Asthmatics Against Secondhand Smoke

When I first started this project, I was overwhelmed as many of us are (and others will be) at how much freedom we were given with what to do. I did a BS in Communication – New Media with a minor in Graphic Design, so my goal was to merge the two fields together, since that’s kind of my dream once I’m out in the terror-filled world of job hunting. After some intense brain-storming – which was really me looking half-crazed at a wall for hours – I figured what better way to marry the two than with a Public Service Announcement campaign. On one hand, I could make posters and advertisements to satisfy the graphic design half, and also have electronic elements such as Twitter, Instagram, and a WordPress site to fill the communication half. And thus, Asthmatics Against Secondhand Smoke was born….kind of.

Back in Monica’s COM 406 class (Ads & Imagery), we did a PSA campaign project about something that was important to us. Being from the north (NJ) where there isn’t much of a smoking culture, it was quite a shock coming down here and being assaulted by just how many smokers there were on campus. I still loved the town, though, and was already moved in by the time this realization hit, so it was too late to do much about it besides try to dodge and get really good at holding my breath. By the time Junior year rolled around, however, I was pretty fed up with my asthma getting worse and worse, and the flippant attitude smokes had towards me whenever I brought it up. Above – in all their terrible typography glory – are the first brain children of the AASHS campaign, spawned from that faithful assignment.

First step was to get thumbnails drawn to see which idea I’d be going with. Through meetings with Monica, we chose the 4th one with the star next to it to be expanded upon.

My original thought was to put them in real settings, but after some deliberation, it was decided to instead go for a more studio’d look, and to shoot the posters with people in them in a way that others could see themselves  in the poster. I wanted to work with primarily Photoshop because through my graphic design minor I favored Illustrator more and wanted to expand on my Photoshop knowledge. To get these posters to work how I wanted them to, I had to learn how to put objects together that were not originally together in one picture as seamlessly as possible. My biggest challenge (or so I thought at the time) would be to create a hand out of smoke, and to create smoke in general. Turns out those were the easy bits. Below are the finished posters which I ended up getting printed on a light card stock.

There was a shift in not only the level of typographic skill from the first brain child posters to the finished capstone products. Before, I only paid attention to the effects secondhand smoke had in people with chronic conditions in general since the audience is Shepherd’s campus. However, through my research blogs I found that there’s much more on secondhand smoke, asthma, and children, so it only made sense that I include more children in my final project. It works out since there are students who are parents, and there’s also that daycare center that just so happens to be next to a prime smoke spot.

Along with the posters, there was also a newspaper advertisement measured out for The Picket.

Now I mentioned before that I wanted to merge comm and graphic design together for this project. What’s above was all the graphic design elements, so now it’s time to get into the communications part. What better way to help get a campaign talked about than to get it a Twitter? And so it was. On the Twitter, there are progress posts about the print campaign materials, as well as secondhand smoking facts under the hashtag #SHSFacts. I tried to add different kinds of content in the tweets to get people talking, since if I was to let myself go unregulated I would probably end up saying some not-so-nice things as people are wont to do when they get angry-passionate about something.

I also set up an Instagram since 1. It’s becoming the most popular social media site, 2. People like nice visuals, and 3. I wanted to make typographic posters. The Instagram operates in much the same way as the Twitter does; posts about the print ads as well as facts are featured, but the difference is the facts are presented as visually interesting mini-posters rather than just straight text. Both even use the same hashtag #SHSFacts. The most dangerous part about secondhand smoking education is that there’s almost none. People still have no idea what they’re doing to those who surround them whenever they smoke, so the hashtag helps get that information out.

If you’re aware of Instagram’s little…quirk of being solely updatable from a phone, you can understand my frustration of trying to figure out how to transfer files from my computer to my phone and back again. Thankfully, a program was introduced to me called AirDroid which works like AirDrop for Mac users, but is for Android instead. This lovely app saved me from having to email myself files constantly, thus putting the biggest project of my school career in the shaky-at-best hands of the Shepherd email system.

The last bit of my project is the site. On the posters, it gives the link to the home base of the entire project. On the site are explanations of both the print and the electronic elements of the PSA campaign, but it also houses some pages linking to centers dedication to showing people how to quit smoking as well as more in-depth information on why secondhand smoking is so dangerous. In addition, there are videos of similar information and one that has testimonials of children with asthma talking about the effects SHS has on their lives.

The communication theory I had chosen to work under was that of behavioral change. Simply put, the theory focuses on the community to try and get someone to break a dangerous habit. According to behavioral change theory, people have a grasp over their conduct if it’s a voluntary action such as excessive drinking and smoking in general, so by providing information, facts, and a way to help, you can start to make a domino effect of difference. Keeping this in mind, the centers I linked to in the “How to Stop Smoking” section of the webpage are all focused on community and group healing.

When the actual presentations came around, I was shocked. Like I mentioned before, there are many, many smokers on campus and I haven been brushed off before when I’ve tried to talk about this with people, so it was quite a shock to have people agreeing with me. I had a steady stream of people at some points asking me to explain my project, and then engaging with me by telling me their stories. Many were happy that I decided to try and bring this up to the forefront (and being stationed in front of the food turned out to be prime real estate, even if it did get cramped every once in a while), and I was even asked on my feelings towards e-cigarettes. I was honestly expecting to be glared at or at least debated with, but aside from a few uncomfortable looks from people who know how bad SHS is but decide to ignore it, everyone was very supportive!

If I could give one piece of advice after all this, it would be to go to a Capstone presentation. I didn’t go to any and I regret it because I could have gotten so many ideas from people before. At the very least, I would have known what the presentations were like beforehand. All-in-all, I’m very proud of this project and how it turned out, and am actually a little sad to see it go.

Monica Valva
Comm: New Media