Pentagram Takes on COVID

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How do you create a series of official ads that don’t look “official,” that speak to everyone within the most ethnically and linguistically diverse urban center of the world, that can be easily and inexpensively reproduced, and that remain positive in inarguably dark times?

Ask Pentagram.

Or, rather, check out the work they’ve produced for Neighborhoods Now, an initiative from the Urban Design Forum and the Van Alen Institute.

The brief: Help struggling small businesses in New York City with their reopening strategies via a graphic campaign. Pentagram was one of three design firms, alongside Partners & Partners and Two Twelve, brought on for the pro bono initiative. Neighborhoods Now teamed Pentagram up with the 82nd Street Partnership in Jackson Heights, Queens, a predominately immigrant neighborhood.

As Pentagram writes, “The challenge for the designers was to develop something that would work across language and culture, and that was friendly, engaging and helpful, without looking too ‘official.’ (In the current political climate, many immigrants are understandably wary of government initiatives.)”

Partner Luke Hayman and team’s solution: a set of approachable, playful posters and signs illustrated by Jenny Ji, lacking in race and gender, and available in Arabic, Bengali, English and Spanish—alongside customizable empty speech bubbles. Hands serve as directional signage, and the typography is set in Google’s free Noto Sans.

The posters are set to be distributed at information centers and community events. Check them out—and download them—here.