• Zachary Petit

Designers Take on COVID-19 in NYC: A Poster House + PRINT Project

As we’ve written before, for designers or anyone working within the creative industry, it’s easy to feel helpless in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But we’re not. And in fact, we’re anything but.

At PRINT, we’ve been working behind the scenes with our friends at Poster House to apply design to the pandemic where it has hit the hardest: New York. As of April 10, the city has more COVID-19 cases than any country worldwide.

“Posters are tools of mass public communication, so in a time like this when there is an urgent need for correct information and community messaging, posters are the perfect tool,” says Poster House museum director Julia Knight.

Knight saw the prospect for an initiative after reading Steven Heller’s Daily Heller post about his childhood polio quarantine—and the MoMA posters that could be found within his school and at various touchpoints throughout the country.

“His piece on posters during the polio epidemic squared a problem I was reading about: government messaging released at the onset was too obtuse and hard to understand. Designers could solve that problem as long as we could get their work seen publicly. Steve’s piece was a reminder that posters have always played a role in public health emergencies, from STIs in wartime to the Spanish Flu epidemic to HIV activism and awareness.”

PRINT and Poster House reached out to a medley of designers, and starting today, their #CombatCovid work can be found in and around New York City.

First up is a double-sided billboard at the base of the Lincoln Tunnel, which serves 1.43 million weekly impressions. It will feature the following billboards by Gemma O’Brien, Debbie Millman, Edel Rodriguez and Klaas Verplancke (click to expand).

Gemma O’Brien

Debbie Millman

Edel Rodriguez

Klaas Verplancke

Thanks to Times Square Arts, billboards in New York’s Manhattan hub will feature pieces by Maira Kalman, Edel Rodriguez, Zipeng Zhu and Paula Scher.

Ian Douglas/Times Square Arts

LinkNYC—a network of approximately 1,800 kiosks throughout New York City that feature high-definition video screens, free Wi-Fi and phone calls, alongside free mobile charging—will be featuring COVID-19 posters by a variety of designers.

The first wave kicks off this week and next with work by designers including Emily Oberman, Matt Dorfman, Ola Baldych and Klaas Verplancke.

Emily Oberman

Emily Oberman

Matt Dorfman

Ola Baldych

Klaas Verplancke

As Steven Heller notes, there is an irony to the campaign, as posters are predominantly meant to be viewed out-of-doors. But these serve a dual audience: Those inside and those outside.

“The poster concepts fall into two categories: the ‘stand strong against the enemy’ variety and the ‘cautionary’ variety,” Heller says. “The former is aspirational while the latter is informational. Both have relevance in this war. These posters exist to show the most unique solidarity the world has known, perhaps ever.”

More posters are currently in the works, and we’ll be sharing them here and throughout New York City soon.

Stay tuned to PRINT for the latest, and please—take care of yourself. #CombatCovid. Together, we will beat this—and, with hope, these images will become design ephemera rooted firmly in the past.

#KlaasVerplancke #EdelRodriguez #PosterHouse #GemmaOBrien #EmilyOberman #OlaBaldych #DebbieMillman #MattDorfman #COVID19 #CombatCovid