This article was written in 2017. It might or it might not be outdated. And it could be that the layout breaks. If that’s the case please let me know.

Life after a stroke

On the 10th Infographic Conference in Zeist in the Netherlands I saw a talk by Lysanne de Water about a prototype of an app she made for life after a stroke. A very informative talk filled with understanding of the complex issues that people have to cope with after such a life changing event like a stroke.

A Dutch sketch note I made of the Life After a Stroke talk by Lysanne de Water

If you like sketch notes, here’s one I made in Dutch. If you don’t like sketch notes or don’t speak Dutch, read on.

Gaining knowledge is harder in stressful situations

One of the principles behind Lysanne’s way of thinking and designing is the idea that things are harder when you are under a lot of stress. When you suffered a stroke, or when someone you love suffered a stroke, you are under an enormous amount of stress. The booklets that hospitals provide you are very hard to grasp in these situations.

Lysanne’s solution lies in this quote by Benjamin Franklin — Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.. Booklets don’t make it past the second part of Franklin’s quote. The patient is in no way involved with the information. Without interaction, there is no involvement.

She summarised a few best practices for when you want to design an app like this one (or anything really, if you ask me):

The Life After a Stroke App

The Life After a Stroke app prototype consists of six chapters, which represent the six phases of a stroke: from the signals that something is going on, to going on with your life, and all the complex phases in between. The idea is that people use the app to help them cope with the phase they are in right now. It gives them information, and different options to interact: both with the information, and with the people around them. For instance: you can use smilies to explain how you feel, or what you think about some info. This turned out to be very useful for patients who oftentimes lost the ability to clearly express themselves.

A few design principles she used for the prototype:

Information is always provided in clear text with images. And the information is provided at the moment you need it. More info is always at hand for those who want it. And there are different routes you can take. The information is not linear per se. And people who have difficulties reading can listen to the info instead.

She uses colour sparsely and with a clear and consistent purpose. Mint and red for information, and purple for interaction.

The overall look and feel of the app is friendly yet serious, and it has a positive attitude.

There’s room for questions, feedback and reflection. It gives the patient the ability to ask questions to different kinds of people, like doctors and nurses, in the different phases of the recovery process. She mentioned this as an important part of the app: give people the option to ask questions, to give feedback, to explain how they feel, and the option to reflect. I guess in a working app this feedback should be considered as extremely useful information for doctors, nurses and the people working on the app. And of course, you’d have to think about a workflow where the questions are answered. I guess people will stop talking if they feel like they are not listened to.


Lysanne needs funding. If you know a hospital that could use such a well designed and well considered app, get in touch with Lysanne de Water.