M.AD Masks: Creative Responses to COVID-19

Our students join the conversation

The whole world is coming to terms with what life might look like in the aftermath of COVID-19—and indeed, what it might look like as we continue to deal with the virus in the coming months.

Medical professionals are using their talents and determination to improve outcomes for patients. Logistics providers are working hard to ensure equipment reaches the frontlines. And M.AD students, as ever, are using their creative talents to help in their own way—by imagining how we might integrate more virus-conscious behaviors into our everyday living.

In the words of Pippa Seichrist, “While the world hunts for a cure, we can do our part to support not only our healthcare heroes, but our world. And as creatives, we can play a unique role here. If we work together to harness the power of our creativity, we can produce ideas and solutions that have the potential to generate palpable change.

Pippa’s brief for this assignment was simple but critical, “As masks become as common as gloves and socks, let us produce compelling masks that the world will want to wear, not just have to wear.”

It’s a crucial conversation. In the long-term, global health may well depend on regular people adopting personal protection equipment as a facet of their regular routine. Already, studies are showing the incredible impact that mass mask adoption can have on limiting viral spread.

But change is always hard. And as always, personal safety doesn’t necessarily come before personal style in everyone’s decision-making process. So our students tasked themselves with creating effective, meaningful masks that would encourage users of all kinds to adopt safe practices.

The result? An assortment of innovative and impactful mask proposals that could help change the trajectory of the virus. Here are just a few.

B!#*H Responsibly by Austin Rettinhouse

Austin Rettinhouse, an Art Direction student here at M.AD, took an important (yet comic and relatable) approach to his mask proposal. Feeling frustrated with the daily impacts of the virus, he developed “B!#*H Responsibly”

“We are all on the same page: COVID-19 [email protected]*king sucks,’ says Austin, ‘with some creative censorship, you too can share your endless complaints with those 6 feet or further. There’s never been a more appropriate time to b!#*h and moan, so strap on a mask and B!#*h Responsibly.”

How about that for innovation? In his design, Rettinhouse piggy-backs on the existing frustration users might have with the reality of life in the time of COVID. By leaning into that experience, rather than shying away from it, the design does an admirable job of co-opting the cultural moment. And by using humor to lighten the tone, he’s created masks that could easily become cultural touchstones.

FUN-MASKS by Vic Parizzotto

Targeting a wildly different demographic, Vic Parizzotto, saw a need for masks designed specifically for children and created “FUN-MASKS”, a mask that is not only made and sized for children, but also functions as a creative coloring book kids can draw on with washable markers.

Here’s how Vic described the project:
“We’re FUN-MASKS! We’re simple and fun, cool but responsible. We are here to make safety and health exciting for everyone, join us and make the world a more conscious and creative place.”

Parizzotto’s work here is fantastic. By analyzing the needs of the user, she’s discovered a segment of the population that is missing a mask designed for them: namely, kids. Of course, kids are less likely to make a decision purely based on their own sense of safety (see: learning to look both ways)…and although parents can try to teach them, it’s always much easier if things are fun. These masks are a beautiful blending of creativity and practicality.

It’s always good to see a project with public health implications include such a high degree of human-centered thinking. This is the kind of innovation that can go a long way to improving outcomes across the world.

MOD ART MASKS by Jean Lee

Vic’s classmate Jean Lee, a first-year student at M.AD School of Ideas, saw the negative impact the virus had on culture. As an art direction major, Lee found the closure of all museums and galleries across the world devastating. She wondered what the longevity of museums would be without ticket sales and feared the possibility of indefinite closure. As a result, she proposed MOD ART MASKS. The mask designs provide a fun new way for art enthusiasts to wear and promote modern art while staying safe.

Here’s how Lee pitches the concept:
“Now more than ever, we need the help of patrons so we can keep our doors open for future generations to enjoy modern art. We wanted patrons to show their support for modern art by wearing MOD ART MASKS. MOD ART MASKS celebrate the art of Roy Lichtenstein, Henri Matisse, and Piet Mondrian. The masks reflect the aesthetic of Lichtenstein’s pop art influence, Henri Matisse’s terminal cut-out era, and Mondrian during the De Stjil movement. They will be available to purchase at MOMA.org, whitney.org, and newmuseum.org.”

