obsessive compulsive posters

by Grace Bonney

I’m a little torn on this new line of posters that just came out. I’ve seen them pop up in a few places but without much commentary on their message. Aesthetically, I love this clean new line of posters from Hu2, designed by Antoine Tesquier Tedeschi. Part of me gets the joke/comment being made and agrees with the idea a bit because I often feel like I’m obsessing over something (like the angle of a flower arrangement) to a degree that’s not normal. But part of me is really uncomfortable with a giant poster that compares a real (and really difficult) condition to something that’s voluntary. The second poster in the series proclaims that “Schizophrenia is Art” and well, that one just doesn’t sit right with me at all. Maybe most of you will think I’m being overly sensitive, but something about this makes my brain go back and forth between “I love how these look” and “Man, I don’t feel comfortable with the message.” What side of the fence do you guys fall on? I’m curious to hear. xo, grace

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  • i think these are horrible and completely insensitive to debilitating mental illness and disorders. thank you for not posting the schizophrenia one. i think i would stop reading your blog if you did.

  • I’m totally with you. I think it’s hurtful and inconsiderate to people who actually have to live with these conditions.

  • Yeah, I can’t really get on board. I can’t help but think about people whose lives have been destroyed by those kinds of mental illnesses. I’m sure someone who has to budget 30 extra minutes to get out of the house in the morning because of her obsessive-compulsive disorder wouldn’t agree that she was simply “designing” her life.

  • I agree with you, Grace. There are so many other ways they could have used humor to convey their message without comparing design and art to very real (and often overwhelming) disorders. As a graphic designer, I the importance of making one’s message instantly clear. I think this one missed the mark (but I agree, they are lovely to look at.).

  • I have to agree. There are tons of posters/quotes on Pinterest that could be considered inappropriate and are dripping with sarcasm, but are still funny and clearly a joke. This one would get a lot of awkward reactions, I think.

  • Sometimes wit can go too far. This could be hurtful to both the artist/designer and the sufferer of the condition. Bravo to you for being sensitive to that.

  • While I can understand the thought behind the image, this makes me feel uncomfortable. These are real illnesses that have serious implications for the sufferers and those who share their lives. A love of design and beauty and an impulse to make things look as perfect as possible is NOT the same as being unable to leave the house and hold a job because you can’t stop washing your hands and checking the oven. Holding out for the perfect color of paint is (depending on the situation): quirky, a professional obligation, a personal preference. It is not the same as having a chemical imbalance in the brain.

    Thanks for the opportunity for discussion, Grace!

  • I’m with you, Grace. These make me awfully uncomfortable as well. As a designer, I often joke with my peers about being obsessive over the details, that’s just part of the job, but you’re right– it’s a very serious and disease. I don’t think the two (OCD and being detail-oriented) are comparable.

  • Thanks for this comment on the poster. I’m in the same boat with you. I like them aesthetically but the message doesn’t sit well. I’m sure the designer was well intentioned but equating a disorder with being a designer probably will offend both the people with OCD who feel this trivializes it and people who love design who wouldn’t like to be labeled in this way. Surely there are plenty of designers who are OCD though… probably more than in other professions.

    Posts like this are why I really enjoy this blog. Thanks for being thoughtful and a cheerleader at the same time.

  • Mmmm maybe both poster should only hang on the walls of someone who has OCPD or suffers from Schizophrenia. That would make them actually funny. I suffer from Depression and I would love a poster that says: “Depression = Great Music” or Depression = Great novels. But you can also look at it in a way that the greatest artists, designers, stand up comedians, writers, scientist and so on often suffer from some sort of mental illness. It makes a statement that people who suffer from these illnesses can be great contributors to society.
    If you turn them around however I don’t find them as offensive anymore. Design is OCPD or Art is Schizophrenic says more about Design and Art than about the disorders.
    I like not taking myself to seriously and make jokes about my illness. But maybe someone else would find these posters more offensive.
    Eva (the Netherlands

  • I think OCD is a bit more serious than this. However, it wouldn’t surprise me if some designers did suffer with a bit of OCD. Either that or they just have a great eye for where everything would look perfect.

