“Obesity” is a tough concept to iconize. I looked around for some visual inspiration and found images of rotund stick figures (e.g., Shutterstock) and detailed side profiles of overweight individuals, but I was not satisfied with what I found.
In the current public health ‘battle against obesity’, I find that images used to talk about obese or overweight individuals tend to lean towards (visual) messaging that is stigmatizing or shaming. What it often boils down to is a message that seems to suggest: “Hey you, you look fat and unhealthy. Stop eating so much food.” Maybe that’s the intent but an anti-obesity campaign from Minnesota ignited a lot of debate recently around what makes for an effective and encouraging message around healthy eating. There has also been some public blame and finger pointing at individuals who some argue should be ‘held responsible’ for their weight. In the end, I wonder if a lot of the messaging out there detracts from rather than helps meaningfully address issues around weight, food, and health.
Case in point: I was in NYC a couple of weeks ago and snapped this photo on the subway:
The campaign is run by the City of New York and is aiming to encourage folks to make healthier choices. I think the focus here comes down to the individual and the way she/he looks and behaves, but to me the imagery seems to suggest that the figure in the poster is gluttonous and irresponsible.
I find the (visual) connection between food (junk food & quantity of food) and weight quite intuitive and obvious: The more stuff you put into the body, the heavier you’re likely to be. While there is no icon that can capture the complex nature of obesity as an issue, perhaps there are other ways to focus our attention than spending most of our time waving our fingers at junk food, fat rolls, bulging bellies and ‘poor’ body image. I wanted to create something that focused less on the body as a result.
Anyways, scale that I drew above is one starting point…I think it would be fun to jam on this a bit more. Is it any more or less powerful that the visuals you’ve seen out there?