Once again, we have a product that’s rooted in real-world experience, and a genuine audience niche. Lee’s experience in the art world gave her inspiration. She used her creative talent to produce masks that could go beyond meer functionality and serve as a personal statement for each individual user.

THE FACES OF HEROES by Saloni Doshi

Salon Doshi studies Art Direction at M.AD. He also, like so many of us, sees the appeal of heroes in pop culture…and has noticed parallels to those fictional Avengers in the behavior of our healthcare service workers in this time of overwhelming emergency.

The Faces of Heroes concept takes that idea and runs with it.

Doshi describes it like this: “In a world where a virus has everyone afraid to leave their houses, there is an extraordinary group of men & women who are on the frontline fighting for our lives. This ad campaign – The Faces of Heroes, thanks medical workers for their service to the world. Medical face masks would be printed to look like superhero masks letting medical workers know they are our real heroes. Kimberly – Clark, a company that manufactures medical masks, will send these posters to hospitals along with a short-run of the printed masks for workers.”

You can imagine it: children and adults alike using their choice of mask to pay homage to the workers doing everything humanly possible to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. It’s an idea that taps into the pop culture zeitgeist (after all, who’s bigger than the Avengers?) to spread a concept with real-world importance.

That kind of thinking is everything we stand for.

MOI by Felicia Susanto

In creating the MOI concept, Art Direction student Felicia Susanto addressed another pain point as it regards wearing face masks—the impact on comfort and skin health.

As Susanto puts it, “MOI is a mask that protects your health and feels good. keeps your lip area moist. The inner lining of the mask is specially designed to keep you hydrated. The inside fabric of the mask is infused with Vitamin C & E and coconut oil.”

The concept works for two reasons: there is the practical appeal of a mask that offers a solution to the dry lips and damaged skin that many of us have unfortunately become accustomed to over the past few months. On top of that, the masks Felicia designed are visually appealing: minimal, in pastel colors with subtle branding. One can imagine them appealing to a demographic also concerned with the health of their skin.

CHANGING IDENTITIES by John Bennett

When John Bennett was tasked with creating a mask for the COVID-19 crisis, he chose to approach confront one of the more fundamental issues with face wear: that the mask itself can rob us of our identity. Anyone who has tried wearing one in public has most likely felt that on an immediate and personal level.

John puts it like this: “People now have to wear masks in public but the masks hide half of their identity.” It’s a serious problem. At a time when we are asked to come together in solidarity and support, the inability to access each other’s facial expressions hinders us.

Bennet’s concept is playful: he suggests a way to use masks while preventing the related communication issues by custom-printing a user’s face on their mask.

MASKS AGAINST HUMANITY by Zach Rucker

Zach Rucker is studying copywriting at Miami Ad School. And his talent with words is immediately apparent in his mask concept: Masks Against Humanity.

Rucker curated a list of fun, sassy phrases to be printed on masks. As in the B!#*H Responsibly concept from Austin Rettinhouse, the masks become a tool to express individuality, in a time when that is perhaps more valued than ever.

Of course, the idea only works if the writing is good enough, and Rucker (naturally) delivers, with phrases like, “Trend Spreader”, “I’m doing this so we can both breathe later”, and “This is as close to being a doctor as I’ll ever get.”

Well done, Zach.

The Creative Process in Action

When it comes to a project like this, it’s our student’s real-world experience that sets them apart. At M.AD, we always aim to produce work that is sellable, practical, and potentially world-changing. Our students, by focusing on the lived experiences of individuals dealing with quarantine and the other impacts of COVID-19, have created designs that don’t merely satisfy an aesthetic, but that also meet the needs of real-life users. The results, if implemented, could have real-world implications.

Thank you for reading. Stay safe.

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