Wellcome Collection show will focus on designers’ work during times of war and plague
Can graphic design save your life? The curators of an exhibition posing that question at London’s Wellcome Collection think so, and have martialed around 200 examples ranging from designs for the outside of ambulances, hospital interiors, hard-hitting posters, cigarette packaging and images of street art aimed at alerting and informing the public about an epidemic. Examples in the exhibition (7 September-14 January 2018) range from a Second World War anti-malaria poster designed by Abram Games to the artist Stephen Doe painting an educational mural about Ebola in Liberia in 2014.
Rebecca Wright, who has co-organised the show with graphic designer Lucienne Roberts, says that exhibits in a section about contagion are especially dramatic. An Italian “plague notice” from 1681 “uses bold typography to give authority in time of panic,” she says, adding that it is a beautiful object. Graphic design responding to the early spread of HIV/Aids is included, such the historic and controversial, “Don’t Die of Ignorance” campaign launched by the British government in 1986. “It was the first time every household in the UK received a health leaflet,” Wright says. The campaign, which was led by TV advertisements, one featuring a tombstone and another with an iceberg with the word “AIDS” below its surface, had a simple and apocalyptic message. “It has been called counter-productive but you get a sense of the urgency and complexity of the communication campaign,” she says. read more