I’ve always known art and design to be important. Ads, movies, books, paintings, fonts, posters; they all shape our world and our world view on a daily basis. Right now, creatives have a more influential voice than ever, with handwashing diagrams and infographics educating us on healthy practices while tributes to health care workers remind us of what’s important. Art and design bring us together and help us connect even when we’re told to stay apart.
Getting messages heard
Posters have always been an easy vehicle for making important information seen and heard. As Print Magazine’s Steven Heller said, “Posters are designed first and foremost to convey messages. To catch viewers’ eyes, to draw those eyes into information and often demand action”. 2020 isn’t the first time pandemic posters have been plastered all over and it won’t be the last.
Times Square in NYC has given up its trademark advertisements in favour of a carousel of PSA posters made by local artists. Some pay tribute to doctors and nurses (some of the only people currently walking through Times Square) while others simply remind everyone to do their part and stay home.
The pen tool is mightier than the sword
One of the simplest and most effective ways that design is helping right now is through easy-to-understand graphics. Diagrams remind us how to properly wash our hands, floor stickers safely direct us through grocery stores, and graphs show us how these actions are (hopefully) flattening the curve. In a time where truthful and accurate information takes the cake, design makes hard truths a little easier to swallow.
Art and design have the magic quality of being able to break down the barriers that divide us. With that, the UN has sent out a global call to creatives to make art that educates, regardless of age, location, and language. Anyone is invited to submit their designs and have them shared on the UN’s website. The project serves as a way to help others while providing a creative outlet to artists during a time when making art can feel a little self-serving. Personally, I’ve found it difficult to find purpose in things I make right now. How much does this really matter? The truth is, we can’t all be on the front lines and for many of us, it’s best we just keep going. Keep Calm and Design On (or something corny like that..). All art serves a purpose even if it’s hard to find right. That said, if you’re feeling up to it, try making something that could impact someone else.
Stay creative (and connected)
Social media is something I’ve turned to a lot during quarantine and I’ve got the Screen Time stats to prove it. Hidden among the still present selfies and baby photos, I’ve seen countless ways people are staying creative. Illustrators producing relatable comics. Designers using typography to create clever posters. Crafters making and selling custom masks. Musicians putting on concerts from their living rooms. You name it, it’s probably happened. My personal favourite art to come out of this has been the memes (yes, memes do count as art). Even if the steps are replaced by song lyrics, a handwashing diagram still shows you how to wash your hands effectively. Except now, you can laugh in the process.
All of this art is important, especially now. And it’s endless. Whatever problem you’re facing, there’s likely some form of art that can relate. Are you a parent who now needs to be a full-time teacher at the same time? Print out some free colouring pages. An artist looking for motivation? Try an art challenge. Bored out of your mind looking for something to do? Here’s a free, beautifully designed board game. These things might feel small, but they’re doing wonders for peoples’ sanity. And above all, they help to connect you with others in a time when we can’t physically be together.
I’d love to touch on every single campaign, advertisement, and drawing that has come out of this mess, but there’s literally just too much. Designers and artists are using their voices more than ever right now and the message is clear: Stay Home, Stay Safe, Stay Creative.
…and maybe call your mom.