The more observant of you will have noticed something about the blog today – we actually have a logo! And a new background.
After 18 months, I felt this site had come of age enough to deserve its own identity, so I turned to my graphic designer friend Kevin Reader to help me out.
Kevin is part of the VicBears committee in Melbourne, and is no stranger to community work or mental health issues. He designed the posters for the Southern Hibearnation health campaign, co-convened the RUOK Day forum that I spoke at last year, and co-hosts The Cubby House radio show on JoyFM once a week.
When I first spoke to him about putting a logo together, the only directive I gave him was to try and avoid oversimplifying the experience of bipolar disorder visually.
To illustrate the stereotype by which bipolar disorder is often represented, I deleted a cartoon from the Facebook page the other day which had been posted by a humour site: it was a postcard from a person experiencing bipolar, containing the words “Having a great time here! Wish I was dead!”
Har de har har.
I was really impressed with what Kevin came back with, something that was simple and eye-catching, but with levels of complexity should you choose to examine it further.
“I didn’t want to do anything that was already out there, I didn’t want to do anything that was too much of a simplification, and I wanted something that was an honest representation of what I knew about Bipolar and what I knew about mental health in general,” he says.
“Some of the things that I sort of thought of were breaking communications, conversations that go in spirals, conversations with awkward silences, conversations that just don’t seem to go anywhere.”
Kevin drew on his own experiences with anxiety disorder as well to emotionally represent mental illness.
“You’ve got the misinterpretations when people will say something really positive but I have the sort of anxiety that will always see people on the negative scale when their reactions aren’t negative.
“I tried to tie all these things into a visual aspect. There’s a lot more that went through my head that’s all been drained into this one image, but you’ll notice that the icon part of it is very complex, there’s a lot you can read out of it.”
Indeed – with the two circles that form the icon, rather than going for simplified “plus” and “minus” type representations for mania and depression, there’s more going on.
I liked the colours in the “mania” half for several reasons; firstly, there’s a traditional interpretation of the rainbow colours as something gay, but I also felt it was a good way of getting across both intensity and diversity of emotional responses that bipolar causes.
“I did some research on emotional scales tand here wasn’t anything that sort of really came up which is why I ended up using the colours,” he says. “You’ve got the colours and the contrast with the black and white, and neither is necessarily good and neither is necessarily bad because, you know, a heightened sense of joy which totally wipes out any logic in your brain is not a good thing.
“It encompasses a wide range of emotions and thoughts that you can’t simply put on a simple scale from dot point to dot point. There is no point A and point B in this. It’s about cycles, certainly with bipolar and other mental illnesses, you move through stages and things repeat.”
Kevin initially presented two designs for the background wall, one which was bright and another (the chosen version) which was darker and grittier. While I was initially unsure about going with something dark for a blog that, ultimately, is supposed to be a source of hope, I realised that I myself was falling into stereotypes.
I like dark and gritty, and while I’d hardly wish to celebrate the times in my life when my brain has delivered that up to me, I recognise that it’s part of my nature and there are times when such emotions can be safely explored. It’s part of all of us.
Kevin’s reason for devising a dark scheme was based on research, again – he set himself the unfortunate task of reading through my past posts.
“There’s this gritty reality in there. It’s not all light and fluffy, it’s dealing with the hard conversations that need to be had. And sometimes that means running into a brick wall – and sometimes you need that brick wall, sometimes that is the best thing that can possibly happen to you.”
Tomorrow, we’ll speak with Kevin about his own experiences of growing up gay in South Africa, moving to Australia, and dealing with own experience of mental illness.