  • I think to declare something like “schizophrenia is art” completely disregards the impact that mental health disorders can have on a persons life. The vast majority won’t be considered artists or designers. To simplify a disorder into a normal creative process is demeaning to those who struggle with the very real effects of mental health on their daily lives.

  • I love that she’s both obsessing and of two minds about the posters. Is Grace the poster child for irony?

  • Here’s my thing: I’m not one who’s bothered by “inappropriate” jokes. I’m a full believer in acknowledging context and intent rather than throwing on blinders and declaring blanket topics taboo. For the most part, I think people are WAY too sensitive when it comes to this stuff.

    I don’t know that I find these posters horrifically offensive per se, but I’m not a fan of them, either. Look, I have pretty severe social anxiety disorder, and depression, and everything that kinda comes in that gift basket. I’m not necessarily offended, but I am underwhelmed. There’s nothing particularly clever about these designs. And something about them just doesn’t sit right. It’s a strange statement. I think the risk of offense far outweighed the quality of the joke/art.

  • I agree. As often as we see OCD “jokes” in writing these days, there is something about having a poster of it (among other serious conditions) that is wrong. To me it would be akin to having a poster that said something like “Diabetes: Because I like dessert too much.”

  • I hadn’t seen the posters until your post and I read about a hundred blogs. It’s
    – I’m most grateful for Anneke for posting the minimalist posters about disorders. The intent and the design there is much lovelier.
    – Ironic that another Hu2 poster says “Be Nice to People.”

  • Depending on the mood you are in it could go either way, but at the moment I think it’s bordering on uncomfortable. It would not go up on my wall. I like the typography but that is about it.

  • As someone who used to suffer acutely from OCD, I find this poster quite offensive. I understand the humor behind it, but to equate dedication to one’s passion wih such a mentally painful disease strikes me as cruelly dimissive of the real anguish an OCD sufferer goes through every day.

  • You’re totally right. These posters are insensitive, but more than that, who wants that message hanging around their house? Of course, if the owner actually suffers from OCPD then it becomes a message of owning their disorder, and that could be quite powerful.

  • I agree with you on this. Being a designer, you do want to raise some sort of reaction from your audience and in this regard, the posters are successful. However, that reaction is certainly negative and I feel that it’s insensitive and blatantly ignorant of the conditions it’s describing. There’s a fine line between tongue-in-cheek design and flat out disrespectful design.

  • I hope Grace’s question was meant to get a consensus of her readers’ collective personal tatses, because wit, art, and humor themselves can never go too far. You can debate the merit of the subject, layout, color scheme, etc. but it all comes down to your own personal sense of what is tasteful, humorous, intelligent, etc. Either EVERYTHING is allowed to be a topic of personal expression, public discourse, and artistic interpretation, or NOTHING is. (As long as it doesn’t actually hurt someone; child pornography is clearly horrific but we shouldn’t have Nabokov book burnings)

  • @susie wow- the fact that you would stop reading the DesignSponge blog if she had posted the Schizophrenia image is absurd. She posted the image because it was the topic of discussion. Honestly, I feel the posters might be pushing the limits, but isn’t that what ALL great art is? I don’t think someone with either of these disorders would take offense to these- what exactly is the insult here(?)- That people with OCD are designers & people with Schizophrenia are artists….(???)

  • I think the OCD one is clever for all types of designers, myself in advertising. I think its meant to be sarcastic. The schitzo version However I personally dont really get or like. Thats a little far stretched I think.

  • Definitely uncomfortable with both messages. OCPD and schizophrenia are serious health conditions and one should not make light of them. It’s demeaning and insensitive.

  • I’m glad to see that there are so many of you out there who agree that this is not appropriate. Are they expecting someone to buy these posters? Who would identify with them? It sounds like an insensitive middle schooler’s facebook status, or something you would see on lamebook.com.

