Making Patient Education More Memorable and Less Complex


Jenna Clementi

Digital Media & Content Specialist

Q&A with Luminations Storyteller, Laura Vitez O’Donnell

I sat down with Laura Vitez O’Donnell, Director of Content & Storytelling at D2 Creative and creator of Luminations, to discuss her and her team’s innovative approach to patient education.

What are Luminations?

Luminations male character signaling a stop gesture to germs

Luminations are short, sharable patient education videos that make abstract science easy to understand and less intimidating.

I initially conceptualized the Luminations approach while working on an e-learning program that required me to find a way to “bring to life” abstract concepts for a pharma sales force. We immediately saw how this approach could benefit patients, and so we started working with patient advocacy organizations to provide patients with important content on abstract or complex topics in a more approachable way.

Luminations male character signaling a stop gesture to germs

How Does Animation Help Cancer Patients Better Understand Their Journey?

At first glance, these videos may look elementary, but they convey some pretty complex science.

Let’s face it: cancer is a hard subject—both educationally and emotionally. When patients receive a cancer or other serious diagnosis, many experience overwhelming feelings that cloud their ability to absorb information and make sound decisions about their treatment.

First and foremost, we want patients to feel comfortable learning about their cancer. We like to say we “take out the scary” to make the subject very approachable with lighthearted character animation. We even add a bit of levity—not to make light of their cancer in any way, but to help diffuse negative emotions. If something is making you smile, you don’t turn away. And any humor is always at the expense of the cancer cell characters.

Here’s an example: We’re working with CancerCare to create a library of educational videos for patients and caregivers. You can see in these videos how we use the animation to quickly convey the concepts.

HER2 in Cancer

Breast Cancer Screening and Risk Factors

How are Luminations Different from Other Animated Patient Videos?

All learning happens through connection. Luminations honors this by using visual metaphors to help ground abstract and foreign concepts in relatable and memorable references. My favorite comments are from people who say they really understand something for the first time after seeing one of our Luminations.

We also differ because we use a hand-drawn approach. A lot of the animation you see online is created from drag-and-drop toolkits, which makes everyone’s work start to look the same, similar to what happened with the deluge of whiteboard animations. Our work is completely custom, so we can animate any situation imaginable.

Can Other Realms of Life Sciences Benefit from This Approach?

Absolutely. Luminations can be applied across disease states and across audiences. We sometimes adapt pieces for different patient audiences and for clinicians. For clinicians, we eliminate some of the more rudimentary content and then add scenes to go into greater depth on some of the science.

Luminations can be used to support clinical trial enrollment and to explain new scientific breakthroughs to investors, employees, and other interested parties. They’re also good for “breaking open” a difficult topic on a web page. I always tell our clients to give us the hardest and most abstract concepts. There’s no need to do a Lumination when something can be easily explained in text.

See More Examples

Visit to watch more of the Luminations content we’ve created for organizations like Stand Up To Cancer, the Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation, Pfizer, and more.

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2019 MM&M Awards: Show Your Bold, Gold award
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