Shreyas Kulkarni

“I have always been passionate about design and have worked to get it the respect it deserves": Bhupal Ramnathkar

Ace designer Bhupal Ramnathkar talks about his anti-Coronavirus campaign, and how the yellow design template got over 500 creative people to participate.

Ever since Coronavirus struck, we have had little, or no, control over our lives. There is still no vaccine for it, and the effective precautionary measures against it include staying indoors, social distancing, and wearing a mask.

Brands and agencies have taken it upon themselves to spread awareness about the virus, and the precautionary measures one can take against it. However, none of them have come close to the reach, visibility and recall of ace designer Bhupal Ramnathkar's anti-Coronavirus campaign.

Bhupal Ramnathkar ad for BMC
Bhupal Ramnathkar ad for BMC

It all began when Mumbai's civic body BMC ran a campaign to highlight all the precautions one can take against COVID-19. "While several people did the campaign, I did the ones in red," says Ramnathkar, founder of Umbrella Design, and a Sir J.J. Institute of Applied Art alumnus.

When there were only around four COVID-19 patients in Pune, Uddhav Thackeray, the chief minister of Maharashtra (he and Ramnathkar studied together at the institute), told Ramnathkar that things will get worse, and that we must do a campaign around it.

So, Ramnathkar contacted the institute’s dean, who then penned a letter to former students. The campaign is simple, and yet effective – a blank yellow template on which people can post slogan/tagline/art/typo-calligraphy/illustration. It was their way of fighting against the virus.

We asked Ramnathkar about the choice of colour, and this was his prompt reply, "Yellow is the colour of hope, that's the reason I choose this colour. If there is no hope, then there's nothing. And because of hope, we're fighting today."

The campaign, which saw record participation, didn't just stop in Mumbai. After Ramnathkar asked his friends from the industry to get involved in the campaign, many people approached him to do a similar campaign in their cities, too.

He told them to go ahead and "... just change the last line, which says 'Maharashtra‘."

Ramnathkar says with pride, "I think this is the first campaign in history, where more than 500 different creative people are sitting in different places, obviously their homes, and participating by working on the artwork template given by us."

He told us that many of his friends didn't belong to the creative industry, and yet they jumped in to lend their support. "Even some of my clients got into the act. Harsh Goenka, chairman, RPG Group, has done one ad, too."

At the end of our conversation, he mentioned, "I've got 2,000 pieces and yet, the look is still the same. Anybody who sees it will immediately say, it's the 'Stop Corona' campaign."

When asked about brands tweaking their logos to promote social distancing, Ramnathkar said he was in favour, adding, "This is a very serious problem and brands taking initiatives like this, is very good because one needs the courage to do so. Few brands tweak their logos in such a manner, and the ones that do so, are obviously concerned about the situation."

“I have always been passionate about design and have worked to get it the respect it deserves.The design-based communication I could create in this time of crisis is an important milestone in my journey because it has shown the power of design to inspire people and make a real difference,” he signs off.