Put Your Mask On
Community, Apparel, Rhetoric

Visual rhetoric project linking personal protection masks and identity politics. The project provided social commentary and fashionable artifacts while contributing to medical research.

The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified social and political separations in the United States. The use of personal protective equipment has become a signal of an individual perspective. These perspectives are then a reflection of political alignment. If a personal style is an expression of identity, it is an expression of identity politics. It is a choice of fashion, but also an expression of what one sees as fashionable. In this context, I designed two face masks that function as fashion and communication.

The first design, entitled Perspective, exposes our individual vulnerability. The typographic message is a personal mantra: [an] honest perspective is built [from our shared experiences]. This message highlights the absurdity in linking political identity with personal protection. Reminding us that these articles define the individual and influence the collective. Freedom of choice grants personal expression, so long as it does not negate another’s ability to do the same.

The typographic form embodies the complexity and messiness of the human experience. Typographic figures represent individual characters. These characters occupy space, place, shape, scale, and orientation. Character attributes define the relationship between adjacent figures—touching, overlapping, melding, and impacting. Individual characters do not exist alone. They depend on relative characters to define individual identity. Yet, each character needs others to develop collective meaning. Each character represents the singular and the collective with every expression.

The second design, entitled Sabotage, exposes our collective vulnerability. In simplest terms, if one chooses not to wear a mask, they put others at risk. In this context, sabotage is not about obstructing the collective for individual advantage. Instead, it represents obstructing those that refuse their shared obligation. Think of it as sabotaging immediate, short-sighted ideology.

The typographic form is gestural and immediate. These forms represent human behavior. When things are going well, people tend to think about their present happiness. Rarely do they think about how their actions impact others. When things are not going well, people must analyze their actions. To change their situation, they must understand the effect of their actions on others.

The current cultural context is a minute-by-minute struggle. We have sabotaged ourselves, but we are capable of making better decisions. We are not infallible. We must accept this vulnerability to sabotage our collective sabotage. Masks are available for purchase and all support MedShare—a humanitarian organization dedicated to improving the quality of life. MedShare sources and delivers surplus medical supplies to communities around the world.


Client — Johnathon Strube
Purchase — Threadless Artist Shoppes
Head Presentations — Smart Mockups
Mask Presentations — Threadless

© Johnathon Strube, 1982–2020.