March 21, 2018

Can graphic design save your life?

Can Graphic Design Save Your Life?

This is the arresting title of an exhibition I saw at the Wellcome Collection. It was a more interesting experience than I had expected, but I am not convinced I would answer ‘yes’ to the exhibition’s opening question.

Do you remember those iconic Silk Cut print adverts from the 1980s?

Silk cut

Well, that’s what the exhibition started with – adverts to be admired for the way in which creativity was used to circumvent restrictions on advertising. This, in effect, is graphic design that brings you closer to the end of your life.

However, after this, the exhibits were centred on communications from the world of healthcare, and not just for patients, but also for would-be medics. The latter was covered by excerpts from text books and teaching manuals which were closer to works of art than academic material, as the below images suggest.

design head

design body

What struck me most about the exhibits of medicines and other health products is the way in which they reflect the best in lowest common denominator communication approaches. The pill boxes below make it very clear what consumer need they are responding to. I have seen a similar approach used by smoothies and herbal infusions, which pitch specific products as the solution for a particular moment, whether it is the search for an invigorating uplift or a soothing experience.

design pill boxes

One area getting increasing interest as a way to increase public health is behavioural economics – for example making ‘good’ products easier to get hold of, whether this is about making them more visible or accessible on a shelf, or making the default option the ‘good’ one. Behavioural economics wasn’t mentioned in the exhibition but graphic design could be used in partnership with behavioural design to up the ‘oomph’ factor of a piece of communication or instruction.

And finally, it’s worth noting that it was a refreshing experience to think about paper and packaging which didn’t come alive. If the exhibition was repeated in 10 years’ time, it would be about how augmented and virtual reality can save your life!

October 18, 2011

Learning to write in a digital age

Filed under: Consumer Trends,Technology — by xrematon @ 10:33 am
Tags: ,

As I struggle to encourage my son to learn to write, I am very tempted to give up with the excuse that today’s society privileges digital as oppose to analogue capture, and that I would be better off spending my time teaching him to type. It is undeniable that laptops and tablets are increasingly found in the classroom, not only at secondary schools, but also when teaching younger children like my son.

However, as I ponder this more, I am struck by the fact that often the core skills and intent remain similar, even though the methods may have changed. We still write, but use electronic touch-sensitive touchscreens, which now seem so commonplace. We can even digitise our inconsequential doodles using a special pen, the Inkling, which works on any old paper.

The Inkling reminds me of another object I have recently seen which allows us to continue our ‘traditional’ behaviours. A design company have made a two piece plastic cover to fit over an iPhone with a faux lens that forces you to angle the phone to landscape mode when taking a picture. The case even comes with a nice strap so that you can have that authentic camera-fanatic look with your treasured object hanging around your neck.

Where has this left me in my struggle with writing letters? Going back to the basics I think. I must confess I have invested in painting my own blackboard onto the kitchen wall so we can try the ‘talk and chalk’ approach. Wish me luck!

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