This is the title of a rather good little exhibition exploring the relationship between graphic design and health at the Wellcome Institute near Euston station. If you want something to do this weekend, or have an hour or so to spare waiting for your train between now and January, pop in to see it – it’s free and there is a great café and an Anthony Gormley sculpture to enjoy while you are there.
Yes, it can, it’s called information design and it’s an aspect of design that I am most passionate about
The exhibition starts with cigarettes and ends with cancer – well almost [… a bit of dramatic linking]. Graphic design made cigarettes both attractive with the first Lucky Strike packaging, and surreal with the Silk Cut full-on Saatchi advertising campaigns (see below), to being demonised on posters and postage stamps and the use of the ‘ugliest colour in the world’ – Pantone 448C to deter Australian smokers.
Silk Cut advertising 1980s
From cigarettes, the exhibition segues into hospitals, which can be large, maze-like, confusing and unsettling places – no one wants to be there, but by using graphic design for clear signposting – including a specially designed font (Rail Alphabet, designed in 1965 by Margaret Calvert), calming colours for zoning, and fun murals for children’s wards; patients and visitors can easily orientate themselves and so feel safe.
Graphic design has educated kids about the body, with great infographics by Peter Grundy (cited as a pioneer of infographics – see below), and all of us about AIDs (the monolith used in the ad campaign is in the exhibition – see below), Malaria, Ebola – the list goes on. It makes drug packaging easily identifiable both for pharmacists and patients. And MacMillan with its attractive, distinctive, ‘friendly’ designed branding and great information design, publishes fabulously easy to read literature for cancer patients and their families.
For your next project consider how your information is being communicated, is it well signposted – is the copy broken down with sensible levels of heading, are your paragraphs short. Do you have plenty of white space, are you using colour and images to both reinforce your brand and convey a message, or feeling?