Mistranslations

In a world of misinformation, how can we communicate with diverse people with genuine care?

The Background

It’s 2021; it’s COVID. At a time when good communication is critical, confusion reigns.

In the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, concise, correct and effective communication was critical, yet miscommunication and misinformation were rife not only here in Australia, but globally, resulting in a disempowerment of those that were already vulnerable.

Translating information into multiple languages regularly and accurately is no mean feat, but it is essential. 39% of Australians are culturally and linguistically diverse (Diversity Arts Australia) and 4% of those do not speak English well or at all (humanities.org.au). This group is more likely to suffer chronic illnesses and miss out on important health information due to low engagement.

Using Melbourne Design Week’s brief ‘Design the world you want’, Re Agency created Mistranslations, to visually communicate COVID-19 information with care whilst supporting our Government’s ongoing efforts to reach every Australian. 

The project asked linguistically diverse creatives to reimagine COVID-19 messaging in their own language.

An identity, microsite and Instagram account were created to share the brief with linguistically diverse creatives and communities. Workshops were hosted to encourage submissions from TAFE students, where 19.4% of students speak a language other than English at home. Articles about the project appeared on SBS online, communicating the brief even more widely.

After forming a team of amazing artists – handpicked to help bring Mistranslations to life – those involved began to actively engage impacted minority groups, and help create a solution that would also bring greater attention to the issues at hand. And through this collaboration, we learned. One submission saw a collaboration between an English speaking designer and an Indigenous Djambarrpuyngu-speaking park ranger. The ranger noted that in her community, 1.5m social distancing was very difficult because people often live between multiple houses at any time.

The final result included an exhibition, featuring the created works at the Honey Bones Gallery in Collingwood, Victoria, National press attention with two articles appearing on SBS online and the work was shortlisted for three Best Awards.

At its heart, this exhibition aimed to promote inclusivity and transparency for underrepresented members of the community.
These posters firmly put communication back in the hands of the minorities it directly affected, allowing them to speak for themselves, in their own voice. As a team, we have been so inspired by the creative response, the submissions were uniquely insightful and full of a nuance that has been missed by more generic mass communication.

Sumita MaharajAssociate Design Director, Re Agency

For a limited time, Aussies across the country can nab a print from the Mistranslations Store, with proceeds going towards Connection Arts Space (CAS), a community-focused arts organisation based in the City of Greater Dandenong, VIC, which prioritises artists of asylum seeker and migrant backgrounds.

Head to the Re Agency website to see more of this amazing project.

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