  • this really isn’t fair to people who suffer from real mental illness. it’s insensitive and offensive to proclaim a message that simultaneously downplays the seriousness of a condition and romanticizes its incredibly difficult & challenging symptoms. i don’t care how nice the lines or the colors or the composition is. they could easily achieve this look with a different slogan. this level of disrespect towards the mentally ill would never be tolerated if the message was racially motivated, bigoted, homophobic, or sexist. there is a huge stigma associated with mental illness and yet in the media it’s too often used as the punchline of a joke. there is nothing funny about the crippling anxiety caused by ocd. there is nothing funny about the hallucinations and major depressive episodes caused by schizophrenia. there is nothing funny or cute or clever about this poster.

  • I understand your discomfort, and the schizophrenia one makes me uncomfortable as well. I’d like to say that at least the artist was accurate in using Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder, which is NOT the same thing as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. OCD is a debilitating illness, with its rituals and intrusive thoughts. OCPD is pretty different, and consists of sort of an angry perfectionism. Unfortunately, most laypeople don’t know the difference, so I understand the kneejerk reaction.

  • These posters are gross and immature, and the rest of their offerings seem to be in that hipster “humor” vein.

  • And will the third one be “Bipolar Disorder is Jazz”?

    While we’re at it, why not “Epilepsy is Interpretive Dance” and “Cancer is Fashion”? Or are we just having open season on “crazy people”?

    I’m so sick of very real illnesses being turned into something for people who do not, in fact, know what it’s like to actually deal with compulsive disorders or schizophrenia to lean on and point to as the jokey reasons for their ordinary human behaviors.

  • As an art therapist (a mental health professional who uses art to help access what won’t fit into words), I echo the many comments that find these posters in bad form. I think it often harmful, confusing and limiting for anyone except the person with mental illness to attempt to minimize or define their experience. The process of creating art and design are often incredibly helpful in organizing, calming and expressing emotion for those suffering from OCD and Schizophrenia, but it is unfortunate to see jokes like this. I’d like to think that as people who value creativity, we can give some much-
    deserved dignity to folks who struggle with mental illness.

  • I’d just like to point out that Obsessive Compulsive PERSONALITY Disorder is NOT the same thing as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder proper. The latter is a serious, debilitating mental illness, the former is certain personality traits that may or may not cause someone problems. I’d love for the blog post to be amended to point out the difference, because people are reacting in an uninformed manner.

    But I do agree that either way, this poster is in poor taste.

  • After browsing the rest of the posters on that site, it’s very clear that the artist here is going for shock value without any consideration for people’s feelings. I can’t imagine anyone putting this up in their home; a place intended for love, family and nurturing.

  • As someone with a background in psychology and a masters in Counseling Psych, I have to be honest. I can see the humor in it, but I certainly don’t think it’s something to joke about or make art about. I think it’s a bit silly to be really offended by it, however it is a false statement and, realistically, not all designers (in any field) are OCD…perhaps they are perfectionists, but this is clearly NOT the same diagnosis as OCD. OCD is a serious disorder, bottom line, so perhaps wording this differently would appease everyone…”Adaptive Perfectionism is Design”, anyone? ;)


  • Thanks, MJ. That’s the point I was going to comment on as well. Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorders are VERY different than Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I agree that the poster is in very poor taste.
    I also currently work with someone who suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder, and it is an extremely difficult as well as debilitating mental illness.

  • @anneke – thanks for the link to the mental health posters which are actually about mental illness. some are better than others, but pretty interesting.

    as far as these go, i just find them kind of stupid. as a mental health professional as well as someone who has suffered from mental illness all my life, i am not particularly offended by these (there are a LOT worse attempts at mental illness humor in our culture), i just don’t think they are at all funny/witty/clever. just find them kind of stupid.

