Designing for Coronavirus

© Rony Karadi for Stay Sane / Stay Safe.


Designing for Coronavirus

In times of crisis, design and visual messaging are more important than ever, discover the projects helping stop the spread of COVID-19...

Design and visual imagery has always been at the centre of propagating messages to the people. From the stone reliefs celebrating Assyrian victories in 860BC to the Bayeux Tapestry in 1066; the constructivist propaganda posters of Soviet Russia to calls to ‘Dig for Victory’ in World War II Britain. Effective design has been the propagator of news, ideas, political views and announcements for centuries.

Artwork by Gerardo La Porta, courtesy Talenthouse and The UN for the United Nations Global Call Out To Creatives

Artwork by Gerardo La Porta, courtesy Talenthouse and The UN for the United Nations Global Call Out To Creatives; an open brief for design submissions to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

When imploring individuals, communities, whole nations to radically change their behaviour, visual communication is key to elicit an emotional response in the viewer and drive certain social behaviours. In the current global pandemic the United Nations and World Health Organization have called on creatives around the world to help stop the spread of misinformation, promote public health precautions and act in solidarity.

The UN believes creatives have “the power to change the world” and—via their Global Call Out To Creatives—implores the design community around the world to translate “critical public health messages, into work that will engage and inform people across different cultures, languages, communities and platforms.”

Visual imagery has always been especially important in reaching the more disadvantaged parts of society. Speaking through images helps the illiterate understand, minority cultures accept the recommendations of the majority and the marginalised become part of the wider community. In this unprecedented global situation, public health messaging must reach every corner of the globe, and resonate with every language and culture to effectively prevent the spread of the virus. And for this, the United Nations and WHO know that creatives are at the forefront; the need not only to disseminate the message but also for those ideas to change behaviour is more important than ever.

Lennarts & De Bruijn

© Lennarts & De Bruijn for Stay Sane / Stay Safe.

Studio de Ronners

© Studio de Ronners for Stay Sane / Stay Safe.


© D/TTMAR for Stay Sane / Stay Safe.


© Sam&th for Stay Sane / Stay Safe.

For those looking to contribute to this unprecedented call out, the creative community has come together to help streamline your visual message. Creative directors from top advertising agencies such as Leo Burnett, Ogilvy, 72andsunny, Dentsu and BBDO—along with companies like Spotify—are part of a team offering feedback and advice on your submission.


Recognising the UN’s initiative as a global collaboration to make a difference for the better rather than a pitch of competition, #GlobalCreativeReview connects you with three creative leaders who will help sharpen submissions; an admirable show of solidarity in troubled times.

Public health messaging is paramount during this time but also is the support we show for essential workers, whether health workers, supermarket shelf stackers or freight train drivers. Nightly clapping and messages of solidarity are important for morale, but we can show our support and respect in one simple action: staying at home.


© Debut for Stay Sane / Stay Safe.

Saki Souda

© Saki Souda for Stay Sane / Stay Safe.

Sarolta Agnes Erdelyi

© Sarolta Agnes Erdelyi for Stay Sane / Stay Safe.

Markus Lange / POSTER REX

© Markus Lange / POSTER REX for Stay Sane / Stay Safe.

Dutch design studios Lennarts & de Bruijn and overdeschreef, have launched the Stay Sane / Stay Safe project, encouraging creatives from around the globe to design posters around the brief of ‘stay sane, stay home’. The project aims to spread the right message but also to share and show some love to frontline healthcare workers by printing the designs as postcards and sending them to hospitals in the Netherlands.

Covid-19 Neighbour Support Door Hanger by Territorial Empathy

Covid-19 Neighbour Support Door Hanger by non-profit design laboratory, Territorial Empathy.

Currently at 841 contributions from over 70 countries, the project features designs from an eclectic range of creative backgrounds. From female-driven creative studio Bad in Switzerland to Priscilla Camacho, a Costa Rican artist specialising in collage; Studio Markus Lange, a silkscreen printing workshop based in Cairo, to the Gorilla Project; creatives from all walks of life are coming together in this project to raise awareness through exceptional design and hopefully getting the message through to us all. Stay. At. Home.

Design can also be fundamental in connecting people on a community level. Non-profit design laboratory Territorial Empathy has dedicated the last seven years to using design to inspire the empathy needed to create more inclusive spaces across the world. Faced with the COVID-19 pandemic, the studio has designed a digital FoodHelp map showing where New Yorkers in need can find community kitchens, food banks, and school meal pick up locations. A door hanger, in English and Spanish, has also been conceived by the design lab, with the aim of bringing together neighbours; offering help and support as well as a renewed sense of community during these times of crisis.

Throughout history, visual communication has been central to conveying crucial messages and now is no different. Although perhaps not on the frontline, creatives, designers, artists, can all play their part in sharing and spreading information which will save people’s lives. Where there is a message to be communicated, there will be design.