MICA and Johns Hopkins (and James Brown) Team Up to Make Lab Safety Cool

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Lab safety:  not the hippest subject, we’ll admit. But getting your hair singed off or losing a foot to an errant Erlenmeyer flask isn’t particularly cool, either. Because Johns Hopkins students are famously fond of both flip flops and long nights in the lab, the school recently realized it was going to need a much more intense campaign to convince students to engage in safe science lab behavior. Enter MICA’s graphic designers, who could make pretty much anything seem appealing…. even safety goggles.

The posters may look familiar to old-school Baltimoreans; that’s because they take their style from the famous (and now-defunct) Globe Poster Printing Corp., a historic company that produced colorful concert posters for James Brown, Etta James, B.B. King, and Otis Redding, among others. Once the company closed in 2010, MICA acquired much of its stock, including more than 100,000 pieces of wood-block type and hand-carved illustrations and photo cuts of some of those famous musicians.

Bob Cicero, a former owner of Globe, taught a letterpress course at MICA last year in which graphic design students used the old Globe materials to create the lab safety posters, which feature the bold wood type and eye-catching colors that Globe made famous. Each of the 400 posters was run by hand on vintage presses in MICA’s letterpress studio. “At Globe, the challenge was always to make sure every musician got good billing, and this time the goal was to make sure each safety rule stood out,” Cicero explains. It may not be quite as cool as designing posters for Aretha Franklin, but it sure is helpful.



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