Talking About Icky Stuff with Illustration

Christine Mitchell Adams February 20, 2015

We often struggle with the obstacle of how to talk about scary stuff like toxins here at Ursa Major. How do you approach the topic without scaring people away? How do you educate without coming across as judgmental or condescending? We found a few examples recently of how illustration can be utilized as a tool for tackling some pretty icky topics. When digesting information, do you prefer a graphic or a written article? Maybe a combination of the two? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Outside Magazine published a story in their February issue and online about new animal-welfare standards in down sourcing. If not done responsibly, down sourcing is a pretty scary process. Feathers are mostly sourced from the soft undercoats of geese, which are often “live plucked”. The victims of this process are usually then used to lay more eggs or are being raised for foie gras (and we all know how dirty that business is). We liked how their illustration of a goose wearing a down jacket over his plucked skin tackled the subject without scaring the bajeezus out of their readers. 

In the same issue of down sourcing, Patagonia tackled the obstacle head on with their 100% Traceable Down campaign. They enlisted artist Geoff McFetridge to create illustrations and an animation to accompany the campaign's landing page online. The visualization of the process, and how horrible it is, makes a strong impact. Without the whimsical illustrations and animation, we wonder if as many people would have taken the time to read all the material they needed to in order to fully understand the issue. 

After the explosion of a nuclear power plant in the Ukraine in 1986, the Soviet Union had to tackle the subject of radioactive contamination throughout Eastern and Western Europe. This issue led to a reboot of Soviet environmental activism during which a lot of attention was given to environmental education. Posters like the one above* (which appears to be tackling deforestation) were designed to promote an ecological way of thinking and living. No matter what language you speak, we think this one does a pretty good job of getting the message across. Harming the environment, also harms ourselves and our community. 

*We weren't able to find information about this specific poster so if you know more, please share!

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