nature. The world of art often uses nature as inspiration, be it through paintings, photos, sculpture, poetry, literature or even films. But how often do artists put their skills to work to inspire action for nature?
This was the challenge given to students of graphic design in different colleges and universities in Edinburgh and Glasgow by environmental charity Scottish Environment LINK as part of the biannual celebration of Scottish Environment Week in the Scottish Parliament, a week-long series of events showcasing Scotland’s unique landscapes and historic environment.
Students of different graphic design courses were asked to participate in a poster exhibition with the aim of challenging Members of Scottish Parliament to act for the environment. The posters would be a response to the question “What do you want your Member of Scottish Parliament do for the environment?”. With close to 40 submissions, 18 posters were shortlisted to be displayed in Holyrood, the Scottish Parliament. The posters highlighted a range of environmental and sustainability issues from biodiversity and landscape conservation to green spaces in urban areas and the circular economy.
Each poster offered a unique perspective to some of the most important environmental challenges of our time, drawing on Scotland’s history and language as well as the creativity and fresh perspective of students. Here are some of the highlights:
First, the joint winners were “Bee a friend” by Angel Nervida and “Oh Flower of Scotland” by Claudia Baldacchino. Following the announcement, Angel very appropriately thanked the bees for inspiring her poster which focused on highlighting the relationship between the Great Yellow Bumblebee and Scottish wildflowers. The Great Yellow Bumblebee is one of the rarest bumblebees in the UK as its population has declined by 80% in the last century. It was once found across the country, but now it can only be seen on the North coast of Scotland, and some of the Scottish islands¹. This is why the relationship between this bumblebee and Scottish wildflowers is so important to preserve. Angel’s message is that we need to give the bumbles a hand and help save their populations.
Joint winner, Claudia, created a very evocative poster drawing on well-known Scottish symbols. Her poster “Oh Flower of Scotland” aims to convince Members of Scottish Parliament of the need for greenspace. Using the very simple yet bold and provocative illustration of a wilting flower combined with a famous line from ‘Flower of Scotland’ it aims to mobilise the audience into action. The language used reflects the imagery, and vice versa, while evoking a truly Scottish message, but one that at the same time can be easily understood by all due thanks to the simplicity of the design. The message of this poster is a very important one. Urban green space is critical in many ways: it facilitates physical activity and relaxation, provides a refuge from noise and helps clean air².
But there were many more posters that caught the eyes of Scottish politicians and those who visited the exhibition.
For example, Ollie McCaffery’s submission of a poster on “Breathing clean” is based on the very worrying trends of air pollution in the UK. According to statistics, air pollution is contributing to about 40,000 early deaths a year in the UK³. So the imagery that combines human lungs, the one organ that is most impacted by air pollution, with leaves that are providing fresh air and oxygen is very poignant. Leaves, that stand for nature, and lungs, through which we breath, have similar illustrative qualities; the two combined form a natural and organic piece of imagery, creating a clean and positive aesthetic that catches people’s eye. The hashtag included in the poster symbolises the need to consider social media outlets, as one of the strongest forms of communication when wanting to activate the younger generation.
An equally evocative images was created by Toni Serrano’s poster showing a polar bear sitting in top of a melting ice cream with a smartphone in its hands, asking for help. The ice-cream scoop which is melting is an image of the Earth. This is an image that conveys a clear message in terms of the action that we need to take to tackle global warming and climate change. The imagery used is international – no caption is needed to explain it.
Another impressive set of posters were made by Joy Mooney who used the well-known Scottish dialect to bring to our attention important messages on waste management and active travel. Using crisp design, Joy adapted Scottish phrases such as “Haud yer wheesht” which means “to be quiet” into “Haud yer waste” to symbolise the need to reduce our waste and transition to a circular economy. A very topical issues since it is estimated that by 2100, the growing global urban population will be producing three times as much waste as it does today⁴. Similarly, “Oan Yer Bike” is a call for people to choose active travel and for authorities to support relevant infrastructure. Now trying saying both expressions with a Scottish accent!