Designing COVID-19

Jerry Yanavok III

By Jerry Yanavok III on April 7, 2020

Four Design Choices that Make the CDC and AD Council’s PSA More Effective

In a time of great uncertainty, how do we as designers communicate a message (especially one this important) to the world that’s not only comprehensive but is also relatable and calming?

In an attempt to bring clear answers to the public about the coronavirus pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the AD Council released three short video PSA’s about COVID-19. In less than 60 seconds, their easy-to-understand messages inform viewers about who the virus affects, how it affects them and what people can do in order to help stop the spread.

Let’s take a closer look at one of the PSA videos:

As a designer, I noticed some excellent design choices that greatly contribute to the video’s ease of consumption, consistency and effectiveness. Here are four examples.


The opening of the video shows a line drawing of a globe with word bubbles placed in various parts of the globe to show that, of course, everyone is talking about COVID-19. With this image we are able to understand that the virus doesn’t need a passport to travel across the world. People are talking about it everywhere because cases are being confirmed everywhere.

When there is a villain that needs to be defeated, being able to visualize it can help call people to act. However, showing the virus or its devastating effects can be alarming, especially as an opening image. The video only shows a literal representation of the virus once (for three seconds) and the rest of the time represents it as a scratchy, particle-like texture in the background. The texture placed over the world, silhouettes of people and health iconography continues the metaphor that the virus has the potential to spread across the planet if not stopped.


Throughout the video we see various muted, monochromatic colors used in the background, illustrations and in the typography.

Why are these colors an important design choice? It’s critical that the video gets its message across without further creating a sense of fear and panic. The content consists of incredibly important components regarding global public health and a very serious pandemic. The CDC needs to make the viewer feel more at ease and open to rational thought rather than hysteria.

Muted colors can create a calming and friendly tone.


The videos all use simplified illustrations filled in with a scratchy texture in order to visually show us where the virus can reside.

Looking closer at the illustrations, they are effective because their soft style feels warming and inviting. Additionally, their simplicity makes them extremely easy to understand as they work in harmony with the corresponding serif type treatments next to them.

The messages are concise and the illustrations make it extremely easy for someone to comprehend the video, even if they don’t speak English. The simple animations add movement to keep viewers engaged.


For some, choosing fonts could be considered mundane. For designers, however, being able to choose the right type treatment is critical, as it could make or break your message.

Fonts not only have to be legible, but also in keeping with the overall look and feel of the entire piece. This typeface is most likely Kazimir. According to the Type Network, the face has slightly narrowed proportions, long extenders and dynamic strokes reminiscent of the rhythms of transitional serifs. This makes it a great choice for headline and display treatments because it maximizes legibility. It flows with the rest of the design as it feels safe and warm, while also commanding your attention like a news headline.

Clarity During Uncertain Times

Overall, with the uncertainty that clouds our lives at the moment, this PSA from the CDC and AD Council successfully provides the answers and clarity we need. The design choices outlined above contribute to the authoritativeness yet calming feel of the videos, the importance of which in a video this critical cannot be overstated. As a designer, I feel a tremendous amount of resolve for what we do and how vital our industry can be in supporting such critical initiatives.

About Ridge Marketing

Ridge Marketing is an agency that specializes in crafting creative digital assets and using websites, search, advertising and email to ensure that the right prospects interact with your brand and become loyal customers.