Can graphic design change your life

Saturday, September 30th, 2017

Explore the relationship between graphic design and health in our current exhibition. Comprising over 200 objects including hard-hitting posters, illuminated pharmacy signs and digital teaching aids, ‘Can Graphic Design Save Your Life?’ will consider the role of graphic design in constructing and communicating healthcare messages around the world, and will show how graphic design has been used to persuade, to inform and to empower. This exhibition will highlight the widespread and often subliminal nature of graphic design in shaping our environment, our health and our sense of self. Drawn from public and private collections around the world, it will feature work from influential figures in graphic design from the 20th century, as well as from studios and individual designers working today. ‘Can Graphic Design Save Your Life?’ is curated by graphic designer Lucienne Roberts and design educator Rebecca Wright, founders of publishing house GraphicDesign&, with Shamita Sharmacharja at Wellcome Collection.

I took photographs in an exhibition that has a no photography rule, please don’t have me museum overlords! I made sure to not get any artworks in shot, so no copyright will be infringed. (That makes it totally fine, right?!) But, Can Graphic Design Change Your Life, the newest temporary exhibition from the Wellcome Collection was far too beautiful to not get a quick instagram. The colour palette was to die for, gorgeous pastels to envy a Wes Anderson film demand to be photographed.

Can Graphic Design Change Your Life explores the interweaving connection between graphic design and medicine and health, questioning if our lives would be the same without graphic design.

It would be quite easy to miss the beauty of health products. After all, we tend to only use them when we need to, i.e when we’re ill or injured – perhaps not the time when we are most absorbed in the material culture around us. However, what Can Graphic Design Change Your Life highlights is the beauty in the everyday.

I presumed, entirely wrongly, that the exhibition would explore the ways that graphic design can change your life for the better – when walking in you are confronted with the opposite, showing the glamorous and powerful cigarette adverts from the pre-illegalised era. Juxtaposed, fascinatingly, next to the equally powerful design-fuelled advertisements that highlight the health implications and encourage quitting. As a precursor to the centre of the exhibition, the cigarette section indicates the complexity of where the rest is going to take you – quite different to the simplistic ‘graphic design helps pharmaceutical companies save lives’ that I was naively expecting.

Now, as a long-term Wellcome Collection fan girl (as may be apparent from all the other temporary exhibition reviews featured on this blog) it is no surprise that I loved this exhibition, I’m yet to visit one I didn’t. However, I don’t know much about graphic design, and I certainly don’t know much/anything about the world of medicine and pharmaceuticals. So, from an outsider, what struck me most was the importance graphic design holds in the field of health to transcend language barriers.

Can Graphic Design Change Your Life opens up a dialogue about the importance of visuals in healthcare and how design is intrinsic to the success of medicine, and nestled in the Wellcome Collection’s often either social or scientific exploration of medicine, it was a fascinating addition.

 


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