#HelpByDesign: Using Design for Community, Inspiration and Healing in Times of Crisis

#HelpByDesign artwork submissions on Instagram

All images are courtesy of #helpbydesign.

by Sebastian Shaw

posted on 05-05-2020

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” —Maya Angelou, author, poet, civil rights activist

Art and design have played a critical role in times of crisis throughout history. Whether its ACT UP’s famous “Silence=Death” campaign designed during the AIDS crisis in 1997 or “Human Flow,” a film by exiled artist Ai Weiwei that documented displacement and the Syrian refugee crisis — the arts have a way of connecting us with what’s going on in the world around us.

Beyond crisis inspiring art, the current COVID-19 pandemic shows that the medium itself also has a way of healing. That’s why we’re seeing musicians livestreaming their music online, Broadway shows going to on-demand digital video format, and photographers sharing their photos in social channels and online communities. These acts are meant to inspire and give hope, while making life at home just a little more bearable for all of us as we navigate the pandemic.

Lifelong creative leader James Sommerville believes that art — and design, specifically — can help inspire people during times of uncertainty. The former VP of Design at the Coca-Cola Company — who started his own agency at the age of 19 — has been using design as a form of inspiration and hope since the early days of his career. Today, James is back on the agency side, once again leading his own creative incubator called Known_Unknown, where he sources and invites the best designers in the world to respond to global brand challenges.

In March, James sent out an invitation to his personal creative community — a call to action to prompt designers to use their skills to create inspirational and informative messaging to communicate messages of hope and reiterate the challenges society is facing during COVID-19. James provided a simple Adobe Illustrator template as a canvas, a few prompts to get people thinking, and a simple brief asking people to donate time to create their own messages and share them with the simple hashtag, #helpbydesign.

Join the cause
Download the files and share your message.

Variations of #HelpByDesign artwork with the prompts 'please stay home' and 'love you mum'.

What began with phrases, like Cool, Calm and Uncollected, Thank the Workers, Just Stay Home, and 6ft Away vs 6Ft Under—quickly expanded with people creating their own riffs.

Since then, individuals and design groups across the world have contributed their work, creating personal statements and reactions to the new normal confronting us all. Nearly 900 posts have been created, and the engagement has been overwhelmingly positive.

#HelpByDesign artwork by @ashworthchris with the prompt 'Miss You' on a paper mache background.

“To me this was about bringing together the power of design and different voices, with photographers, illustrators, typographers, 2D, 3D animators, creating these shareable posts, so that the non-design community can download and share what speaks to them personally,” James said. To date, the #helpbydesign posts have received more than 14,000 likes and 600 comments, with more adding every day.

A showcase of #HelpByDesign artwork submissions on Instagram include messages like 'stay home', 'one world', and 'you are not alone'.

“The other part of this was about bringing together a group of people — who aren’t actually connected — under one brief, one theme, one idea, so that we can all feel slightly more connected and be a community.”

#HelpByDesign artwork by @3b.designs with the prompt 'Stay Home, Stay Safe'.

Although #helpbydesign was initially positioned as a typographic message of hope, creatives have explored different ways to communicate their messages.

#HelpByDesign artwork series with the prompt 'Stay Home, Protect Your Older Self'.

“It’s branched in different directions, from the everyday messages that we know we need to keep hearing, but also there are some messages in there that feel quite unique and personalized to the designer, the typographer, the photographer — that is very meaningful to them and it’s not all typographic,” James said. “This was a great way to come together and celebrate talent with a very important message.”

#HelpByDesign artwork by @jamessommerville with the prompt 'Hoping you're OK'.

Adobe is proud to support the efforts of creative communities across all design disciplines and channels. We feel that everyone has a story to tell and we’re inspired by the innovation and honesty that this initiative has catalyzed. In a time of uncertainty, it is ever more important to create a sense of community and shared wellbeing while amplifying the positive.

Topics: Creative Inspiration & Trends, COVID-19

Products: Illustrator, Creative Cloud