Mental Health and Society
The Mental Health and Society Initiative works in partnership with NGOs to develop alternatives to institutions and advocate for changes in policy toward the adoption and replication of these alternatives by governments. My role in the Mental Health and Society organization went beyond design work. I had to help them convey their message, develop their organizational capacity, and establish communication strategies to use in their short and longer-term advocacy efforts. The existing MHS communications system included a logo, leaflets, a monthly newsletter, and a web site. These assets had to be reconsidered to better represent the NGO and its mission. The first challenge was the language. Kyrgyz people speak Russian and very few people at MHS spoke English. Moreover, their entire communications system was in Russian — the newsletter, the leaflets, and the web site. How was I to create new designs that included written work when the text is made up of Cyrillic letters that I did not understand? The second challenge was convincing the director of Mental Health and Society and the staff that the organization’s identity would benefit greatly from devising a completely new approach to branding.
The first thing I did was to download Russian fonts from the Internet. My plan was to work from my laptop and to transfer the design files on to their computers later. However, I realized that the leaflets, for instance, lived on their computers in editable formats. I decided that it would be better to alter their files rather than create new ones. In doing so, I had to establish new designs, but at least I had the content, meaning the text, ready. I needed help with the language. Aigul, a social worker at the outpatient center, spent significant time by my side and helped me out with the Russian. Next, I had to create Mental Health and Society’s new identity. Their initial logo had more of an industrial feel, and I knew that the new brand had to speak of the important work of the organization. I also felt that it had to have pleasing colors implying ‘change’ and ‘hope’. I worked on a look that consisted of joyful people of all ages. Then I spoke to Burul, the director of the NGO, and told her that it was essential that their new identity convey the core values and vital work of MHS. Finally, I showed her the work and she loved it.
Mental Health and Society (MHS)
Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic
The mission of Mental Health and Society is to defend human rights, especially those of people with mental health disabilities. Throughout Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Republics MHS seeks social inclusion for the mentally ill by providing access to education, housing, employment, leisure, and cultural activities, in addition to healthcare and social support. The central goal of the organization is to replace large mental health hospitals with community-based services. The NGO’s philosophy is based on the idea that patients have the right to all information about their diagnosis, their prognosis, their medications, their options, as well as about available resources, the mental health system itself, and their legal rights.
Maral Minassian (Parsons MFA DT 2009) is a graphic designer and artist in Los Angeles, where she is the Creative Director at Arraydiance, a software and web development company. In New York she led Mudbucket, Parson’s in-house design studio. She was Lebanon’s representative at Inarea International during which she gave lectures in Rome and Tuscany in the spring of 2007.