Fighting malaria - with just nine stickers

Edinburgh Napier team uses graphic design skills to aid combat of deadly disease

Date posted

11 May 2017


Last updated

14 June 2022

An academic team from Edinburgh Napier is helping fight the spread of malaria in Mozambique – with just nine stickers.

Led by senior graphic design lecturer Myrna MacLeod, the team visited the Nampula region of Northern Mozambique in June 2016 with a vision of utilising their graphic design skills in the ongoing fight against the deadly disease.

In three locations across the area – Nampula, Ilha and Mossuril – the team worked with more than 100 locals including students, community leaders and doctors to co-design a graphic aid that would help in their own personal fight against malaria.

The result was an innovative pack of colourful stickers which could be displayed on walls in schools, health posts and even on school bags that would alert users to certain actions and routines they could take in relation to malaria prevention. A poster and tote bag was also part of the design.

Actions such as keeping the grass around your house low, using your malaria net for its intended purpose and hints and tips on how to keep your home clean are depicted through the stickers. The workshops and interviews helped shape their design - from how the illustration looks to what colours were used – with all items translated into three different languages; English, Portuguese and Makhuwa.

Life-saving stickers

The Edinburgh Napier team consists of academics Myrna MacLeod and Iain Macdonald, supported by four student research assistants, as well as alumni Thomas Wightman and Becky Thomas and final year graphic design students Fiona Winchester and Jenny Taylor.

The team worked closely with a number of organisations during its time in Mozambique, including UNICEF, non-governmental organisations and community and social activists, as well as traditional healers and other medical personnel.

The project was funded by the team itself after it raised nearly £20,000 through various sources including The Royal Society of Edinburgh, Edinburgh Napier’s School of Arts and Creative Industries Early Career Research Funding, Teaching Fellows and the staff mobility fund.

It is now the intention to seek further funding to allow the stickers to be rolled out across the region and to establish a base for the stickers to be produced and printed locally.

Behind the scenes

Myrna MacLeod said: “After two weeks travelling around Nampula province and engaging with over 100 people in three distinct communities, we received the material that allowed us to design a set of stickers that each tells a distinct and detailed story. They have been visualised by local people who live with malaria every day and have been shaped by local knowledge and opinion.

“We encountered a strong sense of solidarity for the project aims from the local community, with people from all backgrounds engaged with the principles and simplicity of the idea. They were insightful and articulate and keen to share their knowledge with us. The co-design aspect of the project was one of the most rewarding parts of the entire project.

“Now that we have the final designs, we’re looking for further support to help us disseminate the stickers throughout the region. We’ve managed to get a small proportion back across to Nampula already but our goal is to set-up a facility that allows them to be produced and printed within the region itself.

“We’ve met some incredible people throughout the last year as we’ve worked on the project – from local people who were so keen to share their views to organisations such as Coalizão da Juventude Moçambicana whom without their help, this project simply wouldn’t have been possible.

“If we can help people make a small change in behaviour that could potentially save a life through our designs, then it has been incredibly worthwhile. Hopefully this is just the start too.”