Can Graphic Design Save Your Life?

Eye-Opening Exhibition at Wellcome Collection.

Written by Craig Berry
Creative Intern at VBAT

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Can Graphic Design Save Your Life? Exhibition Identity
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Image courtesy of Creative Review.

Persuasion

Right away the exhibition addresses one of the most controversial and somewhat topical matters of cigarette packaging design. The role of graphic design packaging is to sell the product, be it pizza, hand-soap or cigarettes, the primary focus is to attract the buyer and sell. Although with cigarettes the product obviously has no health benefits so how do you use packaging to sell. (Although does it need to? most people who smoke don’t buy certain brands for their branding or packaging, they will still buy and smoke regardless.)

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Build – Cigarette Packing (2011). Source: https://tinyurl.com/y8wbpr9v
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Adrian Frutiger – OCR-A (1968) & OCR-B (1968). Source: https://tinyurl.com/ycmqvlwv
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Prospective Cigarette Packaging (2017). Source: https://tinyurl.com/z2y47t6

Education

Education is an important tool to teach people about the medical profession and to help us understand our bodies, it helps us to make inform choices about our health and choice of treatment. Illustrations have long been highly effective for medical students and surgeons with guides dating back to the 16th century allowing them and us to visualise the inner workings of our bodies.

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Erwin Pole – n+m Medical Journals Issues 25, 26 & 28 (1968). Source: https://tinyurl.com/ybq3pbel
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Tinybop & Keli Anderson – The Human Body app (2013). Source: https://tinyurl.com/y795xlbq

Hospitalisation

Hospitals can be one of the most unpleasant and confusing places to be in and around but the role of graphic design here is not only practical but also emotional. It can be used to direct and inform patients as well as making them feel comfortable and safe. In the mid-20th century influential designers proposed that design could make the world a better place which is visible in contemporary hospital design with great graphic murals for children to create less intimidating spaces.

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NHS Hopsital Signage in Rail Alphabet (ca. 1965). Source: https://tinyurl.com/ycrv99f8
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Original British Rail Guidelines, Typography Elements Section (ca. 1965). Source: https://tinyurl.com/yctsv3qe
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Morag Myerscough & Lemn Sissay – Dazzle Rooms (2012). Source: https://tinyurl.com/yazvpw9z

Medication

Medicinal packaging is one of the more obvious examples of how graphic design can be used to aid. It must be difficult challenge for graphic designers to create designs which must contain complex and important information in a simple and effective way whilst looking attractive as well as differentiating itself from other products. In the 1950s and 60s Swiss pharmaceutical company J.R. Geigy A.G.worked with leading designers to create a visual vocabulary known as the “Geigy style”. This ‘anonymous’ language utilised white space, Akzidenz-Grotesk type, photographs, graphics, drawings, color contrasts and the use of a grid; all these elements helped to pioneer the ‘International Style’. Nowadays, medicinal packaging continues to be minimal and clean.

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Josef Müller-Brockmann – Geigy: Butazolidina (ca. 1958). Source: https://tinyurl.com/ydgefu8f
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Igildo Biesele – Geigy: Eurax (ca. 1957) / Andreas His – Geigy: Medomina (ca. 1955). Source: https://tinyurl.com/ydgefu8f
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Pearlfisher–Help Remedies Packaging (2011). Source: https://tinyurl.com/y93q6z5c

Contagion

Graphic design’s role here is less of an immediate one in that you don’t choose something based on how it looks but it is used as a method of communicating public health messages to prevent infectious and fatal diseases. This is nothing new however, for centuries people have been writing and drawing illustrations to inform the public on diseases and how they can be avoided and prevented. Throughout the 20th century and nowadays graphic designers have been able to create poignant and eye-catching posters and awareness campaigns on a massive scale through modern media. But also more grassroots campaigns through traditional methods of simple illustration and bold typography.

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Abram Games – I’m Looking For You (1941). Source: https://tinyurl.com/ybptopp4
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Stephen Doe – Ebola Mural (2014). Source:

Provocation

This section was the most difficult to comprehend as it was less about physical packaging products or physical posters, more about campaigns and organisations that exist to provoke action and support healthcare.

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Studio Dumbar – Alzheimer Nederland Identity (2012). Source: https://tinyurl.com/yc4y639c
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Wolff Olins – Macmillan Cancer Support (2006). Source: https://tinyurl.com/yd6u3m6v

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written by
Craig Berry, Creative Intern at VBAT
edited by Connie Fluhme, PR at VBAT

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