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These are the best COVID-19 signs we’ve seen

Studio O+A’s free-to-download COVID-19 safety posters are as cheerful as they are effective: They lure you in with splashy colors and anthropomorphic monsters.

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You can’t help but look at these and smile.

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Which is odd, because they’re informational COVID-19 posters. You know the ones. “Wash your hands.” “Keep six feet of distance.” All typically conveyed in a clean, no-nonsense fashion. But with a range of splashy, high-contrast colors, asymmetrical layouts, and a bunch of googly-eyed, anthropomorphic monsters, this new poster series by the San Francisco-based interior design studio is the 2D equivalent of a warm hug.

[Image: Studio O+A]
The signs are available for anyone to download and post for free, and they’re some of the best we’ve seen. Somehow they’ve managed to convey important medical information in a way that comes across as heartwarming. They dissociate medical advice from the trauma of the pandemic by doing away with stark messaging and visuals. They’re quirky and bright. They have smiling cartoonish creatures. They catch your eye.

[Image: Studio O+A]
“We were seeing all of our favorite places boarded up and covered with generic, under-designed signs,” says O+A brand director Elizabeth Vereker. “The counter to that would be to continue the message but bring brightness and humility to them, to remember that we are all in this together.”

The O+A posters pull directly from the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (which has its own series of print resources, but they mostly rely on text and lists that are both easy to gloss over and difficult to understand at a glance). The O+A team wanted to spruce up the CDC’s advice to make it more casual, approachable, and fun, Vereker says. Instead of “Wearing a mask prevents the spread of the virus,” the posters read “Chin up. But Keep it Covered.”

[Image: Studio O+A]
Vereker, along with her team of four brand designers, drew inspiration from everything from geometric abstraction and Swiss design to the shapes and graphics of the studio’s hometown San Francisco in the ’60s to classic concert paste-up posters that use blocky type on a colorful, gradient background. Vereker and her team completed 97 posters in a span of about five weeks, in an effort to help improve COVID-19 communications where they could, and to give themselves a creative outlet.

“Our design brief was simple,” Vereker says. “It was to follow the messaging of the CDC, and create a sign that doesn’t look like a sign so that people will actually stop and take notice, want to read it, and want to post them.” Vereker says she doesn’t know exactly where they’ve been placed, but she has received messages from friends and former clients who have put them up in their neighborhoods. She hopes to see them in person once it’s safe to travel again. Until then, she hopes the posters make people smile in a year when it feels like there’s not much to smile about.

About the author

Lilly Smith is an associate editor of Co.Design. She was previously the editor of Design Observer, and a contributing writer to AIGA Eye on Design.

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