13th September 2017
6 mins to read
A new book and exhibition examines the importance of graphic design in healthcare around the world.
Taking place on the 7th September 2017 – 14th January 2018 at Wellcome Collection in London, and comprising of over 200 objects, including adverts and pill packaging, the ‘Can Graphic Design Save Your Life?’ exhibition shows the fundamental, often subliminal, impact design has on the global health sector as a means of persuasion, to inform and to educate.
Waiting rooms, drug packaging and healthcare posters are not renowned for their divisive designs, but this new exhibition will show how design plays a fundamental part, whether we are conscious of it or not.
The Can Graphic Design Save Your Life exhibition will include works from the 16th century all the way up to the present day, including medical incidents such as plague and Ebola prevention posters, anti-smoking postage stamps from across the world, the Don’t Die of Ignorance HIV awareness advertising campaign from the 1980s, colourful wall murals created for children’s hospitals by designers such as Morag Myerscough, and the iconic green cross icon for pharmacies across Europe.
Medicine packaging features, alongside anatomical illustrations used to teach medical students, and the blue, concertina curtain that is synonymous with hospitals and medical check-ups.
“Obviously, graphic design cannot save lives on its own, but I do think it’s key. Designers often undersell what they do and the public end up thinking it is just something that makes other things more expensive, and is added on at the end – but it shouldn’t be. It should be integral to the whole process. The best design has nothing to do with making money, it’s about presenting information. I’d like to see more people who have the power – such as governments – harness it.”
‘Can Graphic Design Save Your Life?’ aims to highlight how graphic design shapes our environment, health, and identity. The expo demonstrates the subliminal impact that design has in constructing and communicating healthcare messages around the world. The exhibition is split into six parts:
1. Persuasion – shows how design has been used unethically to promote unhealthy health practices, such as smoking and alcohol.
2. Provocation – explores campaigns aimed at shocking the audience and raising awareness of certain conditions and charities.
3. Education – looks into graphics and illustrations in the teaching of medical students around the world.
4. Medication – this section focuses on the designs used in pill-packaging and iconic symbols and signs used in hospitals and pharmacies; including looking into the use of Margaret Calvert’s Rail Alphabet typeface used in the NHS since the mid-20th century.
5. Hospitalisation – focuses on interiors of healthcare centres and hospitals.
6. Contagion – discusses how design is used to warn and advise the public against contagious diseases.
Through our previous work and ongoing relationship and our sister company Jigsaw Medical, here at eJIGSAW find this topic and exhibition particularly fascinating. A design might not save your life in the same way as a paramedic or doctor will, but it enables you to be self-aware within healthcare in a way that educates and communicates with you subconsciously.
The iconic emblems of our healthcare signage, vehicles, and packaging all communicate so effectively through their designs, that we can be in a foreign country and still find the way to a hospital. An effective design saves lives by proxy, and that is the enduring power of graphic design in healthcare.
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