Wellcome Collection asks: can graphic design save your life?

Can Graphic Design Save Your Life? is the first major exhibition exploring the relationship between graphic design and health.

Image showing circular breasts and square breasts.

Credit: Cancerfonden

One exhibit is from a breast cancer campaign that was deemed offensive by Facebook and removed. In response, charity Cancerfonden changed the breasts to squares.

The exhibition at Wellcome Collection brings together over 200 objects from public and private collections worldwide to examine the often subliminal nature of graphic design in shaping our environment, health and sense of self.

It also explores the role of graphic design in the frontline response to epidemics. From a 17th-century plague warning to a handpainted mural depicting the symptoms of Ebola, graphics provide an immediate and important way to convey information as medical crises unfold.  

Other exhibition highlights

  • The Red Cross, Red Crescent and Red Crystal emblems, some of the world’s most recognisable, powerful and highly protected symbols. Rarely displayed together, they are used to depict neutrality and provide safety in conflict zones.
  • Items from the Wellcome archive showing the rigorously enforced trademarks and brand used by Burroughs Wellcome & Co, some of the earliest examples of corporate identity in the pharmaceutical industry.
  • The original tombstone prop and national leaflet used in the controversial 1980's government campaign, AIDS: Don’t Die of Ignorance. 
  • A bold poster and colouring book designed by Dutch illustrator Dick Bruna, best known for famous children’s character Miffy. Alongside examples of colourful children’s wards, the exhibits show how graphics can be used to transform the hospital experience.

Can Graphic Design Save Your Life? is curated by graphic designer Lucienne Roberts and design educator Rebecca Wright with Shamita Sharmacharja at Wellcome Collection.

The exhibition runs from 7 September 2017 to 14 January 2018.