  • I’m a psychotherapist and MJ, the commenter before me, is right on. Personality disorders are character traits…and some are very disabling…but the public often confuses OCD for OCPD… which is more type A, liking things orderly, controlling, etc. I’m not really offended by these, but the schizophrenia ones…totally different story. To somehow represent an incredibly debilitating and serious mental illness as a creative process…however well intended…is just wrong. BTW, I also take issue with people who use the phrase “schizophrenic” to describe something that doesn’t make sense or conflicts with itself. It trivializes a complex condition.

  • I think it would be in very poor taste if the “Schizophrenia is art” poster had been published on this site. As a person with close family members with the illness, I know just how devastating and destructive the condition can be. It clouds their lives and the lives of everyone close to them. If the designer had the experience of a mother who could not hold a job for the majority of her life he might not make such a casual statement about the disease. Does he know what it’s like to have a sibling plagued by delusions walk catatonic into oncoming traffic and almost die? Or be so paranoid that they can’t eat and start wasting away? Severe mental disorders like schizophrenia affect not just their lives but everyone around them.

    Ultimately, I know that poster was a half-assed, vapid statement—but it is still very insensitive. There is a huge stigma around mental illnesses. People still don’t get the help they need, sometimes because of this stigma, and they suffer greatly. I’m glad you didn’t put up that poster. Your site normally features much better design, anyway.

  • I’m reading “The Memory Palace”, by Mira Bartok. Some schizophrenics may be artists, but the world they live in is too chaotic to allow creative follow-through. It’s helping me understand why a daughter (like my mother) would walk away from a schizophrenic parent.

    “…After all these years of living with this, we are still ignorant about her debilitating disease. I once asked a schizophrenic guy I knew in Chicago what it was like to be him. He said, ‘It’s like your head is plugged into every electric socket in every house on every street.’ ” “The Memory Palace”, by Mira Bartok

    I never met my maternal grandmother.

  • I’m usually all for the inappropriate joke but this one just isn’t funny. I feel like the joke falls flat in these posters because it’s just not clever. And because it’s not clever, that’s what makes us feel so uncomfortable. D- try again!

  • I checked out the other posters in his collection, and from what I’ve seen, the OCPD poster is the most well designed of them all, but it’s because of the layout of items below the poster. Table items aside (and this goes for all his posters), there really isn’t anything interesting going on. I don’t even think the Schizophrenia poster makes sense, but I love the arrangement of chairs below it. I’d buy a large poster of those chairs grouped together in a heartbeat! And imagine if his grouping of bottles on the table were blown up into a photo or graphically rendered poster. If the designer just stopped using cliche and inappropriate language as “shock” value to get people to his site to sell his items and focused more on his talent for putting colors and items together in unexpected and great ways, I think he’d be on to something.

  • for “schizophrenia is art’s” target market: I get this image of some artist identifying with it, thinking, “Yeah, I’m always feeling fragmented about what direction to take my art!” while crossing the street to avoid the shabbily dressed man shouting diatribes at no one in particular.
    My thoughts are in line with most people commenting: these posters show a deep lack of understanding of the symptoms of mental illness and what dealing with those symptoms entails.

  • OCD can also leave someone so paranoid that they start wasting away, from fear of poison or germs, or commit suicide to rid themselves of their obsessive thoughts. OCD can be just as debilitationg as schizophrenia. We can all obsess about things without having a disorder. It was a poor choice of words by an uninformed designer. I much preferred the posters in the link above.
    Always choose compassion.

  • while the aesthetic of the print is clean and lovely, as a psychologist who works with people with ocd and ocpd i find it insensitive and callous to some of the bravest people i’ve ever met.

  • Yeah, I don’t know about this. I have (as in actually diagnosed with) OCPD and am also really into design and home decor, and this doesnt really sit well with me. I get it, I just don’t know if I like it.

  • While I don’t love this poster (doesn’t appeal to me as a design), I’m not offended by it. Good points made by the peeps who clarified that the “personality” in OCPD changes it a bit. The schizophrenia one, however, is inappropriate.

  • Not only do I agree with everyone else that this poster is in extremely poor taste, as a designer I am also tired of this weird brand of self congratulating humor. I’ve noticed that a lot of creatives like to talk about how they are perfectionists, and so dedicated to their art as if it is a bad thing, and they are the exception, not the rule. This profession demands that you are detail oriented, so it always comes across as a backwards brag.
    It’s ironic that one of his other posters demands that you ‘Be Nice To People.’

  • I agree with Jenn’s comment above about “declaring blanket topics taboo.” The posters don’t excite me from a design, must have this on my wall standpoint. However, if you look at the rest of the posters these guys produce, they are certainly edgy. Art doesn’t always have to be easy to swallow…and we all don’t have to agree with it.

  • I agree with Shannen’s comment above. I don’t like these posters, they make me a bit uncomfortable and I don’t like their design, but art is supposed to test your emotions and push your buttons, good and bad. If it doesn’t then it fails. I’m not suggesting that the artist was even thinking along those lines. I’m not saying these aren’t terrible “jokes” or insensitive, I agree that they are. Just pointing out that art will always offend some and not others at different levels. And I’m wholeheartedly not meaning to offend anyone personally.

  • I find them boring as a graphic design and feel the message just tries too hard being original, or arty or whatever.
    I think in general I’ve seen enough of these kind of posters, really – including the funny ones.

  • I believe strongly in freedom of expression, so I don’t think one should try to limit someone’s ability to make such posters (not that you or anyone is suggesting that). But, I don’t like them. I don’t think they’re clever, or sensitive, or tasteful, or accurate. I feel that there is possibly a joke that could be told about obsessive compulsive design… a joke which might push the envelop or be deemed inappropriate by some, but this isn’t it. It’s just not funny.

    Another commentor mentions http://www.adaptcreative.co.uk/2010/08/mental-disorder-posters/ which I also thought was great; good design, done with sensitivity to the subject matter and conveying more meaning.

    Also, from a subjective aesthetic viewpoint, I’m not keen on the kerning or the colour.

    I appreciate that you’ve brought the topic up and pointed out your discomfort with it. I don’t believe in censoring people, but I do think it’s important to speak up if you think something is unkind or downright hurtful.

  • Agreeing with the majority here…a bit tasteless and more than a bit crass, perpetuating misconceptions on these disorders.

    Also getting really tired of these same-y message posters.

    If I see one more ‘keep calm’ I won’t be responsible for my actions…!

  • Sure, anything CAN go where art is concerned. The question is: should it?

    The glamorizing of obsessiveness in art in general is a little tired. If you think OCD is cool and not just a condition some people live and struggle with, then SHOW us by making really interesting, meticulous work instead of spelling it out.

    If these posters aren’t meant to be taken seriously, I think the satire is generally lost on most people evidenced by Grace’s post and most of the above comments. Subtlety and wit would be a great alternative.

  • Not into it at all. It’s perpetuating a life destroying myth that you can’t be a successful designer or architect and also be a balanced person. I have experienced the damaging effects of that myth and culture first hand so it really turns me off.

  • Many mental hospitals/institutions have art therapy and it’s interesting to see how the disorders/differences in thinking and just peoples’ thoughts come out in art. I don’t know if that’s what these posters were leaning towards but if not then I do not get it.

  • I don’t understand them and agree with the folks above…something about them reads as trying a bit too hard to be profound, and it falls flat.

    Especially the Schizophrenia one. “A Beautiful Mind” is art because it both inspires us to continue to pursue our best lives possible in the face of obstacles as typified by the disorder, yet also reminds us of how much we are at the mercy of our health and environment. Oliver Sachs’ books are both art and science because they convey factual information in a way that inspires true empathy in the reader. but schizophrenia its self is not “art” and this poster is glib.

    Unless it’s purpose was to poke fun at broad, sweeping, superficial statements on art posters printed in big chunky letters. In that case, mission accomplished.

  • As a designer who personally struggles with OCD, I can tell you that design is absolutely NOTHING like OCD. I am not a fan of this poster – it makes my greatest personal struggle seem fun and chic.

