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Malaria awareness and prevention research project with Dr Iain Macdonald

Published date
19 Jun 2017

A cross-continental graphic design campaign to build awareness of malaria

April the 25th was World Malaria Day. To help to raise awareness of the importance of continuing to battle against Malaria we spoke to London College of Communication’s Associate Dean of Design, Dr Iain Macdonald about a recent graphic co-design project with the intention of using graphic design skills to help in the fight against malaria in East Africa.

Iain has recently joined LCC having previously been Associate Professor, Head of Design Photography, Advertising and Programme Leader of MSc Creative Advertising at Edinburgh Napier University, where he worked alongside fellow Principal Investigator for the project, Myrna MacLeod, Programme Leader BDes (Hons) Graphic Design at Edinburgh Napier University.

There Iain taught across both the award winning Creative Advertising and BDes (Hons) and MA Graphic Design programmes, drawing on his professional expertise in motion graphic design and directing commercials.

The objective of the Malaria awareness & prevention project was to design different methods of communication that would improve malaria education in East Africa. The campaign aimed to cover several different media and user experiences, to be co-designed by a research team from Edinburgh Napier University, and local people in three communities in Nampula Province, Northern Mozambique. Once designed, tested and proven these could be made available to other NGO and government organisations for wider distribution and implementation in the country and continental region.

Our first project had been inspired by a humanist and socially conscious perspective that was originally set out by Ken Garland’s ‘First Things First Manifesto’ in 1964. The following study wouldsimilarly be framed within an ethical practice in graphic design, but with a sharpened focus on co-design that would embody cultural respect and knowledge, and the subsequent emergence of design for social good, which ‘expresses purpose’, and is ‘empathetic’.

‘If design-based social change is going to be effective and lasting, it must not be dependent upon the designer; rather, it must be rooted in empowerment’ (Janzer & Weinstein 2014).

Using the principles of co-design we took four graphic design students to Mozambique to participate in a practice-led research project with local youth groups. The focus was on promoting malaria awareness and preventative education in an area of Africa where the disease is endemic despite large interventions from NGOs. This study examines the process of the co-design project and how it responded to the challenges of a post-colonial environment to deliver a method of communication that was valid and participatory.

We held user testing conversations in the streets of Ilha, and with various other leading stakeholders including, the local school, radio station journalists and traditional healers in Mossuril.

The finalised designs were then illustrated by two final year BDes(hons) Graphic Design students at Edinburgh Napier University.

Connect with the project on Instagram