The Wellcome Collection is a London museum based which is all about medicine and art… it sounds interesting, doesn’t it? It was founded in 2007 to display and exhibit ‘ideas about the connections between medicine, life and art‘ and describes itself as ‘the free destination for the incurably curious’. It is, as you might guess, part of the Wellcome Trust, a biomedical research charity with the name of Sir Henry Wellcome who endowed it to research and improve the health of both people and animals.
I had heard of the Wellcome Trust, but knew nothing about its Collection until I read a review of an exhibition it is holding, Can Graphic Design Save Your Life?. I guess I could make a definition of graphic design very roughly, but I checked the actual meaning of it, according to Wikipedia is:
graphic design is the process of visual communication and problem-solving using one or more of typography, photography and illustration.
This exhibition looks at the connection between medicine and graphic design… and when I read about it I wondered what that could be, but once I read a review of Can Graphic Design Save Your Life? I not only understood, but thought what a fascinating exhibition it would be!
Good graphic design ensures that we can easily read and understand signs and notices, that public visual communication is clear and immediate and that we can respond to the written instruction or information given… for example on motorways. The typeface used was first seen in hospitals in 1965, and now it is used everywhere! Having the correct design on all sorts of medical things such as medication packaging, information and warning posters and health campaign material. All these things have to be unambiguous and open so that there are no mistakes or misunderstandings.
One thing the review mentioned, which I never even thought about, and I bet not many other people outside of graphic design would even notice is the reflective stripes on the side of emergency vehicles; we see these every day, we recognise the vehicles immediately, we know almost instinctively what they are, we understand the message, we respond – and yet we don’t actually see them. Yes, ambulances have green and yellow stripes of a certain shape, angle and size, but we don’t ‘see’ them!
On the Wellcome Collection information page it says the exhibition includes:
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 hand painted mural depicting the symptoms of Ebola, graphics provide an immediate and important way to convey information as medical crises unfold.
There are also features on:
- the Red Cross, Red Crescent and Red Crystal emblems,
- trademarked and branded items from Burroughs Wellcome & Co, early examples of pharmaceutical industry corporate identity
- the tombstone prop and leaflet used in the 1980’s AIDS campaign, Don’t Die of Ignorance.
- poster and children’s colouring book designed by Dick Brun
… and here is further information: