Unmasked: Exposing the issues around mask misuse


We’ve all seen it, or done it. Someone slips the face mask just a tad lower to breathe in a bit more unfiltered air while walking up stairs or taking a sip of a drink, but forgets to pull it back up before being publicly chastised. 

Setting aside the anti-masker contingent, which is smaller in most of Asia compared with Australia or Western countries, there are actually myriad reasons why many who recognise the need for masks and want to comply still do not wear them properly and end up reducing or completely negating their effectiveness. 

Designer Abhijit Menon saw this common sight in India over the past year of the Covid pandemic, noting how masks became “more of a facial accessory than a safety requirement.”  While interning at TBWAIndia, he decided to create ‘Unmasked,’ a zine for his graduate project, aiming to capture all the reasons why people did not wear masks covering nose, mouth and chin and bring the issues around them to light. 

“Does one size fit all”


“Fear of being fined”


“Peek a boo”


Menon says the narratives he explores are inspired by news articles found online as well as his own personal experiences. Below are some of the images that inspired him as well as early depictions of the process. He ended up illustrating them in the style of political cartoons or comics to keep the images light yet thought-provoking. 

Images that inspired the project

Menon’s process

In all there are 26 illustrations of mask misuse, each one corresponding to a letter in the Latin alphabet. Menon started the project during the 36 days of type challenge from whence it evolved, but in restrospect using the alphabet letters for each made sense on a variety of levels.

“The added factor of the Latin letterforms give the viewer a sequence through which they are in constant anticipation of the next letter as they turn the pages,” Menon tells Campaign. “It also plays a role in holding on to the viewer’s attention and reaching a wider audience. Another idea that crossed my mind was just how a children’s alphabet book teaches them the basics of a language, Unmasked is mockingly calling people out for something so basic that it’s right under their noses literally and figuratively.”

While the letters may not obvious in each individual illustration, the alphabet becomes more obvious when seen in sequence or collectively.

Menon says his biggest challenge was to find the most natural way each face mask takes the contours of a letterform. “Although a lot of these illustrations were directly inspired by personal sightings and images found online, it ultimately did require some imagination,” he says. 

Menon credits Geet Rathi from TBWAIndia and Neha Karmakar from Srishti Manipal Institute of Art, Design and Technology for their valuable feedback. 

You’ve arrived at Inspiration Station, a weekly look at imaginative and artistic work from creators of all kinds across Asia-Pacific. Step off for a minute to recharge your creative batteries and find inspiration for that next big idea of yours further down the track.

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