Can Graphic Design Save Your Life? explores “widespread and subliminal” impact of design on health

Date
5 September 2017
Reading Time
2 minute read

Wellcome Collection has opened a major new exhibition exploring the relationship between graphic design and health. The show was the idea of GraphicDesign& and is curated by founders graphic designer Lucienne Roberts and educator Rebecca Wright, programme director of the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins, who together founded publisher Graphic Design&. It features 200 objects spanning packaging, posters, signage, brand identities, flags, and more, highlighting “the widespread and often subliminal nature of graphic design in shaping our environment, our health and our sense of self”. The book that accompanies the show is published by GraphicDesign& and unusually includes contributor answers to the question posed by the title. Lucienne’s studio, LucienneRoberts+ worked on the 2F design of the exhibition with 3D by Universal Design Studio

One aspect the show aims to consider is the “persuasive” strategies used in manipulating public perception around smoking. 80s ad campaigns by Silk Cut are shown alongside objects showing the transition to plain packaging, and anti-smoking imagery from around the world.

Another realm of imagery that’s explored is the range of creative approaches to educating people about the human body, with the exhibition including 16th Century anatomical pop-up books, the Tiny Bop learning app, and Planned Parenthood comic books advocating safe sex.

Other parts of the show explore the use of graphic design in hospitals, looking at fonts, posters, and signage, and colourful schemes for children’s wards that show how design can improve patient wellbeing. At the opening of the show are flags showing the Red Cross, Red Crescent and Red Crystal emblems, rarely exhibited together, stated as “some of the world’s most recognisable, powerful and highly protected symbols”.

The comprehensive showcase also tackles the use of graphics in the front-line response to epidemics, from Italian Renaissance plague notices to a hand-painted mural depicting Ebola symptoms in 2014; Abram Games’ anti-malaria poster and the 1980s campaign AIDS: Don’t Die of Ignorance.

A long list of designers featured include Margaret Calvert, Dick Bruna, Ken Garland, Alan Kitching, Pentagram, Studio Dumbar and PearsonLloyd.

Can Graphic Design Save Your Life? opens 7 September 2017 – 14 January 2018 at Wellcome Collection, London.

Above

GraphicDesign&: Can Graphic Design Save Your Life? publication

Above

GraphicDesign&: Can Graphic Design Save Your Life? publication

Above

GraphicDesign&: Can Graphic Design Save Your Life? publication

Above

Dick Bruna: poster for Het Nederlandse Rode Kruis (1986); copyright Mercis

Above

Biman Mullick / Cleanair: Smoking is Slow Motion Suicide

Above

Stephen Doe: Ebola mural in Liberia, 2014
Photo: Dominique Faget, AFP, Getty Images

Above

The Human Body app 2013; artwork by Kelli Anderson for Tinybop

Above

Bayer Aspirin ‘Genuine’ Fast Pain Relief Tin. The Bayer Company, Glenbrook Laboratories, Div. of Sterling Drug Inc., New York, USA

Above

Pearlfisher: Help Remedies

Above

Bayer: Aspirin Faltschachtel, 1939

Above

Science Museum London, Wellcome Images: Bottle of Digoxin tablets

Above

Bayer Cross, around 1938

Above

Advertising pamphlet for Preludin, Geigy, c. 1962
Courtesy: Display, Graphic Design Collection (thisisdisplay.org)

Above

Advertising pamphlet for Medomina, Geigy, c. 1960
Courtesy: Display, Graphic Design Collection (thisisdisplay.org)

Above

Advertisement for Delta-Butazolidin Geigy, c. 1964
Courtesy: Display, Graphic Design Collection (thisisdisplay.org)

Above

Eight different designs of dual language TEVA packaging (Hebrew-English), 1986, Dan Reisinger

Above

Cancerfonden, breast cancer awareness campaign, 2016, Sweden

Above

Anti Malaria Poster by Abram Games, 1941 © Estate of Abram Games

Above

Advertisement for The Silence = Death Project, 1987

Share Article

About the Author

Jenny Brewer

Jenny joined the editorial team as It’s Nice That’s first news editor in April 2016. Having studied 3D Design, she has spent the last ten years working in design journalism. Contact her with news stories relating to the creative industries on news@itsnicethat.com.

It's Nice That Newsletters

Fancy a bit of It's Nice That in your inbox? Sign up to our newsletters and we'll keep you in the loop with everything good going on in the creative world.