The Spinoff
Spinoff COVID-19 communications

  • 2020

    Submission # 97

  • Output

    Publication – Pukapuka

  • Kaupapa

    Impact – Social Good

    Wildcard – Unique Projects

  • Location

    Auckland, Tāmaki Makaurau

Project Overview:
The Spinoff created short, effective and extremely shareable comic animations around COVID-19, viewed hundreds of millions of times around the world, that had a tangible impact on responses to the pandemic both in New Zealand and around the world.

The project began during the early stages of the pandemic. Dr Siouxsie Wiles, an acclaimed science communicator, collaborated with comic artist Toby Morris, on an illustration of the “flatten the curve” concept. It became a sensation when published on March 10, just as people were becoming aware of the profound impact the virus would have, and wanting clear information about what they could do to protect themselves and their families. Released under a Creative Commons license, allowing and encouraging translation and sharing, the illustration became a global social media sensation.

On March 22 ‘Reduce the Spread’ repeated the feat, and was soon put into use by government public health campaigns in Australia, Argentina, Germany, Scotland, Wales and Canada, as well as being covered approvingly by news organisations like Vox and the Washington Post. As the pandemic progressed, Wiles and Morris kept producing graphics that helped the public understand the science and seriousness of the situation, introducing new ideas – from bubbles, distancing and Covid symptoms to contact tracing, non-touch greetings and “the lag”. This ultimately led to an ongoing partnership with WHO, as well as work delivered for public health agencies in Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

Early in the pandemic, the public were being flooded with complicated and often conflicting information on social media. People were stressed and hungry for information, so the intention of the work was to take the complex information and boil it down into easily digestible, clear and accurate graphics that would be easy to share.

The work has really made a difference in making vital information accessible and visible to the public. The graphics have helped people understand why it’s so important to follow hygiene and social distancing behaviours to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Some of the work has been translated into multiple languages including Māori, Sāmoan, Mandarin and Hindi, and released under a Creative Commons license, which allows the public to reproduce and share the graphics freely. This has ensured these messages are available to non-English speaking communities in New Zealand.

The guiding philosophy of the design response was clarity and simplicity. The first months of the pandemic were a stressful time and social media was overloaded with information, so we wanted to make graphics that were simple, concise and accurate, and got to the point in a way that was approachable, understandable and useful.

This philosophy carried through into the design choices - cutting out any unnecessary visual elements, carefully using colour for clearest communication and choosing hand drawn text to make intimidating topics feel human and accessible. Where possible, we tried to let the images do the talking and minimise text.

Key decisions were made around using gifs as the dominant format. Animation opened up new possibilities to communicate using movement, and worked to catch the eye in a social media feed. The graphics were designed to accompany longer articles from Dr. Wiles that went into more detail, but also designed to be able to be shared as self contained pieces of communication: using gifs we could contain all the info needed in a format that was easy to share and spread.

Archiver’s Response:

"One of the best use of comics as a science popularization tools. The content is accurate while the form is reassuring without diluting the critical importance of the situation."

"An easily accessible campaign with an idea and execution that is quintessentially Kiwi. Looks deceptively simple, naive even, but each cartoon is highly nuanced and thorough."

"Useful accessible graphics to communicate informed communication"

Credits & Collaborators:
Illustrator - Toby Morris
Blank - Siouxsie Wiles
Editor - Toby Manhire

Flu Cold Symptoms
COVID 19 Symptoms Māori
Archive Submission
Transmission graphic
Breaking bubbles
Contact tracing
Masks working

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