United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Safe Motherhood Initiative

Summer 2007  

In continuing partnership with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Designmatters facilitated a Summer 2007 studio to develop an integrated multi-media awareness campaign in support of the 2007 Safe Motherhood Initiative. This campaign was developed in a trans-disciplinary studio consisting of students from ArtCenter’s Advertising, Graphic Design, and Graduate Media Design departments, led by faculty members Elena Salij, Advertising; Louis Danzinger, Graphic Design; and Helen Sanematsu, Graphic Design.

Inspired by UNFPA messages such as “No woman should die giving life,” and “Every minute of every day, another woman dies in childbirth,” students designed provocative yet sensitive awareness campaigns consisting of public service announcements (PSAs), print ads, and give-away items. Closely guided by UNFPA lead project staff, the goal of this campaign was to raise awareness, educate, and call to action a wide cross-section of audiences, many of whom are unaware of the global problem of maternal mortality, as well as appeal to political leaders and decision-makers to provide aid and make policy changes.

Designing for the UNFPA challenged students to think beyond just a client’s vision or brand, but to consider how to effectively communicate to the global public about a real-world problem. Through research and discussion, it became evident that minimizing words and making the large number of deaths emotionally comprehensible would be key factors in achieving this goal.


To begin, students divided into three teams, each of which conceived of three distinct multi-media campaigns promoting safe motherhood. By the end of the term, what resulted was one unified campaign to include all three team’s PSAs, and other compelling elements from all three proposals such as banners, bags, pins, and bookmarks. Combined these pieces serve as a series of poignant messages advocating for maternal health while keeping in mind a varied audience.

In a joint statement about the outcome, the faculty said, “The students committed themselves to solving the problem in unconventional ways, to attempt to produce art and poetry rather than ‘commercials.’ No pleading for funds, no direct calls for action. No predictable images of third-world villages, native peoples struggling for existence—all the usual clichés.” Following this direction, the students communicated the enormity of this tragedy in a clear and heartfelt campaign.

This campaign will be disseminated world-wide via broadcast airtime on EuroNews and BBC World in Fall 2007 and display throughout the Women Deliver international conference to be held in London, October 18-20, 2007. The PSAs are also showcased on the Women Deliver conference website.

As part of the Designmatters initiatives for global healthcare and human sustainable development, this project functions as the first steps in communicating an imperative for immediate action to reduce the number of deaths associated with childbirth and improve the lives of women and their families around the world.


“The project description was really appealing because maternal mortality is an issue that is really overlooked, and in most cases, the people I spoke to were either not concerned or unaware. How can we entice the viewer to take notice and proceed to some form of action? That was the challenge for both UNFPA and ourselves as a design team.”

Emerson Velazquez (Graphic Design/7th term)

“The problem (maternal mortality) handed to us was so extensive and overwhelming that coming to our final solution was truly a labor of love.”

Janete Chun (Adversiting/5th term)


Help Spread the Word No Woman Should Die Giving Life

In an effort to spread the message of maternal health and safe motherhood, UNFPA is currently showcasing the three PSAs created in this studio as part of a world-wide viral campaign. Here’s your chance to participate in this campaign by helping disseminate these videos via email to your colleagues, friends, and family, and by posting them to online media networks and communities such as MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, etc., as well as to personal weblogs.

The three PSAs are:

• When Mother Died, The Family Fell Apart
• Every Minute, A Mother Is Dying
• Look At Her Before It’s Too Late

Download or link to the video clips at: http://www.unfpa.org/safemotherhood/mediakit 

These PSAs are also being broadcast on EuroNews and BBC World.

Thank you for spreading this important message!