︎Back to Community Design

Fall 2020 ︎︎︎ SUNY Purchase ︎︎︎ (DES4100) Community Design

COVid-19 safety campaign


This project is meant to be somewhat of an “icebreaker.” The project is relatively simple (outlined more below). It’s meant to just get started before the semester gets whacky in terms of stress and busy-ness levels. It’s also meant for you to get used to the dynamic and process of working in your given team and figuring out how to divide up the work as well as work cohesively as a group.

This project is a collaboration between 4 SUNY campuses, Alfred University, SUNY Cortland, SUNY Brockport and SUNY Purchase. 

With the “new normal” of school amidst a global pandemic, we’re adjusting to new ways of utilizing space and experiencing connections with other people. Simultaneously we’re attempting to do what we can to maximize the health and safety of ourselves and our loved ones.

For this project you’ll create a non-liguistic symbollic form (an icon) and accompanying language relating to campus safety. Each team will submit several directions, and then each team’s options will be distilled to one submission. 

The instructors will curate the best options for an online exhibitition via SUNY Cortland’s Dowd Gallery. 


Create a non-linguistic, symbollic form / icon and accompanying language.

Requirements (Teams)

  • The final submission must be a letter size .PDF featuring 
    • your symbol
    • a photo of it in-situ or related mockup
    • language/chosen “slogan”
  • You’ll also need to provide some descriptions to add to a text document which I will send to each team.
  • A folder featuring any collaborative image-making/process/ideation.

Requirements (Individuals)

  • A folder with documentation of your personal contributions to the project and any process sketches/iterations/moodboarding.


  • Scale︎︎︎Though not a logo proper consider a symbol that could potentially work on a poster, billboard, or at the scale of a sticker or letterhead.

  • Complexity/density︎︎︎Many of the existing examples we’ll look at are necessarily representational. Consider how you might further distill or essentialize this imagery, and what might making it more powerful or striking, rather than simply pragmatic.

  • Consider the cliché ︎︎︎ We’ll look at some examples below, but consider imagery that we now see all the time (on the door of your bodega, at the entrances of stores, on TV) and how desensitized we may have become to them. Find a balance of an effective/universal symbol,  necessary representation, and what might upset expectations. Do you want to visualize something more direct, like a version of the virus, or something more abstract, like “breath” 

  • Language︎︎︎Use the following phrases as a starting point, and consider your own language based on these. These are pretty dry, if you want to make something “cute”/clever/more advertising-adjacent that is fine.
    • Wear a mask
    • Wash your hands
    • Stay 6 feet apart
    • Avoid touching your face 

  • Your audience, and how you want to communicate with them︎︎︎
    Consider whether you want to function as a gentle reminder to a friend to say, check your face if your mask is on, if you want to be more confrontational to possible COVID deniers, if you want to encourage people not to party, etc.

  • How the symbol should work, and where︎︎︎
    Is the symbol an animation you play on your phone like the colors you can display to signal an approaching Uber driver? Should it be on the outside of a building before you go in? On the inside before you go out? As a sticker where it might help snap people out of their absent-mindedness, ie waiting a bus stop or on line for food? Should the symbol help make the invisible, or microscopic, visible?

Relevant Dates

    • 09/02/2020 ︎︎︎ Introduction!

    • 09/09/2020 ︎︎︎ Review progress

    • (each team must have at least 3 iterations)
    • 09/16/2020 ︎︎︎Final review!

      (present 1 - 2 directions based on previous feedback changes, anything that might have come out of subsequent conversations)
    • 09/17/2020 ︎︎︎ Final versions due!

      (This is when the jury is meeting to review submissions, not a date that we meet for class)
    • 10/09/2020 ︎︎︎ Online Exhibition!


  • Mucinex “Spread Facts, Not Fear” Campaign︎
    This is the most directly related to what we’re doing, and the most “cute”/clever example of design around this subject matter that I’ve come across. There’s no need to be “cute here, but if you are, this is kinda the bar. 

  • Cuomo’s New York Tough Poster︎
    Putting this here because it literally has the word “community” in it, it is an example of a...lack of succinct-ness in its message and a self-congratulatory tone that is maybe unwarrented given the circumstances. 

  • The Yellow Sign by Robert W. Chambers

    This is a Cthulu-esque horror story about a symbol that can drive people mad/caused them to be possessed. I’m saying your work must do this, to be clear, but consider the impact a symbol can have. The video is a reading of a short story by Robert W. Chambers being read. You can also read the short story online here.

  • Blissymbols/Blissymbolics︎
    This was an attempt at a constructed language that doesn’t necessarily relate to a sound component. They were created by Charles K. Bliss a Holocaust survivor, who found them useful in helping people with communication and speech issues. It doesn’t necessarily relate to what we’re doing here exactly, but I think there’s a beauty in their elegance and a sweetness to the story and application.

  • “The Curve” as an image︎
    I’ve stopped doing, this but I imagine some of you have nervously checked the graphs of cases in NY, the US or the world, or seen a graph mentioned in a news story. I think this is actually, the most “horrifying” and fear inducing “image” that has come out of the pandemic. 

  • Bad, Generic COVID content
    This isn’t meant to be a knock on this type of material as a good portion of it was, I assume, out of necessity. That being said I think it is worth noting that it is in the zeitgeist, and based on an accretion or piling up of cliches, which is not what I’d recommend. 

  • AIGA DOT Pictograms︎
    You already know what these are. I would generally stay away from using things that look like these, but think about the ubiquity of these symbols, and how they influenced and been influenced by notions of gender for example.

︎Back to Community Design