  • I have to admit, when I first scrolled to the post I did cock my head and felt a bit weird about the message. But not in an overly sensitive way, but more like obsessing over design isnt really a condition…its more of a talent. Not everyone obsesses over things looking “just a certain way” but it equates to trying to reproduce what we see in our minds into an actual tangible visual representation. Anyone would have to obsess over that to get it just right.

  • I agree with several other commenters, the public would be horrified and offended if cancer, MS, Alzheimer’s were portrayed in a semi-humorous or ‘fluffy’ tone regardless of the design appeal. Let’s give mental health conditions the same respect and awareness — let’s not group the diagnosis into the person.

  • Wrong in more ways than I can count. Clearly this “designer” has no respect for those afflicted with mental illness, nor do they actually understand what these terms mean. As a designer AND as someone who went to grad school for psychology, I’m disgusted.

  • While I’m not going to flip out about these posters I certainly don’t favor them. I would never hang this in my home, or office, or anywhere. I think the design is blah and the phrase is just dumb. I have moderate OCD and I can appreciate the joke, but at the same time my perfectionism has cost me thousands in therapy and in general makes me feel pretty badly about myself. I don’t need this poster rubbing it in my face.

  • I too found the content of some of Hu2’s posters broaching the fine line between what could be considered simply derogatory in nature and what is socially insensitive. I’m sure you wouldn’t be hard pressed to find a multitude of graphic designers whom would agree that the discipline of graphic design encourages an attention to detail that for some could become obsessive in nature. Could you not agree that it is that attention to detail that sets successful designers apart from the rest?

    Content often carries with it a great deal of baggage, which can be heavily embedded with its share of meaning, social stigma, political undertones, and connotation. To ignore these factors is irresponsible for any designer. That is not to say, however, that these factors couldn’t be used as a tool to reinforce communication. The concern then becomes all about intent of message.

    Affording the benefit of doubt, I hope it was Hu2’s intention to make light-hearted commentary on the propensity for designer’s to develop obsessive behavior and not necessarily make such a flippant reference to a very serious disorder many suffer with every day. Whether intentional or not, Hu2 has brought attention to a disorder that affects 1 out of 100 people in the United States, according to the International OCD Foundation. If indeed it were Hu2’s intent to champion the fight to eliminate the disorder, I would have to question the context in which the poster is presented.

    As is often the case, content can be unfamiliar to a designer, requiring diligent research that can involve immersion into a culture, system or concept that initially seems totally foreign. As communicators we are driven by content that, at the foundation of what we do, is key to the success or failure of any project. Whether a concert poster or annual report, the content is critically assessed and organized to facilitate effective communication. It is exactly this attention to detail that informs and educates the designer, endowing them with a socially responsible voice.

  • The only way these types of posters work is when the message actually makes sense, even sarcastically. OCD is not design. Schizophrenia is not art. So not only are these posters offensive to most people (judging from the comments above), they’ve completely missed the mark with their message. Even if they’re trying to be flippant it doesn’t quite work and you would think someone at HU2 would have caught on that these are more likely to offend than sell like hotcakes. Whoops.

  • Seems like a whole lot of effort to go through to make a poster – when a tweet would suffice for this message. Seriously, this trend in posters with “seemingly” profound or witty statements has to die already. This offers nothing to anyone but the designer themselves. Who puts this on their wall for more than a day?

    This is all without even criticizing the aesthetics of it – which feels lazy and doesn’t actually explore the very concept of itself in the least.

    It’s just more surface level design from “designers” looking to make a quick buck and get on some design blogs. Boring.

  • As a medical student, I like the posters for the fact that they reflect the culture de-stigmatizing mental illnesses in general. The more comfortable people are with the idea of mental illnesses, the sooner they will go to be screened and hence treated. Edgy humor is always a sign something once shocking is being assimilated into popular culture. I’m a fan.

  • As much as I love certain posters with common vernacular phrases that showcase wonderful graphic design and production, I feel that these posters were not created to bring awareness to the debilitating disorders of which they speak. Rather, these posters seem to only highlight the “quirky” symptoms artists or designers may face when in the height of a project or creation of art, something they can control. And honestly, as a behavior therapist who works with children with behavioral disorders and those on the autism spectrum, I never find humor about people with mental or physical disabilities funny or edgy. It just seems to come from a place of not understanding the full ramifications of living with these disorders for the rest of your life.

  • I could never joke about schizophrenia. It has to be one of the most horrible diseases a person could suffer from. I thank God that the “only” mental illness I suffer from is PPD, which quickly responds to medication. Even on heavy meds schizophrenics still suffer terribly.

  • I have to agree, these come across as incredibly insensitive/ignorant. I can’t help but feel the person(s) who designed them don’t have any firsthand knowledge about the disorders. I always find it a little frustrating when people call themselves OCD just because they are anal retentive. It is hardly the same thing. Having a critical eye, being a perfectionist, or being highly organized, is hardly the same as being so consumed by obsessive thoughts that they control you and destroy certain aspects of your life.

  • I would be interested to hear the designers commentary on why they chose to create these posters. I have ADHD and live with that disability. I often choose humor to work around some of the difficulties that the distract-ability invites. Perhaps that is self depreciating, but this line of fire seems like a very public depreciation. I do agree that mocking any illness, whether physical or mental, is insensitive. I remember when the life is good t-shirts became widespread, their was a copy cat knock off of life sucks t-shirts. No matter what the reason they created these I would not buy one.

  • As a psychiatrist, I have to say I’m not a fan, and the message in these posters is ambiguous and ill thought out. Yes, a large part of my job is promoting destigmatisation of mental illness, however these posters fail to do that because they simply convey a message born of ignorance to the conditions themselves. Humour is a defense mechanism I encourage my patients to employ… but where’s the humour here? When I saw the term OCPD I thought of the difficulties this disorder can incur upon a person’s functioning, and interpersonal relationships and how harrowing this can be. When I saw the term schizophrenia I thought of a chronic and debilitating illness, which even those with the utmost strength and determination simply still struggle with. I expect the person who composed these posters didn’t spend one second thinking about these people, and that’s why they seem rather nonsensical to me!

  • I’ve really enjoyed reading these responses. Having several family members who suffer from mental illnesses, it’s heartwarming to see such compassionate comments. Dealing with mental illness can be so isolating. Artists and designers are smarter than these posters suggest. These aren’t clever or witty. It’s cheap, dumb humor for the uninformed. It’s like when someone says, “I’m totally schizophrenic today.. just all over the place!” Gives me a sick feeling. I do love that the posters sparked this discussion. Perhaps that was the intent?

  • is this poster photoshopped on a photo featured in a Martha Stewart spread? I’ve seen this table arrangement before and I don’t think this poster was in it!

  • This is a really great discussion – thanks for starting this Grace! I have to echo Jessica in that it is incredibly comforting and encouraging to see so much understanding and support for sufferers of mental illness. I’m a designer with severe OCD, and I am not personally ‘hurt’ by this poster, but very discouraged and saddened when I see blatant disregard for the seriousness of mental illness. I feel like only recently has mental illness become something that we really talk about in public, and an issue we’ve all become more sensitive too. By making light of these illnesses, it encourages common stereotypes and trivializes the pain and isolation that sufferers experience. Whether this particular design references OCD or OPCD, I think is sort of beside the point – personal struggle is not relative.

  • Yeah, when I first saw this I thought, “what? why do they think that’s clever? i don’t really like or agree with that.”

  • I have suffered from OCD my entire life (I’m 29), and there is NOTHING funny about it. It’s a serious disorder that can tear someone and their loved ones apart. I find this poster very offensive. I also cannot stand another poster I have been seeing on Pinterest that says something like “It’s cdo, not ocd.” I don’t know why people feel the need to make jokes out of mental illnesses…totally insensitive.

