London's Wellcome Collection is an arts hub organised and owned by the charitable wing of Wellcome & Co, a large pharmaceutical company. Their American born but British based owner was an avid collector of medical art. Now, the curators of the Wellcome Collection are drawing on this collection among other pieces to show how graphic design has played an instrumental role in saving lives, by educating through pictures.
Usually the field of government informationals, the art works include several pieces from history, as well as more modern examples. With the use of shocking or striking imagery with a clear and simple message, its been the job of such designs to get a point across without any fuss. The most appropriate way of delivering vital information to many people in a short time, perhaps.
The exhibition shows off some work from the 1930s, with war-time designs about how to conduct oneself and what to do. There is also a poster designed in Brazil which educates about Zika with the use of the human scent. The scented poster attracts mosquitoes, but the clever thing is that it also kills them. This gives people a laugh as well as encourages better personal hygiene as a worthwhile preventative measure.
Co-organiser Rebecca Write has described an Italian plague poster from 1681 which “uses bold typography to give authority in times of panic” (The Art Newspaper). This show is due to begin on the 7th of September and run until the 14th of January, and showcases over 200 examples of graphic design that have been instrumental in saving lives. Look around next time you're out and see if you can find some examples yourself. Can you think of any examples now? Comment with them!
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