Designing for a Cause: Part I

When something new is starting, there’s a lot of small changes and things that need to be worked out in order for everything to come together at the end. AIGA UNL began with wanting to get engagement from students in design and getting them to participate in design activities. At first, this began with a monthly contest with prizes, although it seemed like it would perhaps work, there was very little engagement in doing this. Finally, we were tasked with a bigger project, designing a poster for a social cause, in this case, Prostate Cancer Awareness.

We began by examining the issue, prostate cancer. What is it? How does it grow? What are the symptoms? How does it affect men? Afterward, we began to examine, “What age range does this cancer usually affect?”, “Are specific minorities more prone to this cancer?”.

We found that Prostate Cancer typically affected older men and that in the beginning stages it is contained within the prostate and usually does not present symptoms or a high mortality rate. When it spreads, often to areas like the spine, blood, bones, and even brain, it often becomes very late for men afflicted with cancer. Other interesting facts related to Prostate Cancer were that Black men were statistically at a much higher rate of getting it, often times men seemed to develop Prostate Cancer without even knowing it and that a variety of things such as diet and stress levels affected the rate of growth and development of cancer.

Knowing that the cancer was predominantly found in this demographic,  we began to see how that demographic, men in their 40s used and interacted with media. We found a surprising amount of facts related to how they interacted with social media, originally we thought that print media was more viable, and although it is in many ways, social media usage was high among this demographic. The majority of Facebook users, for instance, was people in their 30s-40s.

We learned more about how they used social media, we found out that Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, and Twitter saw some higher rates of usage, while for the most part, platforms like Instagram were completely snubbed. This was surprising and led us to come up with the idea of a campaign that would begin on Facebook, targeting men in their early 40s, and tieing it into one of the largest events men in their 40s in the United States care about, football, particularly The Super Bowl.

At this point we really began to split up as a group, some focused on additional research, some began visual research, some began to look at the logistical side of running a facebook ad during Super Bowl weekend targeting American men in their 40s that liked ‘American Football’. We found that we could reach tens of thousands of men for only a few dollars each day, and that, if the ad was made in a manner that was shareable and viral, it could have even more lasting impact.

Surprisingly, the way many men in this demographic interact with content is to actually see it, and not necessarily act immediately, but rather research it further, learn more and decide later once they are more well informed. This was critical in our direction, what began as literally pushing someone towards a site, and perhaps overloading people on Prostate Cancer Awareness facts now began to take form as a campaign that would a bit more sexy, a bit more subtle, and rather then tell you what to do, it would urge you more on a subconscious level to do something at your own time. Raising awareness in a way that this demographic responded to more, according to the research that was done.

One of the concepts that came around a lot was that Prostates are about the size of a Walnut, it’s a very small organ yet one that men forget to acknowledge. Prostate exams are often terrifying or at the very least a nuisance for men to go through. We think of the popular ‘Bend Over and Cough’ and someone wearing latex gloves sticking a finger up a bum, nothing terribly pleasing about that, in fact, it was this problem that would help us decide what direction to take on mocking up the ads themselves.

As we began to brainstorm we had a copywriter think of taglines like ‘Do you have the balls to get tested?’, we had various ideas of how perhaps we could have a shrunken football and medical gloves, how we could relate the idea of a walnut sized football and relate the exciting language of football into the unexciting language of Prostate Cancer Awareness.

Those who worked on visual research began to notice a particular style, beautifully lit photography, many times backlit for dramatic purposes, black backgrounds, clean and cold typography, and a sense of motion throughout. We began to sketch, at this time three boards full of research, taglines, sketches, and visual examples. Finally, we came up with a concept, a pair of latex gloves holding a very small football, backlit against a black background. The ‘Balls to get tested’ tagline against the background in harsh contrast, and a small urge for the reader, in this case, a 40-year-old man in the United States who enjoyed watching Football, to consider researching more and getting tested at some point.

Members began to pull stock images and come up with mockups of how it could possibly become photographed, how the type could possibly look like, how the entire campaign could then translate into a print and environmental campaign. The limits seemed endless for this direction.

After around four hours of quick research, thoughts, concepts, and great camaraderie we finally called it a day and began the look for a full photography shoot. Although the initial part of the project is finished and we have a greater sense of who we are targeting, part two is sure to be an exciting look at actually following through on the creation of an ad campaign.

AIGA Event on type design

Announcing James Edmondson!
Thursday, April 7th
1:00–3:30 pm
Lincoln, Nebraska

Time, exact location and ticket prices TBA very soon—stay tuned!
Join us for an outstanding presentation and workshop!

James Edmondson is an independent type designer in San Francisco. His creations can be found on and in the work and font collections of graphic designers the world over. Even if you don’t know his name, you probably recognize James’s iconic Wisdom Script and Lavanderia typefaces, just to name a couple.

James will be speaking in Lincoln on Thursday, April 7th. Details will be announced soon, but we can tell you this: James will be leading an optional private workshop before the talk with limited ticket availability!