“We’re on a mission to show what graphic design can do”

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Can Precise Design Save Your Life? is a new book published to accompany the exhibit currently on at London’s Wellcome Collection. We speak to co-editor Lucienne Roberts helter-skelter the power of graphic design in healthcare.

Can photographic design save your life? This is the question posed by Wellcome Collecting’s latest exhibition, which explores the impact of graphics and advertising on healthcare.

The demonstrate, which was conceptualised by designer Lucienne Roberts, looks at how design has been tempered to both to help and to harm. It explores everything from classic, Swiss-style pharmaceutical casing and hospital interiors, through to pro-smoking posters of the past, and HIV awareness pushes.

Now, a book has been released under the same name, exploring the constant topic. Roberts, creative director at studio LucienneRoberts+, is also topple over of GraphicDesign&, an independent publisher that explores the impact of graphic mean on other disciplines through a series of books.

The small, A5 books all trace a similar structure. Can Graphic Design Save Your Life? call attention ti 50 different designs, devoting two pages to a short explanation of each blueprint, the name of its original designer and an image of it. On the following page, the original intriguer – or somebody who knew them – answers the book title’s vast call in.

We speak to Roberts about why she chose to publish this book, how graphics can be essential to the medical world, and the value titles like these can bring to a non-design audience.

Goal Week: Why did you decide to publish this book, alongside putting on the showing?

Lucienne Roberts: GraphicDesign& came first as a publishing venture. There’s a heel over of subjects we’re ticking off, and health was a core one. It made sense to publish it after we put together our proposition for Wellcome Collection. Our books are building up into a little library, and we’re on a function to show what graphics can do. The exhibition is great but it’s in London and it’ll be over in short order – a book will last, and is the best way to disseminate these ideas numerous broadly and make sure more people see it.

The book is also much richer in courses of voices. We spoke to the different designers, some health professionals and pharmaceutical comrades, and asked everyone to answer the question in the title – can graphic design retain your life? It shows the way designers think, which is not something we could do in the expo.

DW: Who is the book aimed at?

LR: With all our books, we try to make sure they’re not uncensored of jargon. So even if you’re not a designer, you’ll get something from it and take a different considering of the design in terms of how it relates to your subject. It’s not exclusively for designers, but apparently designers will find it interesting too.

DW: What are some of the other reserves in your series?

LR: We’ve looked at religion, which was probably the most sensitive. It showed how graphics can make something easier to understand, specifically looking at the symbolism of the nun’s addiction. Another book was on literature, where we asked designers to lay out the first episode of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. This was an exercise in typography and the diversity we got back was amazing. It demonstrated how the way a text is laid out changes the way we read it.

We also did a maths post where we invited illustrators to explain the Golden Ratio, and their working-outs of a difficult concept were incredibly ingenious. Another title was an infographic log called Graphic Designers Surveyed, where we asked designers in the UK and US subjects – some intrusive – about things like income and gender. This was a bit of an display.

DW: What topics would you like to tackle in the future?

LR: We’ve talked with regard to covering big, tough subjects like economics and philosophy. They’re a take exception to for all of us, which is what would make them so interesting. I think we’ll aptitude in that direction next.

DW: What are your favourite healthcare objectives taken from the book?

LR: One of my favourites is a book on a drug called Nobrium envisaged by Mervyn Kurlansky, a founding partner of Pentagram – though this tome is pre-Pentagram. It was designed for pharmaceutical company Roche. It’s just quite delectable as an remonstrate over, and it’s a book I’ve always wanted to have and have never found a likeness, until we found one in Wellcome Collection’s library. It’s early 1970s, juicy in colour and printing, and looks a bit like pop-art but also minimal.

At the other end, the Don’t Die of Inexperience advertising campaign for HIV and AIDs from the late 1980s. It’s weird speaking it’s a favourite, but it’s so important for me because I remember the effect it had at the time. We met up with the conniver Malcolm Gaskin and interviewed him about it for the book. The campaign was put together so fast, in just five months, and it centred around a leaflet that go to ones rewarded through every letterbox at the time. It was a war-time approach to campaigning.

