Staying on the pulse on the pandemic is surprisingly difficult. Every day, the news cycle offers up another update about the virus and how to combat it, but even after months in quarantine, our foundation of knowledge is scattershot at best. What masks are best? Is the proper social distance six or ten feet? Which alcohol solution disinfects the most? Fake news is a reality we’re all used to at this point, but because this issue is about health, the stakes are higher. Scientific literature is hard to translate, and the government might just say “wag pasaway” and call it a day.
What we need is an information campaign that’s eye-catching, wide-reaching, conveys a sense of urgency, and boils everything down so anyone can understand what we’re up against.
That brings us to Kontra COVID, an art and design campaign committed to fight against COVID-19 in the Philippines by making important information available to everyone. Think of it as the visual equivalent of an alarm on full blast.
Leading the charge is design studio And A Half, but Kontra COVID is a legion effort, one that calls upon the powers of artists and designers all around the country. The campaign is an open call to Filipino artists, and dozens of creators have already contributed. If you visit Kontra COVID’s Instagram page, what will greet you is a multitude of different styles. Posters, comics, infographics, memes—different kinds of media inventively tackled by artists who are, let’s not forget, also concerned citizens. And A Half is also collaborating with the likes of Linya-Linya, Dan Matutina, Leeroy New, and Serious Studio for their campaign. It’s fitting that an effort meant to serve the community draws the strength of its contemporaries and peers.
For the And A Half team, the challenge of making COVID-19 information accessible is making key health concepts culturally resonant. For example, giving up mass gatherings and celebrations is difficult, especially for Filipinos. “This pandemic is asking us to change our habits and this does not happen instantly. Constant reinforcement is required,” the team says.
So what Kontra COVID is doing that other information campaigns haven’t really being pulling off is making these health concepts relatable. “Localizing and contextualizing information is a crucial step for understanding and implementation,” And A Half states. “In almost any context, it’s hard for people to follow directives unless they see how these apply to their situation in a language they understand. Because of how fast the situation was developing, information was not being translated quickly from institutions like WHO and DOH to our current mass communication channels, specifically the Internet. This was the space we wanted to begin in.”
Sharing the submissions from the #KONTRACOVIDCampaign, here is @dieanedieana, a visual artist from Cebu City. ‘This is for everyone saving lives, and for everyone trying to stay alive. We got this!! 💪🏽💪🏽💪🏽 "If people start calling you a hero, that means they're about to let you die." While deciding what to make for the campaign, I remembered this quote that reflects the frontliners' situation especially during the early days of quarantine. It was heartbreaking for everyone to witness them being discriminated for doing their jobs. We must remember that in this battle, we only have one enemy. Isa lang ang ating kalaban! Usa ra ang atong kontra!’ #KONTRACOVIDCampaign #BidaBayani #LigtasAngBida
“We should use the power of art and design to translate information into something more emotional in order to effectively transform mindsets and habits. If people understand better, deeper, and in context to their personal experiences, then following would not be a burden but rather the simple and obvious choice,” And A Half says. There’s a wisdom to this strategy of problem-solving. Plain instruction isn’t enough to cultivate a culture of caution and mindfulness. You have to go beyond just telling people what to do.
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Currently, Kontra COVID is still in the middle of its open call phase, so expect more great art and design to come out in the near future. But everybody is looking far ahead, and Kontra COVID will really start getting into the groove once their campaign is implemented on a more systemic, organized level.
Sharing the submissions from the #KONTRACOVIDCampaign, here is @lalalaraine of @togetherwedesignph, a graphic designer and illustrator from Quezon City. ‘Even before the pandemic, I loved watching scary movies to calm me down after a stressful day. These days, I reach for my favourite horror shows to indulge in some lighthearted jump scares which are a treat, compared to the real horror story we are all living through. This poster design is an homage to vintage horror movie posters. I truly look forward to the day when we can truly say that our country has beat Covid-19. However, due to almost no support from the government, we are nowhere near that day. The optimist in me holds on to a little piece of hope. But the realist in me knows that it ultimately up to us to look out for one another. Wash your hands, wear a mask, carry alcohol with you, and please just stay home if you can. ’ Join the campaign by downloading the toolkit and submitting your work. Visit www.kontracovidcampaign.com for more info. #KONTRACOVIDCampaign #BidaBayani #LigtasAngBida
“As we manage the open-call submissions, we’re also looking to partner with different groups to help us apply the information campaign to spaces and places that people interact with directly (think jeepney dividers or tricycle tarps). In terms of other efforts under the campaign, we’ve also uploaded free-resources in our website to aid small businesses that have started to re-open,” And A Half says. They also plan on collaborating with government, and taking their material to provinces where health information isn’t readily available. For phase 2 of the campaign, they’ll provide “easy-to-produce free templates for businesses to promote proper behavior and habits in their respective stores.”
One has to admit that it can be a little disheartening to see concerned citizens in the fields of art and design to pick up the slack (for free!) of other institutions tasked with the responsibility of informing the public. But Kontra COVID is proof that artists, designers, and content creators do essential work. Until we find a cure, one can take comfort in the fact that good art and design prevail, even in a crisis.
You can visit the official website of Kontra COVID here.