The Alex – Dental health bus - Atom Studio
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The Alex

Dental health bus

Rolling out free dental care to kids and adults across Calgary.


After ten years operating a mobile dental health clinic for the Calgary community, The Alex, a non-profit organization, decided to retire their old vehicle and commission a completely new one. With a mission of serving elementary school children in high-needs neighbourhoods, the new Dental Health Bus needed to put kids at ease when they climbed aboard for a visit. At the same time, the look and feel of the bus design couldn’t be overly cute since the clinic also serves some adult patients.

On the road, the exterior of The Dental Bus serves as a rolling billboard, advertising the importance of its dental health mission to the Calgary community. The message of its new graphic design had to be easily read and quickly grasped from a distance on the street, while also conveying a positive first impression of fun. This same motif needed to carry through the bus’s interior, creating a welcoming sense of playfulness and safety, without alienating older patients.

Unlike a smooth 2D surface, as a specialized vehicle with lots of side-panel storage, the bus exterior presented some unique graphic challenges to work around. Inside the bus, the irregular contours of a space full of clinical equipment also presented some unique challenges.



Atom worked with The Alex’s oral health program leader to understand the Dental Health Bus’s core mission and create a design that conveyed a message of caring and community. The team initially produced three varied concepts to capture this theme, allowing the client to select the one they felt best represented the organization’s brand as the bus traveled Calgary’s streets and visited elementary schools.

A multicoloured road, similar to those in board games like Snakes and Ladders, wraps continuously around the entire bus – front, sides, and back. This color-shifting pathway is dotted with familiar local landmarks such as the Calgary Tower and Peace Bridge, which are interspersed with fun, upbeat illustrations with a dental-care theme. Up close, the illustrations reveal a subtle water-color texture, while from a distance they are crisp and bright enough to be easily seen.

When it came time to apply the printed decals onto the bus (a specialized skill) Atom researched, compared, and engaged a top-notch vendor for the job, which was particularly tricky due to the wraparound design elements involved. The application team from SignCraft Digital proved worthy of their reputation and flawlessly executed.

Today, the new Dental Health Bus rolls through the streets of Calgary, sending a feel-good vibe about dental healthcare. From the patients who receive care in the mobile clinic – especially the kids – the reviews for the bus are rave, according to its program director. They say it’s “supercool!”


First of all, Atom does beautiful work. I liked the process from the first brainstorming sessions and all throughout. In the end, the design they created was exactly what we were looking for – it truly embodies our brand. They really hit the nail on the head!

Shannon Hawryluk
Dental Health Program Lead, The Alex


The bus sides are dotted with familiar Calgary landmarks and upbeat illustrations of dental health, conveying a positive sense of fun and welcoming patients of all ages.


Atom Studio designed a mural on the bus ceiling to provide a calming view for patients as they leaned back in the dentist chair.

The Team

  • Art direction: James Jensen
  • Design: Kagari Kaneoka, Iyla So
  • Illustration: Louisa Jensen, Kagari Kaneoka
  • Printing & installation: SignCraft Digital

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