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Health & Safety illustration

Planet illustration studio company blog 022 / Looking at Health and Safety illustrations by freelance illustrator Adrian Cartwright

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Flight Safety Leaflet

3rd August 2015

An illustration could save your life.

Heath and Safety illustrations might sound text book and utility like, but is an area that covers many styles and can be dramatic and powerful.

The scenario could be in an Emergency situation for instance on an Aeroplane (Airplane for our American friends).
Just think about it, an illustration might save your life, simply because the illustrator thought carefully about how a person would interpret the instruction after seeing the image in a heightened emotional state.

A picture can say a lot in a very short space of time, but consideration is needed to make sure the message is clear and in the right order.... because looking at a picture draws more towards our emotional side of the Brain where there's no hard and fast language to it. So much like taste our opinion may differ and so our understanding can too.
This highlights that mistakes can be made when looking at a picture, but the same can be said when reading a sentence.... it's quite easy to misunderstand something, and especially in a distracting or stressful situation.
But if it's simple and clear enough, a picture can say a lot very quickly and cross languages too.

On a lighter side, the safety instruction, might simply remind you to "Wash your Hands" or caution you about wet floors... these are very simple and have adopted universal icons that are reasonably identifiable. These do alter in different cultures, but some are known all around the world. See our instruction page.

Where there's a more complex or unusual message to give you'll find many examples of illustration that experiment with icons, symbols and composition like storyboard to show scenes in a instruction. But how effective are they?

I'm about to go on holiday, and I always enjoy studying the Flight safety leaflets and find myself editing them in my head, and thinking I can do better than that. I never follow it up, and perhaps I should. It's easy to pick fault though, and I know from 25 years experience that there's alway space to tweak and improve something.
We can make them beautiful to look at, but the main reason they exist is to instruct or warn... that's the purpose, and aesthetics must come second. But sometimes an interesting illustration can draw the viewer in and subconsciously pass the message on. This needs to do be done in a quick way, especially if it's an urgent message.

Planet illustration have done some health and safety illustrations in the past that have benefitted from carefully considered humour, avoiding patronising and being authoritative at the same time, but highlighting some sensitive messages. See example in our portfolio.

This blog is a small drop in the ocean of this type of illustration and the areas it can cover are endless, but I hope that it shows that the safety messages you see every day from the moment you turn the keys in your car or signs on the side of the road, at some point someone somewhere sat down and carefully thought about the best way to show you that message.

With that I hope you have a speedy and safe flight, and do look at the flight instructions, if only to think about a better way to illustrate them. Then pass them onto me, an illustrator looking and longing to have the opportunity to illustrate my own. email me.

Author: Adrian Cartwright illustrator at Planet illustration. Contact

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