Can art cure Covid? Probably not, but it certainly can help raise funds for the NHS as it struggles under the huge strain the pandemic's put on services.
Last month, paper manufacturer Fedrigoni rebooted its limited-edition poster project, 19 Artists versus Covid-19, which was initially launched to raise funds for the NHS last May. As the name suggests, 19 artists are involved, and each created a poster design which has been litho-printed by PUSH London as a limited-edition of 75 copies per design.
The project is the brainchild of London-based Spanish graphic designer Álvaro López, who is also one of the artists contributing to the series. Each was briefed to create a pandemic-themed A1 poster interpreting the message 'Stay Home' and encouraging social distancing.
Among the other international artists are Alan Kitching, Pablo Amargo, Noma Bar, Sarah Boris, Michael Curia, Nick Cook, Piero Di Biase, Mario Eskenazi, Vince Frost, Götz Gramlich, Michael Gibb, Henrik Kubel, Nina Jua Klein, Álvaro López, Rob Lowe, Morag Myerscough, Shweta Malhotra, Alejandro Paul, and Matt Willey.
The initiative aims to raise funds for NHS Charities Together, a federation of 250 charitable organisations that support the NHS, its staff, volunteers and patients. With the pandemic still very much lingering, Fedrigoni is encouraging people to snap up the remaining posters to support the cause.
"While each poster is unique, they come together to convey the range of emotions that people are continuing to experience almost a year on from the start of the pandemic," says Fedrigoni's Ambra Fridegotto at Fedrigoni. "From the loneliness of self-isolating, the frustration of social distancing and the struggle of daily routines, the posters also show an appreciation for key workers, a positive outlook on our future and the hope of overcoming this crisis."
The designs by Álvaro López, Nina Jua Klein, Rob Lowe, Morag Myerscough and Noma Bar were also adapted by each artist into recyclable paper face masks, which are free to those who’ve bought a poster from the dedicated website for, yup, £19.
What with last year being so famously "unprecedented", the designers decided that the 2021 edition would be "an ode to community and togetherness", and so they set themselves the mammoth task of showcasing the work of more than 1,000 UK creatives in its pages. Obviously, what with there being 365 days in a year, all of them aren't in a single calendar: instead, the work of these designers, illustrators and photographers is included in various configurations across different calendars that are each unique.
We spoke to Fedrigoni about putting together this whopping, ambitious, and ultimately very beautiful piece of print.
What was behind the decision to commission almost 1,000 creatives last year?
Our planning was interrupted by the unexpected global pandemic and national lockdown which forced us into our homes, and furlough schemes that drained motivation and reduced opportunities to display creativity. However, amidst this situation, acts of altruism and neighbourliness emerged that led us to explore the idea of "togetherness".
With the creative industry hit hard, we wanted to bring together the creative community by offering this project as a creative outlet to as many UK-based designers as possible and with digital printing, the more the better! Working with TM, Ricoh and Meccanotecnica, we managed to create 4,000 completely unique pieces which will be a timeless memento for those involved.
How did you decide who to include?
Fedrigoni 365 is open to all UK-based creatives. One of the things that makes the project so incredible is the variety of interpretations of the brief using different mediums, including typography, illustrations, prints, collages, photography, paintings, 3D designs.
What made the 2021 calendar a good year to take on this new approach?
In a way, it was the best and the worst year to take on this new approach. Thanks to digital print technology, we could invite as many UK-based creatives as possible to take part, in a moment in time when the industry struggled, and many needed a creative outlet. We received so many heartfelt messages thanking us for continuing the project and for the sense of achievement people felt to see their work printed.
On the other hand, due to the circumstances, we were unable to have a physical event to celebrate the publication. In previous years, our Fedrigoni 365 launches were packed; can you imagine what it would be like with almost three times as many people? At any other time it would have been incredible, but in 2020 definitely irresponsible and impossible.
What brief was given to the contributors?
In previous editions, each creative was randomly assigned a specific date which they had to interpret, whether that be based on a holiday, historic event, or the numeral. For the 2021 edition, instead of a date, each designer was assigned a number between 1 and 31 which was then used for any given month, with an algorithm evenly distributing each design across the entire collection of 4,000 calendars. As the brief would have been very open and we wanted to encourage diverse interpretations, we decided to give different seed words as inspirations.
What were the restrictions with the submitted designs?
Each year the brief has been deliberately quite open as we love to see people's personalities and styles expressed through their designs. Creatives have free reign, as long as the image is saved in a certain size and it’s fairly clear what number they were interpreting.
All designs had to be submitted in black, but the calendar was printed in 10 different colour ways, using an extended colour gamut system (CMYK + Neon Pink or Neon Yellow).