National Institutes of Health


A distinct visual identity for the newly centralized institutional review board at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and a revamped, approachable site to better serve their diverse user base.

Jeremy Swan - dev

building 1 on the nih campus in bethesda, md

01 // background

The Office of Human Subjects Research Protections (OHSRP) carries out the day-to-day operations and regulatory oversight of human research activities, and promotes the protection of rights, safety and welfare of human subjects, and the NIH’s research mandate.

When we started working together, OHSRP was a relatively new office, and replaced an intricate system of Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) at NIH. Previously, each institute (or a small group of institutes) had their own IRB to review intramural research. Standards and processes were not consistent across all the institutes/IRBs. Now, all intramural research regarding human subjects goes through one central IRB (OHSRP), housed under the Office of the Director for the Intramural Research Program.

the nih clinical center in bethesda, md

act up demonstration, “storm the nih,” 1990
image courtesy of the office of nih history and stetten museum

02 // discovery

OHSRP occupies a unique space in the world of human subjects research protection. I spent a lot of time looking at the websites of other institutional research programs (i.e. University of Rochester, and University of Kentucky) and of commercial IRBs like Advarra and AspireIRB. I also took a look at comparable websites from the federal government. The IRB websites were all extremely helpful when it came to understanding the typical functioning structure of an IRB, as well as common organizational patterns.

Reviewing a range of federal sites shed a light on exactly what people expect from their government's digital presence. I also stumbled upon the U.S. Web Design System (USWDS), whose Design Principles support and reflect the guidance codified in the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act.

OHSRP has four main user groups: the NIH Intramural research community, OHSRP staff, IRB members, and clinical trial participants. I was able to do in person interviews with OSHRP staff and members of the NIH Intramural research community, and sent a survey to IRB members. Some of the IRB members are former clinical trial participants, or are family members of current patients. Since I was unable to interview/survey current patients due to privacy restrictions, these specific IRB members also received a survey with questions about the participant experience.

Reviewing the survey results, I learned that most people did not know where to find information they were looking for, and many had multiple pages bookmarked so they would not have to navigate through the site itself. Most used OSHRP's website to find and download forms they need to get protocols approved, and the most common documents needed are the protocol templates and consent forms. Only two people said they ever used OHSRP's website on a mobile device. Everyone else strictly uses a desktop/laptop when accessing the site.

Ernst Leitz microscope, 1914
image courtesy of the office of nih history and stetten museum

03 // Synthesis

Below are a few key screens from the wireframe process, in both hand-drawn and digital versions.

rough sketch of home page, section landing page, and presentation archive

NIH has strict guidelines regarding logos for individual institutes/offices. The NIH Identity Guidelines do not cover the exact positioning of OHSRP, as an office within the Office of the Director in the Intramural Research Program (IRP). After consulting with Medical Arts (who upkeep the identity guidelines) and OHSRP leadership, we decided it would be most appropriate to follow the guidelines for an office within the IRP. That way, it is clear that OHSRP policies and guidelines only apply to researchers within IRP, an not those in the Extramural program whose research is funded at least in part by grants from NIH.

OHSRP logo