Skip to content

A good sign for better mental health (2 photos)

In this edition of his Urban Cowboy column, Owen Roberts hears from the designer of a new mental health program logo

Logo development is a real challenge. How do you concisely, effectively, artistically and sensitively represent something as passionate as, for example, a pressing and emotional advocacy cause in a wordless graphic image?

That’s the question University of Guelph student Alexandra Sawatzky faced, designing a logo for the fledgling “In The Know” mental health program for farmers. The program, developed over the past year at the university with PhD candidate Briana Hagen and the guidance of a 30-member advisory committee consisting of farmers, veterinarians, mental health experts and adult education specialists, is being pilot tested this fall in Ontario. Program supervisor Dr. Andria Jones-Bitton thought a logo would help give the initiative a unique identity, so she called on talented artist Sawatzky. 

But interestingly, Sawatzky is not a graphic arts student – rather, she’s finishing up her doctoral studies in Public Health at the Ontario Veterinary College. It just so happens artistic talent is among this future PhD’s many communication skills (she is a former participant in the university’s Students Promoting Awareness of Research Knowledge program, in which students learn to write journalistically about science).

With the rise of infographics as a modern communication tool, Sawatzky is able to use her graphic arts abilities in her field of study, public health. It’s a field that promotes the health of populations or groups such as communities, beyond the care of individual population members themselves, and relies on clear communication strategies that are representative and reflective of those communities. In Sawatzky’s case, one strategy she uses is called “graphic notetaking,” or creating real-time infographic murals at meetings and conferences, of themes that are discussed there. 

That how the concept for the “In The Know” logo emerged. Sawatzky participated in discussions at stakeholder working group meetings with Hagen and Jones-Bitton, to do some graphic notetaking during the discussions. That led to a conversation about designing a logo.

“My experiences working with this group enabled me to have a grasp on the topics and key priority areas that such a logo would need to represent,” she says.

Sawatzky says the main pieces she brought together to create this logo were the importance of thinking about and emphasizing the importance of mental health in agriculture. That’s represented by the crop field lines within the brain. The second part was recognition and acknowledgement of participation in the “In The Know” program, as represented by the two leaves coming together to form a checkmark.

She says the checkmark can also be used to promote the idea of adding mental health literacy training to the "check-lists" of those living and working in the agricultural community.

“Overall, this design is meant to show that a person is ‘in the know’ with regards to mental health in agriculture, and is willing and able to engage with others in their community to have these important discussions,” she says. “I used a genderless silhouette so as to be inclusive of people of all genders who might participate in this program. And, I used green to represent growth within the agricultural community towards acceptance, inclusion, and support in mental health.”

Three versions of the In the Know program will be available in 2019. The first version will be a four-hour in-person workshop, tentatively scheduled for early 2019. Feedback from the workshop’s pilot will be used to finalize the workshop content and to further develop the full-day workshop, which should be ready by the spring. These will be followed by an eight-module online version sometime in the late spring or early summer.


Owen Roberts

About the Author: Owen Roberts

Owen Roberts is a journalist and a columnist with daily, weekly and monthly print and online media.
Read more