Project Kiosk

Project information
Nationwide (USA)

COVID-19 testing isn’t just an epidemiological issue. It’s an urban design issue.

Blaine Merker
Project Director at Gehl
Societal Challenge

Tackling inequitable access to Covid testing across the US

In March 2020, at the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare systems found themselves struggling to keep up. As demand for Covid-19 testing became greater every day in the United States, the supply of these tests was not distributed equitably: Access to test sites was less available to Black, LatinX, and undocumented people, a fact that is particularly unjust given that these groups were also more likely to contract and die from the virus. People who did not own cars also struggled with getting tested at this time, as many test sites offered only drive-through testing or were not easily available by walking or transit.. New facilities and tactics were urgently required to serve the worst affected communities.

Client Challenge

Designing test sites that meet people where they are

Gehl’s client Curative was one of the early pioneers in COVID-19 rapid testing, developing a non-invasive oral swab test that could be administered independent of traditional medical facilities. Curative could see that not all Americans had the same level of access to testing, and that their product had a unique opportunity to reach communities that were underserved by existing health facilities and testing clinics. Curative approached Gehl to develop a modular, safe, and welcoming modular testing kiosk that could be deployed in neighborhoods and a siting strategy to prioritize access for people who needed it most.

The Collaboration

It’s not just about this object: it’s about where it goes, and where people go—and all that user research, and their user-centric design is why we appreciated and needed this partnership so much.

Justine Lippens
Former Head of Special Projects at Curative
The Impact

Using human-centered design to provide over one million tests to those who need it most

Working in step with Curative, Gehl worked quickly to design the Covid-19 Testing Kiosk, a self-contained unit small enough to be deployed in a parking space wherever communities needed it most. Gehl collaborated with fabrication and information design consultants to quickly translate ideas into tangible and full scale working prototypes, each version improving upon the previous. This was paired with on-site user data collection to ensure a user-informed, iterative design process. Gehl deconstructed Curative’s test to analyze how its administration could be made more user-friendly for a variety of users in a public setting. The analysis reduced the instructions from 22 steps to six and enabled most steps to be completed with one hand, with the support of Gehl’s new test interface. This streamlining better enabled children, those with mobility or cognitive impairments, and anyone nervous about taking the test to have an easier testing experience. 

Working in parallel, another Gehl team devised a deployment strategy and data-driven tool to help Curative and its public sector partners quickly identify the best sites to deploy testing kiosks where they were needed most. Using epidemiological data that conveyed which areas of cities had the highest transmission rates at a given time, Gehl created a multi-criteria decision GIS mapping model to prioritize deployment areas, fore-fronting epidemiology as a core input but also taking into account factors like existing test site gaps, population density, public transit accessibility, and potential to reach underserved groups. Gehl and Curative used this model in conversations with health departments in cities and states across the country to inform the creation of equitable deployment strategies.

The Covid-19 testing kiosks were deployed to more than 30 cities by the end of 2020 and increased the daily test-collection capacity across these cities by over one million tests per month. Pairing the kiosks with Gehl’s data-driven siting approach helped Curative have informed dialogues with clients to fill gaps in the existing testing system and provide a more evenly and equitably distributed testing network nationwide.

Video Project Kiosk Covid-19 Testing (7:18)

Onsite intercept surveys played a crucial role in the iterative design improvements of the testing kiosks and the programming of surrounding space.

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Partner, Head of Climate, Team Director US Enterprise & Corporations
Blaine Merker
Associate, Urban Planner
Adriana Akers
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