl
  • Garment Fitting – Pudu
  • Music Therapy – Hummingbird
  • Social Services – Penguins
  • Nutrition – Flamingo

Environmental Graphics

Expanding on the worlds developed in the storybook, the environmental graphics transform 2 of the main treatment hallways as well as some therapy rooms into scenes from the storybook using a strategically developed wayfinding system and the friendly animal chacarters from The Healing Tree.

Autodesk FoundationCoaniquemSappi: Ideas that MatterVentureWell