The feeling's neutral for pharmaceutical packaging: how the pharmaceutical aesthetic equals the modernist aesthetic

Document Type

Journal Article


Australasian Medical Journal


Education and Arts


Communications and Arts


Originally published as: Medley, S. (2009). The feeling's neutral for pharmaceutical packaging: How the pharmaceutical aesthetic equals the modernist aesthetic. Australasian Medical Journal (Online), (11), 146-151. Original available here


Emotion is now a consideration for industrial design within the health sphere to help speed the recovery of patients. Communication design however, lags behind other design disciplines in this regard. This paper demonstrates the historical reasons for this: That the health and pharmaceutical graphic aesthetic is the embodiment of the Neue Schweizer Grafik. I will firstly establish that there is a general aesthetic in this genre of graphic design, and secondly that it comes from post-war Switzerland. This mid-century modernist approach to graphics which held designers in thrall into the 1980s still has a stranglehold in those industries where its aseptic appearance seems to be appropriate: medicine, pharmaceuticals, chemistry. This paper explains some of the flaws in the modernist graphic approach, specifically in its rejection of illustration and humour, and argues for design based on psychology and emotion rather than flawed and outdated manifestos.



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