Upcoming Wellcome Collection exhibition asks: Can Graphic Design Save Your Life?

7 April 2017

Tiger, Hospital Sant Joan de Déu, Barcelona © Rubio Arauna Studio, Rai Pinto Studio. Picture by Victòria Gil

An exhibition exploring the connection between graphic design and healthcare is to open at the Wellcome Collection in September. The exhibition will “consider the role of graphic design in constructing and communicating healthcare messages around the world,” says the gallery. Showing “how graphic design has been used to persuade, to inform and to empower”.

Graphic design as an art form has shaped and informed society since its inception. By comprising 200 objects of “hard-hitting posters, flashing pharmacy signs and digital teaching aids,” the exhibition highlights “the widespread and often subliminal nature of graphic design in shaping our environment, our health and our sense of self”.

Designer Lucienne Roberts and design educator Rebecca Wright, founders of GraphicDesign&, and Wellcome Collection’s Shamita Sharmacharja co-curated the show. Exhibiting works from global public and private collections, the show spans influential graphic design of the 20th Century, alongside studios and individuals exploring graphic design and healthcare today. By acknowledging advertising’s role within this realm, “Can Graphic Design Save Your Life? considers the persuasive strategies employed in shaping public perceptions around smoking,” explains Wellcome Collection. “Featuring luxuriant advertising campaigns from the 1980s alongside objects showing the impact of plain packaging and anti-smoking imagery found in formats as small as postage stamps.”

Looking back to Ken Garland’s 1964 manifesto First Things First, “which called for fellow graphic designers to employ their skills in aid of public benefit,” the final part of the exhibition includes powerful campaigns made to advise and raise awareness of breast cancer, dementia, and raising organ donation rates.

The exhibition will feature the work of Fritz Kahn, Marie Neurath and Dick Bruna alongside contemporary work from Pentagram, Studio Myerscough, A2/SW/HK and individuals such as Astrid Stavro and Nick Bell. Can Graphic Design Save Your Life? will open 7 September 2017 – 14 January 2018.

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About the Author

Lucy Bourton

Lucy (she/her) joined It’s Nice That as a staff writer in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In January 2019 she was made deputy editor and in November 2021, became a senior editor predominantly working on It’s Nice That's partnerships. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about creative projects for the site or potential partnerships.


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