There are two main causes of multi-resistant bacteria, over-use of antibiotics and not finishing the course once you're on it. Both behavioural problems.

The AntiBotics turn pills and regimens into stories. Through an absorbing, fun, informative digital tale, caretakers and kids learn when and how to take antibiotics.

AntiBotics - fighting multi-resistant bacteria

fighting multi-resistant bacteria using storytelling and Design

Each pill is unique and embodies an "Antibot." They all have names, physical characteristics and personality traits. The child swallows the first robot and can, together with the caretaker, read about the trials and tribulations as the robot explores the inner-body world of the child, learning valuable lessons about how antibiotics works.

The following day, the second robot joins the first until the end when the whole team solves the problem together. The child and caretaker learn the final lesson - finishing the course means that even the sneakiest bacteria is found.

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A scene from the Antibotics story featuring two of the robots already “on the ground” inside of the body. 

This concept is about using storytelling to change behaviour in medication adherence. Antibiotic resistance is largely a result of people’s behaviour. There are two main issues.

First, people take antibiotics for colds, the flu and other viral infections, although these drugs only work on bacterial conditions.

Second, people stop taking antibiotics when they feel better, but before finishing the course.

Improper use means more bacteria are exposed to antibiotics for the wrong reason, or in weak doses. The bacteria survives and pass on their resistance as they multiply.

Research shows that the human brain is better at retaining and recalling information and concepts when they are presented in a story format.

Information structured through a narrative makes for very powerful mnemonic devices because stories provide order and structure allowing new information to slot into existing schemas and cognitive maps we already have about the world. 

The story format provides familiarity and predictability, setting us up to take in new information and vicariously deal with emotional stress and conflict through the story’s protagonists.

Although our AntiBotics concept was aimed at antibiotics adherence, I see storytelling in medicine as having a much bigger potential and impact if it was adapted for, say, chronic illnesses like diabetes or cardiovascular diseases.

There, the challenge lies in communicating the importance of taking medicine, but also supporting the patient to keep taking the medicine — perhaps for the rest of their lives — even if they can’t see the direct and immediate benefits. In one study of coronary heart disease, only 50% of respondents were using prescribed medications two years after being discharged from hospital.

Storytelling is just one approach though. There’s a huge library of research into what we pay attention to, how we learn and remember, and the influence of emotion. Psychology’s rich insights about how our minds work are invaluable principles and cues for designers.


• Reduce misuse of antibiotics to prevent multi-resistance bacteria

Time and team

• Sporadically during the course of two years
• In the final push, my colleagues Miha Feuš made the gorgeous 3D mockups, Jack Haslehurst made the adorable AntiBotics characters and Ed White our wonderful editor whipped my writing into shape


I truly think that design has a lot to offer even with something so technical/medical as the problem of multi-resistant bacteria. The human element is often a cause of the problem but also the key to the solution, something researchers sometimes fail to recognise. I am still looking for someone who might be interested in pushing this further or funding this effort so that we can take this from a purely conceptual state and work towards realisation.