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Learning How to Create Trauma-Informed Graphic Design

by Melanie Slade, UVA IPP Intern, Fall 2022

The Virginia Sexual & Domestic Violence Action Alliance has provided a small program that allows for organizations, like us here at SARA, to learn how we can create graphic content that considers all those who may be impacted by trauma.

Some of the more technical skills I acquired from these courses were how design elements like typography and color theory can be used to create graphics that are as accessible as possible.

Under the umbrella of typography I learned the following:

  • Avoid using Serif fonts, fonts with what seem to be “decorative” accents,

    • Times New Roman

    • EB Garamond

    • Georgia

  • Staying away from accent fonts in body paragraphs, use more sparingly in headers

  • Using letter spacing that promotes legibility in the overall graphic image

  • Avoid using exclusively capital letters, as it can make a message seem more forceful

Under the umbrella of color theory I learned:

  • Ensure that there is good contrast between background colors, images, and headers

    • Try using dark and light colors against each other for the ultimate contrast

    • Try using desaturated colors to maintain the same color story

    • Try using colors opposite on the color wheel (yellow & purple or orange & blue)

  • Ensure that you are designing graphics that are still accessible to those who may have visual impairments that affect color vision

  • Use colors intentionally: understand that colors convey a message

    • Try to understand that across different cultures colors represent different emotions and actions.

Under the umbrella of layout I learned:

  • Avoid creating graphics with too much going on, instead allow the viewer to be drawn to a central focal point

  • With type, establish a hierarchy that allows you to display which messages should have more focus drawn to them

Taking this class was an opportunity to understand how organizations that specialize in the advocacy against violence are able to relay their message and values, without retraumatizing a survivor. A specific element of this course that I drew back to our work here at SARA, is focusing on how survivors can have a better future. In visual representations we should not be asking the survivor to experience a past trauma that they can no longer control, we can only ask them to look into a future, where there is hope. This is why I was drawn back to our logo, here at SARA, and the small quotation “Voices of Hope and Healing”.

As I continue my journey here at SARA, I aim to implement these strategies into my graphic design work. Making sure to always consider how something I create, may be perceived by any person who may need the support.

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