Can Graphic Design Save Your Life? Find Out In This Free Exhibition

Can graphic design save your life, Wellcome Collection ★★★★☆

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 59 months ago

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Can Graphic Design Save Your Life? Find Out In This Free Exhibition Can graphic design save your life, Wellcome Collection 4
Healthcare symbols the world over.

Do you ever stop to wonder how much effort goes into designing those posters in your local doctor's surgery? Ever noticed that the red cross is an inversion of the Swiss flag, because that suggests neutrality? Us neither.

A lot goes into designing the things that keep us informed about our health, but when a design's doing its job so effectively, we rarely appreciate it. This free exhibition at Wellcome Collection brings a whole host of hidden stories to light in a fascinating show.

Changing the environment with bright colours makes hospitals more welcoming to children.

One familiar story is packs of cigarettes. We see how early advertisements were designed to make smoking seductive — modern day packs, however, sport horrific pictures of the health implications. The Wellcome also has packets from Australia, where the branding has been removed altogether.

Bucking this trend was a brand from the 90s called Death that played on these harmful aspects by using a skull and crossbones — no surprise they didn't last.

Hospital design is a major aspect of the show. Triage areas have signs that depict the steps you will go through when being assessed; keeping patients informed through posters keeps them relaxed and therefore less likely to become confrontational — some trials using more informative signage have massively reduced violent outbreaks in hospitals.   

The exhibition design has some nice touches including this green cross.

The bright designs of Morag Myerscough make children's wards look much more friendlier, while a tombstone with 'AIDS' on it was used to raise awareness about the disease.

Pop up books with colourful organs make it easier for students to learn the vital parts of the human body — which helps because once you get inside it all looks very similar.

Despite the many stories, the exhibition never feels cluttered, and there's no risk of information overload.

The set up is also very impressive — the clinical colour themes and curtains matches those of hospitals, and the use of a display in the shape of a green cross is a lovely touch. It's little details like this that elevate the show to one of the most creatively curated and informative exhibitions the Wellcome Collection has produced over the last few years.

Can Graphic Design Save Your Life? is at Wellcome Collection until 14 January. Entrance is free.

Last Updated 17 September 2017