Studies in the Arts (SINTA)

Portraits of doctoral students

Marika Anja Simon

Postal Address
Universität Bern
Graduate School of the Arts and Humanities (GSAH)
Doktoratsprogramm Studies in the Arts (SINTA)
Marika Anja Simon
Muesmattstrasse 45
3012 Bern

Marika Anja Simon

Marika Anja Simon was born in 1988 in Waldshut, Germany. Until the age of 22 she lived in a village before she moved to Munich - a big city with more possibilities. There she was able to complete a Bachelor's degree in “Digital Media Production, Media Design Specialisation”. She soon realized that she wanted to pursue a career. That this career would finally be academic, however, was not tangible at the time. During her time as a graphic designer at a large agency, she was able to develop within three and a half years from an internship semester to a permanent position as a graphic designer and finally to senior graphic designer. Her tasks were in the field of annual reports, information graphics and digital media, projects which also received various awards and prizes. She felt underchallenged in her position as editorial designer. Social projects and complex design solutions were aspects that were neglected. During this time she came across an interview in Page Magazine with Robert Lzicar, the leader of the Communication Design department at the Bern University of the Arts (HKB). He talked about the two new Master's programmes: Design Entrepreneurship and Design Research. She applied to the HKB in autumn 2016 and landed in Berne in August. During her studies she was able to make interesting contacts in the field of design and health. This led to a collaboration with the Inselspital University Children's Hospital in Bern. The Research Unit Communication Design - under the direction of Prof. Dr. Arne Scheuermann - also assisted with challenging questions and the appropriate methodology. Constructive criticism spurred her on to engage extensively with the topic of healthcare communication design and to establish herself as a researcher. During the MA Design Research she published current results in a blog. In addition, she was able to strengthen her knowledge and expertise with the help of her first supervisor at the time, Dr. Minou Afzali, who already has experience in design research in a similar environment. On the practical side, signaling expert Jimmy Schmid supported her and advised her on all aspects of Environmental Communication Design. During the Assessment Day at the HKB, her research work as part of the Master of Arts Communication Design Research met with interested voices from the healthcare industry. The research work ended in two - strategically planned - not yet published publications. One on Cultural Probes, a method from design research and another on Environmental Communication Design in Pediatrics. After the Master of Arts in Research on the Arts at the University of Bern was still mandatory for her application to the Graduate School of the Arts, she devoted herself to a new research project in the field of social anthropology and tried an experimental research approach at the University Children's Hospital in Bern. The study focused on the question of whether Participatory Action Research (PAR) works in pediatrics and how. The patients became co-researchers, drew characters for an exhibition on the ward and could actively participate in the research. This work was supervised by Prof. Dr. Znoj, Director of the Institute of Social Anthropology. Among other things, she recorded the results in an Instagram account. The dissertation within the framework of the GSA is indispensable for her as an ambitious researcher with an impulse to become an academic via postdoc and professorship and offers the opportunity to intensively deal with the upcoming dissertation topic in a long-term research project.

1. Communication challenges between nurses and migrant paediatric patients im Journal of Research in Nursing 2020, Vol. 25(3) 256–274, SAGE Publications Ltd, London.
2. "It somehow worked in the end” – Managing demanding communication situations between nurses and migrant families in the paediatric hospital setting through the use of communication aids im Design for Health journal 2020, Vol. 5, Lab4Living Art and Design Research Centre, Sheffield (in production).



Prof. Dr. Heinzpeter Znoj, Universität Bern, Institut für Sozialanthropologie
Prof. Dr. Minou Afzali, Hochschule der Künste Bern HKB, Forschungsschwerpunkt Kommunikationsdesign

Doctoral project

"Das Spital-Lab performative Forschung mit Pädiatriepatient*innen in der Rolle als Co-Forschende" (Arbeitstitel)

The hospital is an alienating, sterile and mostly dull environment for pediatric patients. In many cases, their stay is associated with fear and discomfort. Suggestions from the young patients are simply ignored in everyday hospital life. This is to be counteracted with a pilot project, the “Spital-Lab” in the Universitätskinderklinik of the practice partner - Inselspital Bern. The potential lies in the pediatric environment - which cannot be simulated anywhere else. Here, projects submitted to the “Spital-Lab” should be actively and creatively conceived together with the patients as co-researchers. Solutions will be jointly implemented as action research (PAR ) or performance ethnography. The submitted projects are of great importance for the research focus Communication Design, which can lead to an improvement of well-being and Environmental Communication Design. In addition, the event itself - action research within the “Spital-Lab” - is very important for the field of social anthropology, as there are no studies at all. The research project investigates the question of whether an integrated “Spital-Lab” could contribute to promoting the well-being of pediatric patients. Furthermore, how the atmosphere on the wards can be improved with the help of materials, colours, light, furniture, odor and a themed environment. The answers will be provided using ethnographic survey methods as well as methods from design research, including both quantitative and qualitative research methods. In addition, the results of two pre-studies carried out by the applicant will be taken into account, in which findings on the subject were gained. It is important to comprehensively document the actual state of the stations with regard to well-being (Andrews/Withey Delighted-Terrible Scale) and their condition ( floor plan analyses, photo documentation, observation). In addition, during the “Spital-Lab” the nursing staff will be interviewed about changes in the atmosphere of the wards. The aim is to publish a paediatric guide with requirements for wards and to evaluate the vessel of a “Spital-Lab”. Both strands of knowledge lead to further research as part of a postdoctoral project.

Research priorities

Healthcare Communication Design, Environmental Communication Design, Participatory Action research (PAR), Performance Ethnography, Child and youth research.