Don’t give up, Japan. Don’t give up, Tohoku.

I’m surprised at how fast the world responded to Japan’s disaster, and am very touched by the fact that people all over the world have sent messages of support and given help to the country. With the help of twitter and Facebook it’s now easier to hear news and messages from loved ones instantly, in sync with events as they happen.

Following my twitter feed, I’ve found that numerous donation campaigns have been set up within the 48 hours following the disaster. Let me introduce some of the graphic design related ones.

Help Japan poster made by James White, available at Signalnoise Store all profits are donated to help relief efforts in Japan.

I was surprised at how quick it appeared online, but I have mixed feelings about it. Truthfully, it’s “beautiful” as a piece of ‘graphic’. But to release this so soon after the disaster? I think that’s a bit insensitive. You see your country being badly affected and the next day you see that someone has put a huge crack on the flag, oh and it’s bleeding. When this poster was released, it was an nerve-racking anxious day for everyone – we didn’t know how high the death toll was and all we could do was watch by, pray and hope that by some kind of a miracle no-one was hurt and everyone was okay. I felt a little disheartened seeing this poster. It looks like something that  would appear a little while after the disaster, that parades the message ‘I remember the day’. On the other hand, the thing that saves this poster from any negativity I feel towards it is the words below the image (will explain this point a bit further on).

Next, Threadless have called on designers to submit designs based on the theme ‘sunrise’ to be printed on T-shirts. The chosen design will then be available to purchase on the site, and 25% from each sale will be donated to The American Red Cross’s Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami fund. Hm can’t help thinking there might be some kind of business incentive to increase sales, or just to ‘add-value’ to its brand, showing how caring and good a company they are.

This simple and beautiful approach was created by Max Erdenberger, a designer at Wieden + Kennedy in Portland, Oregon W+K. Available to purchase with all proceeds going to Japan. To scrutinise in some ways these ‘buy this to donate’ campaigns feel like people are buying a piece of nice graphics/memorabilia of the disaster, rather than actively helping.

On the other hand, I could argue that these designs have given people opportunities to donate, and feel good about it.

Looking at it more positively, I’m sure (well I hope!) the creators of these campaigns created them with 100% good intention, looking to help Japan in any way they can. And apart from the obvious act of donating, what better way is there than to use the tools of their trade?

But what do I get from looking at these designs? Mainly they state: ‘Japan had an earthquake’ (with the exception of the text underneath James White poster and partially W+K’s poster).

Yesterday, this was the front cover of the Independent on Sunday’s newspaper.

It calls to Japanese citizens “Don’t give up, Japan. Don’t give up, Tohoku”.

Isn’t this a more effective design? This was featured on the Japanese news and gained a lot of responses from the citizens. They are overwhelmed and thankful to all the international support, and was truly touched seeing this message. What the image is saying is “Don’t worry Japan, we are here to help you”; comfort is what they need.



  1. t

    interesting reflections, agree wholeheartedly

  2. I want to post quick hello and want to say appriciate for this good article. t4GwY8X5ce2f2K

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