The Big IDea

Enabling identification of ward staff, at a glance


2020 - ongoing


Mater frontline clinical teams


HSE Spark Innovation


In order for a team to work effectively in a busy hospital, it is important that healthcare staff can identify each other quickly by their role (e.g. nurse, doctor, social worker) as well as by specialty (e.g. Cardiology, Dermatology, Stroke etc).

This can be difficult in a bustling environment, where staff often come and go.  A survey confirmed that almost 70% found it “difficult” or “very difficult” to identify co-workers.


A team of designers and clinical staff worked together to design an add-on to the existing security ID badge that makes it easy for staff to identify each other at a glance and from a distance.

After multiple iterations and user testing, the final solution met an array of system challenges, including budget restrictions, infection control requirements and the fact that junior doctors rotate specialties up to four times a year. Following a successful pilot in 2022, the Big IDea will be rolled out across the hospital in 2023.
The big IDea badge easily attaches to the existing security ID card using a standard clip to a retractable pulley or lanyard. Speciality stickers enable non-consultant hospital doctors (NCHDs) to easily update their specialty as they rotate during their role. The card and sticker are infection control compliant and can be easily cleaned.
A colour coded system helps to identify roles at a glance

“We want more of these, we love them!”

Dr. Fran O’Keefe, Emergency Consultant, Mater Hospital
Before the Big IDea, 70% of staff told us they find it “difficult” or “very difficult” to identify co-workers.
Only 7% of staff find it difficult or very difficult to identify a co-worker since pilot implementation of the big IDea.*

*The pilot group consisted of 28 staff members, with 151 big IDea cards deployed during the first trial.
When asked to rate the improvement the big IDea  brings to staff identification, the pilot group gave it a weighted average of 4.6 out of 5 stars.


A team of NCAD masters students initially looked at this challenge as part of the five day ‘Design Week’ at the Mater in 2019. The design students explored options for a new badge design, considering colour, size, and legibility, resulting in the first prototype.

Since then, the Mater Transformation team have evolved the design from concept into an implementable design.
The designers had to work within several constraints and complexities. The new design needed to:
  • Work for junior doctors (NCHDs) who rotate specialty up to four times a year
  • Allow for the various ways that staff wear ID badges.
  • Be instantly recognisable to new recruits and agency staff
  • Comply with infection control requirements
  • Be sustainable and financially viable
  • Integrate with security “swipe cards”

Concept Images