“This is your brain on drugs”. This infamous slogan from a 1990s D.E.A. anti-drug P.S.A. became the tongue-in-cheek title of a series of posters that I designed for a psychology project. Shortly after I completed it and posted it for feedback, it became viral and was picked up by blogs all over the world.

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A lengthy research and conceptualisation process helped me decide how to depict each drug, with sources ranging from Wikipedia articles and Erowid accounts to other artworks and design projects. I took a minimalist, Swiss Modernist approach, forcing me to distill these complex ideas into a few simple lines and shapes. Each poster is either figurative (the dissociative circles for Ketamine and the sharp spikes for Cocaine), visual (the psychedelic patterns for Acid and DMT), or literal (the ghost-like spirit for Heroin). The one that stumped people the most was the Marijuana one. I tried to show melting, taking the edge off, and the subtle visual effects that it can cause.

Some people have asked: why would you want your name attached to such a project? Why would you want this in your portfolio? For me, graphic design is an art form and a creative outlet, and a practice that shouldn’t be subject to social taboos and moral anxieties. As long as this series has lead to dialogue and debate for people along with inspiration for other designers, I’m happy.

More info: meaghanli.com

This is your brain on drugs