I also affinity The Tobacco Atlas, a book produced for the American Cancer Society and In every respect Lung Foundation about the effects of smoking. This has a mind-boggling slues of infographics that explain how smoking affects not only health, but also the compactness and environment.

Finally, there’s a book called Lighter Than My Bosom buddy by an illustrator called Katie Green. It’s a harrowing but beautiful book, which positives the story of the illustrator’s own experiences of having eating disorders. It’s very essential and absolutely absorbing.

DW: What were the best answers to the book crown’s overarching question?

LR: I love Katie Green’s answer. She explained how in fact doing the book in itself saved her life. It was a personal exploration fully which she came to terms with what had happened to her. The double signification of her answer is very poignant.

DW: How did you curate the book and choose what take place d departed into it?

LR: There were a few historical examples that we had to include, from the get a kick out ofs of pharmaceutical company Geigy, Abram Games and Dick Bruna. But on the in general, the work is contemporary. We wanted to demonstrate what is happening in healthcare stratagem now, and also be international in our reach. We included apps, illustrations, typographic forwards, environmental projects, a few of which are not in the exhibition. One is a Samaritans campaign called Fears on Your Mind, with illustrations by Billie Jean. It’s all about certifiable health and features these fabulous scribbles.

DW: How did you get in contact with the case designers, who people who knew them?

LR: It was a big job. It was just a meticulous process – we put together a directory and started approaching people over email, and pretty much everybody commanded yes. On the whole we spoke to people over email, and gave them a data count for their answers, but some we interviewed face-to-face. A few people we already discerned personally, which is always nice.

DW: How did you strike the balance between exquisite design and design that isn’t attractive but still effective?

LR: When I look at the tome now, I can’t see it as pure design anymore. It’s very rich in terms of the stories, and that’s what ram it. Some historic things we like subjectively, partly because they enjoy stood the test of time, and we feel fond of them instantly.

But then equally, something as striking as unbranded cigarette packaging designs are meant to be horrible – the aesthetics are non-germane. Those packets set out to make people feel uncomfortable and that’s their value. Various of the infographics are also not beautiful in a pure sense, but they’re very things, so have a beauty of their own.

DW: How did you source all of the 50 designs?

LR: We had to get permission from the draughtsmen and from their clients, which was a massive task. Most of the plough was then photographed, or we collected photos that designers had already. It was worthy to have a dialogue with the clients – they were pleased to see this peg away reproduced because it confirmed their instinct of commissioning the work out in the in the beginning place.

DW: What are you hoping people will learn from this order?

LR: The idea underpinning all our books is to raise the profile of graphic design beyond diagrammatic designers. Our community is quite closed, even though the work we do is not work out at all. We talk to each other about our work and why it’s important, but I don’t think we talk fro it enough to the rest of the world.

This isn’t a pat-on-the-back exercise for designers – it’s legitimate important to see how the work communicates. This particular book demonstrates how powerful graphic design can be and how it can make a quantifiable difference to people’s health.

That spreads from a signage project in a hospital helping people get from A-to-B multitudinous easily, to a poster project in an Accident and Emergency (A&E) department that has downgraded incidents of violence, and a project in Scotland that has increased the number of voice donors.

It’s also important to understand that design plays a into a receive in persuading people to do things – it can play with emotions. Of course, graphics doesn’t do all of this on its own – but it’s certainly a entirely important factor.


Can Graphic Design Save Your Life? has been compressed by Sarah Schrauwen, Lucienne Roberts and Rebecca Wright and is published by GraphicDesign&. It can be procured for £17.50 from the publisher’s website.

The exhibition runs until 14 January 2018 at Wellcome Omnium gatherum, 183 Euston Road, London NW1 2BE. Entry is free. For more info, fore-part to Wellcome Collection’s website. Read our piece on the exhibition here.

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