Ebola Posters Go Viral

Posted inThe Daily Heller
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Posters Against Ebola made its official launch on Monday, Dec. 15. The purpose of the project has two primary goals:

1. To raise money for Doctors Without Borders. 2. To create a forum for designers, artists and activists to express ideas, solutions and opinions about ebola and the often controversial human reaction to it.

Project creator Maribeth Kradel-Weitzel, associate professor of graphic design communication, Philadelphia University, began this initiative because she felt frustrated that the ebola epidemic was not receiving much attention or action from the design community in the U.S. I asked her to talk more about her reasons for pursuing the project:

Stephanie Knopp

Stephanie Knopp

Why is there such a gap between knowing and doing?It’s hard to say why that has been the case, and there are probably a variety of different reasons in place. Perhaps people have not felt knowledgeable enough about the topic to say anything. Maybe people have felt powerless to do anything meaningful to combat such a deadly disease. Or, if it is not directly touching a person’s life, maybe they simply do not care. The world is full of many problems.

After embarking on this project, I became aware of Otto Steininger’s wonderful project to benefit Last Mile Health. Aside from that, U.S. designers, to my knowledge, have been fairly quiet on the topic. I didn’t want to feel frustrated, and I didn’t want to remain quiet. I remembered the powerful work that The Hurricane Poster Project, created by Leif Steiner of Moxie Sozo, inspired. I felt that only a fraction of the work showcased there would have come to life without the framework of that effort. So, with the help of a talented developer named Nicole Koenitzer, I began this project.

John Burns- Posters Against Ebola-1

John Burns

What is the goal of doing posters for Ebola?There has been a lot of discussion about posters, and I have heard many designers exclaim vigorously that the poster is dead. Maybe these posters will be hung in a community center, or a dorm room or a doctor’s office. More than likely, they will be viewed by most people at a small size on a screen. Whether you are viewing this work as a physical object or in pixels, a poster is an idea. If done well, a poster can be a powerful visualization that an audience can quickly comprehend and react to. The immediacy of communication that a poster affords is what I’m after.

Mitzie Testani

Mitzie Testani

Will the posters have any kind of impact?The most simple and immediate goal is to raise money for Doctors Without Borders, but there are many goals beyond that.

The project seeks to enhance knowledge and encourage discussion about the ebola virus and the many controversies that surround it. Posters Against Ebola is at an early stage, and my hope is that it will become richer and more comprehensive as additional submissions roll in from the public. The project is not elitist, and aims to give a voice to anyone who wishes to speak about this topic, as long as that communication is informed and respectful.

There may also come a time when this project is useful as a historical record of public sentiment. What were our concerns? What was justified and what was the result of misinformation? What mistakes did we make as individuals and as a country that might be educational to a future generation?

Have your posters been able to transcend the commonplace cautionary imagery?The posters on the site are from designers across the country. There are presently 21 posters on the site. Within this small sample, topics include racism, the politics of medical research funding, U.S. responsibility, forced quarantine, stigmatization of healthcare workers, overcoming fear and more. The fight against ebola is complicated, and only a portion of the fight is biological.

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