Rural Sierra Leoneans have very little access to dental care. In order to improve access and raise funds, King’s College London Dental Institute wanted to gather data in the field. But to do so would mean getting permission from rural people who had very low literacy levels and for many of whom, dentistry would be a foreign concept. So the Kings team contacted me to create a simple information sheet and permission form that would empower semi-illiterate people to be part of the project.
From previous experience, the Kings team knew that Sierra Leoneans would not want to take part in the survey or the study unless they felt comfortable and safe. Therefore, the images were to be informative but also fun and warm. They were to reflect the cultural and racial heritage of the people being interviewed. They were also for all ages, so they had to be simple but not too juvenile.
Illustrations had to be demonstrative, warm and easy to identify with.
Colour-wise I originally began with the bright red of the Kings College branding but feared that it was too reminiscent of blood for a dental project! So instead, I took inspiration from the warm reds of the Sierra Leonean soil and used a less saturated tone of the Kings red to soften the colour palette.
a warm colour palette taken from the rich colour of the Sierra Leonean soil
My initial sketch for this project included a ‘thumbs up and down’ — visual shorthand for approval or disapproval. However, after researching symbolic gesture in Sierra Leone I discovered that ‘thumbs up’ can have a very rude meaning indeed in Sierra Leone! We therefore replaced the sign with a universally comprehensible smiling and frowning face.
Although this project involved pretty graphics, its most important goal to help rural Sierra Leoneans understand the survey that was being carried out and help them give their consent. This would give them access dental care and empower them to improve their future health.
I am delighted to say that the project has secured funding and is now going through tests before it is applied in the field. I look forward to the results and incorporating the feedback in my practice!
Images made in Photoshop and formatted in Indesign