A few months ago I received my letter inviting me for my screening appointment with its accompanying booklet. As a designer, I am familiar with how effective visual images are to convey information to an audience. I was shocked to only find two visuals and very little information on how women might feel emotionally before, during and after the screening.
On hearing cervical screening attendance rates are at a twenty year low and knowing too many lives lost to cervical cancer, I looked into the current marketing materials on cervical screening and was inspired to create an awareness campaign target 25-29 year olds, with one in three women in this age group are skipping cervical screening appointments with 61% were unaware they are in the highest risk group for cervical cancer.
In my work I use a human-centred approach to research and design, one that digs deep to understand the emotions and behaviours of a target audience. These insights feed into the design and decision making process to create the right designs tailored for the right people. This is how I approached this campaign, by focusing on women’s thoughts and actions around cervical screenings.
Research is a crucial part of the process and so I interviewed women eligible for cervical screening and also gathered reseach on internet forums, such as Mumsnet, as they are safe spaces for women to openly share their thoughts and fears on cervical screening. My findings correlated with those of Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust, with women citing fear of the test and body embarrassment issues as the main reasons for not attending their cervical screening appointments. I kept thinking of the booklet wording and imagery that didn't really address these issues.
I created the infographics below to highlight the current situation of cervical screening attendance in the UK.
I had been working on this passion project on and off in-between other design work when I saw a sign in a local beauty salon that read " How's your lady garden? Don't beat around the bush, go Brazilian". It got me thinking (not about getting a Brazilian!), but that nail and beauty salon customers are generally young females who understand and relate to this messaging and humour.
With barriers to attend appointments ranging from "not being comfortable with how their genitals look" to women saying they "wouldn't go if they hadn't shaved or waxed their bikini area", a reference to lady gardens seemed like an ideal and relatable way to get the message across. A similar phrase of being 'beach ready' implies you should have work done to your bikini area but I wanted the campaign messaging to convey that we are all smear ready, however you look down below.
With the goal to raise awareness and address the barriers to attendance among all women but particularly 25-29 year olds, social media was the perfect place to promote these messages, launched on International Women’s Day this year. I shared a photo of me at my cervical screening appointment with a pair of ‘post-it pants’ with the #weareallsmearready and encouraged others to participate and share the message.
Since then, I have continued the campaigning through craftivism, inspired by the Sarah Corbett’s book from the Craftivist Collective. As a group of fellow craft lovers we have been hand sewing mini pants with the #weareallsmearready message to place in public toilets during National Cervical Screening week 10-16th June 2019.
My local health centre has agreed to promote the pink posters during National Cervical Screening Awareness week and I am in conversations with other medical professionals to promote and widen the reach of this campaign.