November 2020

Republished with permission from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.

MCAD student Jared Maire (They/Them) has a simple, yet important message: Health is not an abstract idea.

August 31 marks the first day of MCAD's Fall 2020 Semester. However, this semester will look different than years past. With Covid-19 affecting our nation, it is integral that institutions like MCAD put the health of its community members at the forefront. This includes a lot of behind-the-scenes preparation, including enhanced safety protocols that closely follow CDC guidelines and implementing safety signage throughout campus to remind folks to wash hands, physically distance, and wear a mask.

To create safety murals, MCAD enlisted the help of student designer Jared Maire whose eye-catching designs not only encourage physical health but point out the importance of mental health, especially during a global pandemic.

Health is not an abstract idea: water your plants

Can you talk a bit about yourself and your practice?

My name is Jared Maire, and I use They/Them pronouns. I’m first-generation and identify as queer. When it comes to describing my practice, I tend to feel a bit existential. But at the root of it, I would say that I’m a queer graphic designer who lives through radical anxiety. And that’s truly a positive. There’s a little chaos in my practice, but with it comes critical thinking, experimentation, and an ability to challenge myself to think beyond the box of graphic design. And there’s joy in that chaos; whether it’s through poppy vector illustrations, xerox laden collages, or working at an institutional studio.

Can you describe the work you created for this project?

Health is Not an Abstract Idea is a system of safety murals around MCAD which aims to communicate that physical, mental, and communal health can manifest in fairly simple actions. Washing your hands, wearing a mask, and listening to disco all have similar goals: to keep you safe, healthy, and feeling good. The murals, which include a Swiss-inspired balance of type and pattern, range from large vinyl installations for the more pressing communications, to smaller stickers that offer a more holistic approach to physical and mental health.

Health is not an abstract idea: take a nap

What was your inspiration and process like when designing the safety murals?

As far as the copy, I see the practice of health becoming somewhat abstracted by the many voices that have become “experts” on the internet. The things we can do to practice communal care shouldn’t be that radical. While I wanted the series to be a helpful reminder on the actions that keep our community and personal lives healthy, I also needed to remind people that there are many ways in which this can happen. While it’s extremely important to wear a mask and wash your hands, I think it’s also extremely important that you’re finding joy, reaching out to friends, and finding a mental balance that supports your creativity.

Aesthetically, I wanted the visual communication to be extremely simple to digest. Historically, I think the Swiss Style did this the best. Each mural is broken up into three sections. The title, the changing abstract pattern, and the changing action. An intro, a visual interpretation of the intro, and then a call to participation. The black and white patterns become this rather simple idea because of the balance of copy and image, even if some of the designs are complex.

Do you have a favorite piece from this design suite?

The Build Queer Spaces vinyl [below] in the skyway is probably my favorite. Not having access to spaces that are historically queer, especially during COVID, has renewed my passion for creating more space for queer and trans people to feel safe and celebrated.

Health is not an abstract idea: build queer spaces

Your self-care suggestions around the building are awesome—what are some ways you're caring for yourself right now?

This year has been brutal in so many ways. I think we’ve been living through so many traumatic moments that we have not been able to fully process fast enough. COVID, continued racial injustice, and now the election! While self-care has seemed harder to obtain this year, it’s almost become more expansive of an idea to me. I’ve used media (Animal Crossing, Criterion Collection, Real Housewives of Potomac, and Drag Race) and cooking (Nasi Goreng, Tinga de Pollo, Hot Dish) as main sources of care. But I’ve also found that caring for others is a part of healing. And that balance is important. In that direction, I’ve been helping people register to vote, participating in mutual aid, and volunteering design work to local businesses who’ve been negatively impacted by COVID.

What else are you working on right now?

I organized with three other queer folks over the last three months to raise money for those impacted by the unrest that occurred after the murder of George Floyd. MNFUNDHUB worked with RuPaul’s Drag Race alumni to raise over $118,000; which we in turn donated to 55 local Black, Indigenous, and POC owned businesses, organizations, and mutual aid funds. We made our last donations this week, and I’m still so grateful for the queer community coming through so hard for folks in Minneapolis. Even though there is still so much loss happening around us, it has been really uplifting to see the community taking care of each other. 

Health is not an abstract idea: learn pronouns

Anything else you would like to talk about that we forgot to ask?

You know, I think the only other thing I’d love to put out in the universe is to remind folks to really practice compassion at this moment. Think beyond yourselves, and really understand that change is only possible if we are open to shattering our own perceptions of what communities can look like. Let yourself be wrong, and maybe make friends with someone who doesn’t look or think like you.