When Rodrigo “Tuco” Ramirez and his family were caught in the 8.8-magnitude Chile earthquake in 2010, he saw an experience to shake up the design world.
In the aftermath of the earthquake, he realized that the authoritative bodies in his country were lacking the tools to properly inform and warn people of potential tragedy. That’s when the concept behind the Guemil Project was born.
The Guemil Project is an open source initiative to develop a standard for visual communication via icons and pictographs calculated for emergency situations.
The project focuses on communication in the before, during and after stages of an emergency. Ramirez says the last moment anyone wants to realize that they are unprepared is during an emergency, making the “before” stage exceptionally critical.
“This is my passion — icons, iconography, information design — so I started to try to define which kind of project I can do to make a contribution to that space that is not filled,” Ramirez said.
Ramirez says this area of design is heavily rooted in traditional practices and principles of typography, his specialization in his design career. He hopes to show more people the importance of the symbols and images that have become engrained in people’s everyday comprehension of the world around them.
“I would like to encourage people to work in an analogous way; do it by hand,” Ramirez said.
Ramirez visited SND Charlotte to inform other designers of his project and work with them to think about and create their own visual language using iconography. He says that participating in events like SND Charlotte can help him test how he can experiment new approaches to solutions by talking to other designers.
Bella Lupoli, a graphic design student at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, attended the hands-on session and created icons to represent the dangers of an avalanche.
“I think designers play a huge role as communicators,” Lupoli said. “I think that design is one of the most important things about communicating. If it is not designed correctly, you may not get your point across, especially in emergency situations. It could be life or death.”