Colonoscopy Hero

A campaign to reduce the stigma of a colonoscopy
8 Weeks
(Nov - Dec 2017)
Ian Grout
Project Summary


'Colonoscopy hero' was a project done in collaboration with the National Health Society (NHS), Scotland's endoscopy unit. A colonoscopy is a procedure in which an endoscope is inserted into your body through your colon for removal of polyps. In Scotland, after the age of 50, you get a bowel screening test for early detection of bowel cancer. If the test comes back positive you are required to go through a colonoscopy to make sure there isn't a cancerous polyp.

My Role

  • Primary Research
  • Journey mapping
  • Brief development
  • Ideation conceptualisation
  • Storyboarding solution
  • Solution video editing

The Problem

Bowel cancer (or colorectal cancer) is a significant public health problem in Scotland, which has a higher rate of bowel cancer than most other countries in the Western world. Bowel cancer screening can identify pre-cancerous signs in men and women who otherwise have no symptoms, and thus abnormalities can be investigated and treated. Treatment at this stage is usually very effective, but the NHS saw a trend of men being less likely to participate in these bowel screening tests.

After conducting several user interviews and patient follows, we realized there were stigmas associated with a colonoscopy. We found different types of stigmas that patients had -

How might we reduce the stigma of a colonoscopy and encourage people to take the NHS bowel screening test

The Solution

Our solution is a sticker campaign to put the topic out in the open to initiate discussions and make people feel comfortable about a colonoscopy. The campaign is designed such that it is up close and personal. It is something you would be able to interact with and is placed on things you would encounter in your day-to-day life. Watch the video to see how it works.

The Stickers

DESign process

The Approach

We started by discovering the service (NHS Scotland's endoscopy unit) conducted interviews with patients, doctors, nurses, their bookings office staff, etc., as a group of 8 people. We then mapped the different user journeys and diagnosed and identified opportunities for improvement. After that, we broke up into groups of 3 students each to work on these identified opportunity areas using the 4D design process.


Service Understanding

We started the project by visiting the ‘Western General Hospital’ in Edinburgh for primary research. The objective was to understand the hospital environment itself and look at how different teams within functioned. We divided ourselves and went to different areas of the endoscopy unit and employed various data collection methods.

We then mapped out the different aspects of the service by organizing the information all of us had gathered. We also mapped out different areas in the hospital and where patients are in each of these rooms during the journey.

Empathy Maps

User Journey Map

Opportunity Areas

After a brief interim presentation with the NHS, we grouped our topics into broader themes. We then divided ourselves into these four subgroups based on our interest areas. The piece I chose to work on was providing reassurance.

Problem Area Map

User Research - Round 2

We went back to the Western General hospital to do a second round of research focused on our selected problem area. We talked to the nurses, receptionist, booking office, and the orderlies as they were the people who came in contact with the patients the most.

Research Insights

Sharing with Family
Patients felt better once they shared their experience of the procedure with their families but didn't know when and how to actually bring it up.
Patients still felt stressed and embarrassed though the procedure itself and the journey before had gone well as they felt exposed due to the nature of the procedure
We saw two kinds of humour around the topic of a colonoscopy. One being the stigmatizing kind while the other actually helped reduce stress.

Throughout the procedure of a colonoscopy, we decided to intervene even before the patient goes to his General Physician. So even before the patient starts his journey with the NHS. 

Target Persona


To approach people in a social context, when they are with their friends and family, we thought a campaign would be the best way to go about it rather than talks and seminars. We could give people their own time to approach the subject with a campaign.

We finally decided to go ahead with the sticker campaign idea. We wanted our campaign to be up-close and personal - something you would be able to interact with rather than billboards and posters. It placed on things you would come in contact with in your day-to-day life.    

Sticker Prototyping

Final Stickers Design

The contours and the gradient add a depth that makes you feel as if you were looking inside an intestine. The frame used is circular, suggesting you are using an endoscope to look inside. We used fleshy colors as the background and soothing green for the text. The font used is rounded and has a friendly vibe. According to the scenario, the amount of text on the stickers changes but is still kept to a minimum. We were initially thinking of having some texture for the stickers but decided on a glossy finish instead for longevity and hygiene purposes.



Interacting with different people on the sensitive topic of a colonoscopy was the highlight of this project. It pushed me to leave my comfort zone and gain confidence in my research skills. It also showed me the power of humor. Humor is all about imperfections. It helps break the ice and allows some space and time to come to terms with things. Being a woman, I had never imagined there would be a stigma surrounding going through a colonoscopy for straight men. It made me realize how factors like gender and sexual orientation affect a person's perception and be discovered and understood only through user research.

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