This work was completed by our Junior Creative, Emily Osborne, as part of the ‘Major Project’  aspect in her final year portfolio.

Join The F.A.M

This was a project in response to a brief set by D&AD New Bloods 2021 and 21 Grams. The brief required me to “Develop an idea that not only raises awareness of skin cancer, specifically melanoma, in People of Colour (POC) around the globe, but also helps drive diagnosis to allow people to receive the treatments they need.”  With a global target audience and a primary focus on young black people who spend a lot of time in the sun my idea needed to make a real and tangible impact based on informed insights and feasible solutions.

The survival rate of skin cancer is around 91% for White people. But what about other skin colours? Well that’s when you start to see the survival rate plummet, for Black people especially down to 65%. The reason? Skin cancer tends to be diagnosed at a later stage, and as a result with a worse prognosis. With

52% of initial melanoma diagnoses at an advanced stage for Black people, against only 16% for White people. Although less prevalent, melanoma in more deadly in people of colour – this can be known as the Minority Melanoma Paradox and is due to a multitude of reasons around access to healthcare, systemic problems and racial disparities in medicine.

Acral lentiginous melanoma (ALM) is the most common melanoma growth patterns in African Americans (60%). Commonly misdiagnosed as planter warts, tinea nigra or talon nior, ALM often resembles a bruise, bump or legion on the hands/feet/soles/palms/nails/genitals and can be caused by other factors than just UV exposure, environmental and genetic factors or previous trauma.

Throughout history there has been an unfair rhetoric that skin cancer primary affects white people. Systematic racism has created healthcare disparities in medicine across the world and has shaped the way patients are treated and doctors are taught.  AI Driven dermatology continues to risk leaving POC behind with pattern recognition primarily based on white skin presentation and nearly half of dermatologists state they were not adequately trained to treat skin conditions in POC. A 2018 textbook study even showed that in 4 main US Medical textbooks and over 4000 images; only 4.5% showed darker skin type presentation.


The Campaign

Join The F.A.M. was a three-phase campaign which aimed to challenge these societal norms, raise awareness of skin cancer at a global level and drive earlier diagnosis through community driven education.

Phase One aimed to ignite powerful reactions to the racist undertones of medical care across the globe. By creating divisive and alarming messaging  and utilising the cheap and wide-ranging power of the poster, the campaign is brought to the forefront of people’s minds.

By presenting the problem as a social issue that can be changed from within, people can feel they’re part of something bigger and so are more likely to look after themselves for the sake of others. Through not only turning heads but igniting conversation and raising an awareness of the issue, people are encouraged to help ‘decolonise dermatology’ and directed to ‘Join The F.A.M.’  A movement driven by public involvement and education around the topic of skin cancer.

With a target audience as wide ranging as ‘Young Black people across the globe’ there is no way to categorise any one habit or trait. However, barbershops and salons are famous for being at the heart of communities – forming cultural hubs.  Catering to the grooming needs of all, through generations, continents and class. Phase Two saw barbershops and salons sign up to ‘Join The F.A.M.’ and receive their very own Skin Cancer Support Pack – an educational scheme, supported by custom made material, staff certifications, cancer awareness handbooks and community projects intended to empower communities with the knowledge and awareness of skin cancer, in order to seek formal diagnosis. Key aspects of this phase were ‘Melanoma Samples’ which represented melanoma presentation on darker skin tones both on skin and nailbeds.

After the poster campaign peaked interest and sparked conversation, people were directed to Phase Three; a microsite that houses information on the campaign, medical resources and elevates black voices and POC representation within the dermatology space – featuring advice, help options, funding available, facts and figures and an additional plea to document skin conditions and submit public generated images to medical professionals who are seeking to close the gap between healthcare disparities.

Each aspect of the campaign was rooted in research and historical prevalence, from the dominant typeface VTC MARTIN; which was developed by Tré Seals; as a non-violent typeface inspired by protest posters of the Memphis Sanitation Strike of 1968 to the patterns seen within the Skin Cancer Support Packs; created using relative and meaningful sequences of West African Adinkra symbols.

This three-phase campaign aimed to reveal the disparities in medicine to the world and empower People of Colour through community driven education, to finally escape the Minority Melanoma Paradox. ­

“Black people do not have a genetic propensity to die…But the consequences of systemic oppression and institutionalised racism, including poverty, poor housing and poor health literacy, combined with inherent biases within medicine have a cumulative and devastating effect on health outcomes.”
– Dr Nagla Elfaki, Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust