Can Graphic Design Save Your Life?
Whether employed to warn or impart information about symptoms, prevention, and infection, graphic design plays a significant role in the front-line response to infectious disease, making life-saving messages accessible to all. Examples of this can be seen in the bold graphics used to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS in the 1980s and in the NGO campaigns during the 2014 and 2015 Ebola outbreak. Further back, posters during WWII educated soldiers about the risks of malaria, and in the 1950s, Marie Neurath worked with health officials in Nigeria to put the famed Isotype information design system to use combating the spread of leprosy.
The State Of Play
Why then, media experts in the UK had been asking, was the government not harnessing our skills in a nationwide information campaign for the COVID-19 pandemic? “Public health is all about behaviour change and a public health strategy lives or dies by the effectiveness of its communication,” wrote Sonia Sodha in the Guardian. “So far, communications experts… have their heads in their hands over the way this has been handled.” In recent days this has started to change. At daily No 10 press briefings, lecterns carry the message “Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives” displayed in a bright yellow box bordered by the red angled lines associated with warning. Last night, Guardian media editor Jim Waterson reported that new NHS-branded adverts would be running across social media and websites carrying a “blunt” warning beneath an image of a woman in protective clothing: “If you go out, you can spread it. People will die.”
Ramping Things Up – Outlining The Future Trajectory
Last week saw the United Nations announce a first-ever open brief to creatives everywhere to help raise awareness and understanding of the Coronavirus and how to impede its spread. “We need to meet people where they are, with a stream of fresh, innovative content which drives home the personal behaviours and societal support needed today,” announced the call to action. The briefs come with WHO-provided knowledge and messages, with respondents asked to help translate “critical public health messages into different languages, different cultures, communities, and platforms, reaching everyone, everywhere.”
“A public health strategy lives or dies by the effectiveness of its communication.”
Can Graphic Design Save Your Life?
GraphicDesign& projects demonstrate how graphic design impacts what we notice, what we understand, and the actions we take. Over the past two years, they’ve originated exhibitions and produced books about health (Can Graphic Design Save Your Life?) and politics (Hope to Nope: Graphics and Politics 2008–18 and The Other Side). With the COVID-19 pandemic, these two worlds collide. Looking to the past, we see how effective the results can be when one facilitates and supports the other.
Can Graphic Design Save Your Life? To show how design has historically played a vital role in communicating public health messages, each poster or pamphlet makes a case for the positive impact communication design can have in matters of life and death. To provide context, have you been put at ease over, what you thought was a major thing, through a well timed graphic or infomercial? This helps to answer the question “Can graphic design save your life?”
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