Stop Superbugs: Why branding matters when it comes to tackling a global health emergency

There aren’t many more pressing threats to humanity than drug-resistant infections – or superbugs as they’re more commonly known

As it stands, they kill at least 700,000 people a year. That’s set to rise to 10 million every year in just a few decades, with the poorest people on Earth likely to be the hardest hit. Yet despite the clear and present danger, public awareness remains stubbornly low. In this post, designer Helena Traill discusses how she set about creating a distinctive brand for our new global health initiative, Stop Superbugs, and how a striking visual identity can stand out in an age saturated with images, videos, and information.

Whether you’re selling a service, product or, in this case, a global health initiative, a successful brand needs to tell a story that people can relate to. It’s the first thing your audience will judge (consciously or unconsciously) when they visit your website, follow you on social media, or read about your work in a newspaper (less likely these days!).

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Stop Superbugs wanted to do things differently

As such, it’s more important than ever to make what you do personal. These days, almost everyone is stuck on the other side of a screen, hopping from image to image, and story to story. In this context, if your brand can make itself understood immediately, you’ve hit the jackpot.

One thing that was clear from my initial discussions with the team at BSAC, was that they wanted to put people at the heart of Stop Superbugs. Despite so many of us being affected by drug-resistant infections, most of the communication in this area tended to stick to the science, instead of bringing in the individuals involved. Stop Superbugs wanted to do things differently, shifting the focus back to people and communities – not just the families whose lives have been destroyed by infection, but also those who, through their hard work and dedication, are helping to make a real difference.

With this in mind

I set about turning words into images and building a visual language.

For Stop Superbugs, I was keen to use a hand-drawn style, just because it’s so suggestive of the need to put the story back in the hands of people. It’s a design that consciously draws attention to the fact that a human being created this work – and not a sleek algorithm. Nothing is quite perfect with the Stop Superbugs visual language; from the hand-made font, to the moving illustrations. It has a fresh, almost child-like feel – a subtle reminder of the children who are especially vulnerable to the threat of untreatable infections.

In addition, and in opposition to the tired tropes of “victims and saviours”, the drawings and the bold colour scheme were designed to be upbeat and uplifting. Rather than a cold, clinical palette, we selected bright, punky hues. Neon pink. Electric blue. To me, this signaled a brand that dares to do things differently.

Finally, I incorporated the motif of the hand throughout the brand. If this last COVID-addled year has taught the wider world anything, it’s that our hands are one of the biggest transmitters of infectious disease. That’s why we wash them to stay safe.

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But hands are more than that

In the West, at least, we use a handshake to greet people, or seal a new partnership. They’re a symbol of friendship, of coming together, of trust. If someone’s lost, we point them in the right direction. And if someone stumbles, it’s our hands we hold out to keep them on their feet.

Most importantly, if someone needs help, we lend them a hand.

That’s what Stop Superbugs is all about. People coming together, sharing the skills, knowledge and resources at their disposal to build a better, brighter world for all of us. It might not be a perfect world of straight corporate lines and digital shading, but it’s one that is founded on mutual respect and kinship. Of passion and raw energy. One that is dedicated to getting out there and offering a helping hand to the people who need it most.

Stop Superbugs origins

Originally designed by Helena Traill. Helena is freelance designer based in London, who specialises in branding and website design. Helena graduated from Central Saint Martins in 2019 where she gained a first class degree in Graphic Communication Design. She is a visual storyteller who aims to implement narrative structure through design and technology. Her work offers a deeper level of emotive communication between the designer and the audience.

Please visit to see more of her work.

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