Graphic Artist Explores the Idea of Addiction Through Minimalist Design

Do you remember seeing that cautionary ad campaign on television about fried eggs designed to make viewers say no to drugs?

“This is your brain. This is drugs. This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?”

It was one of the most influential ads of all time–even if it was a little over-dramatic and borderline ludicrous. Was that sunny side up egg supposed to represent all drugs? Did Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, previously known as the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, do people a disservice by attempting to scare them into sobriety without giving them access to information on how drugs can affect their body chemistry?

Nearly 30 years later, a young graphic designer is doing society a favor by explaining drugs and brain chemistry in a language anyone can understand. Knowledge truly can be power when used in the right way.

Meaghan Li is currently an undergraduate at Duke University, where she studies public policy, political science and visual media. With a passion for graphic design, Li is a completely self-taught artist who excels at communicating and expressing ideas both visually and creatively. In a series of posters she recently created for a psychology project titled This Is Your Brain on Drugs, she explored the idea of addiction through minimalist design.

“The style I used is challenging because you can only use a few colors and shapes to convey a complex idea (that should be understood by as many people as possible)” Li explains. “For some of the designs, I simply used Wikipedia articles, common sense, and popular archetypes; alcohol makes you pass out, MDMA makes you feel empathetic and affectionate. For others, I had to do more extensive reading, ranging from research papers to personal accounts by authors such as Aldous Huxley and chemists like Alexander Shulgin, to understand the nuances of their effects.”

While other students chose to communicate their concepts with paintings, research papers and rap songs, Li went the route she’s most familiar with.

My poster series is primarily a work of art, but it also serves as commentary on other social and health issues as well. I intend to use these designs as the backs of pocket-sized cards that provide information on each drug’s effects and risks. A prominent policy institution in the U.K. has contacted me about collaborating on these cards.

At Duke, Li started designing posters for her freshman dorm and living group. By the time that she started working for DiDA, she realized that graphic design served as the creative outlet that she had yearned for.

Nevertheless, political science and public policy still play a major role in the work she is passionate about creating.

“Politics and policy have always interested me because they concern problems that affect every single person in a nation. The welfare of my parents, the opportunities afforded to my little sister, the injustices faced by my friends and peers,” Li adds. “All of these are directly influenced by the decisions of policymakers.”

Feel free to check out her website or follow her on Instagram.