  • I’m glad others have pointed out that OCD and OCPD are NOT the same thing. OCPD is the term for the condition that many people label “control freak.” People with OCD are aware there is something wrong with them and it causes them problems. People with OCPD are usually unaware of their own behavioral issues and how they effect others – they don’t think it’s them – it’s everyone else who has a problem. They rarely get things done because they cannot do it to their own perfectionist standards.

    Personally, as someone who has been diagnosed with both OCD and OCPD, I found the poster really quite amusing. I’m an artist as are many of my friends (who have also been diagnosed OCPD) and I found the poster fitting. I’m not the least bit offended…in fact, I’m a bit proud of it. While OCPD made life irritating until I was made aware of it, without the condition, I would not be the artist and businesswoman I am. Now where do I get one of these? :)

  • Hurtful – especially to truly talented artists who happen to struggle with mental illness. Just not right.

  • Although my opinion might be the unpopular one… I get these posters. I am i social worker and have seen my share of mental illness and significant needs. I can see the beauty in these things and have a deep appreciation that we were all made differently. Mental illness is a tough thing for an individual to deal with in a modern society… it can produce beauty in it’s most true form though. even pain and struggle is beauty in it’s own right. Agree with these posters or not I understand them and can appreciate them.

  • while i don’t find either poster clever and think they perpetuate the ignorant and incorrect use of mental illness terms in social situations (i.e. “omg you guys i’m so ocd right now”), i did want to point out the difference between OCD and OCPD (OCPD is the one listed on the poster). from wikipedia:

    Obsessive–compulsive personality disorder is often confused with obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD). Despite the similar names, they are two distinct disorders, although some OCPD individuals also suffer from OCD, and the two are sometimes found in the same family, sometimes along with eating disorders.

    People experiencing OCPD do not generally feel the need to repeatedly perform ritualistic actions—a common symptom of OCD—and usually find pleasure in perfecting a task, whereas OCD patients are often more distressed after their actions.
    OCPD is often thought to be the same as mood disorders, such as depression and generalized anxiety disorder.”

    ocd is far more severe, as it involves doing things the person hates to do but feels she has to, regardless of feeling guilt after the fact. ocpd appears to be more of a severe case of perfectionism.

  • I haven’t seen the poster, but I like the idea of schizophrenia being art. I don’t see the offense, yet I tend to not see the boundaries between humor and art. I do not find the messages tasteless. I think if you feel uncomfortable dealing with certain issues, it may not be the actual message, but may be the subject. For example, there are certain things that I may be sensitive to (which I do have), and i may cry when confronted with these issues (which I do). This doesn’t mean the thing confronting me is trying to be mean, but trying to communicate an idea. This is life (depending on your luck): many horrible things, and some pleasant things.
    Its not as if this designer is communicating an out right lie. The message is a bit vague, and in this way design is now something more; it’s art.

  • They’re not supposed to be funny. As an architect diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, Type 1, I’m almost offended that people think these are supposed to be a joke just because they’re about mental illness. I see the posters as exploring the many parallels that exist between mental illness and our creative professions, and I agree with Eva from the Netherlands. Mental illness is scary when you’re in the depths of it, but it doesn’t change who we are as people and artists.

    Bipolar Disorder is Inspiration.

  • Offensive? – not neccessarily
    Art? – not really
    Cheap ploy to use hyperbole to sell something? – yes
    I have severe OCD. To say that the OCPD poster is somehow less offensive than the Schizophrenia poster is a blatant disregard to the seriousness of OCD. In either case severe forms of either illness are debilitating for those who suffer from it. To even pretend that an artist or designer come close to having a life altering mental illness because they pour over their creations monotonously is ridiculous. There is nothing exploratory in these posters – it’s simply exploitation of emotion.

  • not nice at all. OCD is a serious disorder and people with this disorder suffer a lot. The same is true for schizophrenia

  • Thanks for raising this issue. So often we (I am including myself) use mental illness as a punchline. It just reenforces the social stigma and further isolates people suffering/living with mental illness.

  • While I agree that mental illness is nothing to joke about, I would hang these on my wall. I feel my OCD is something that both helps and hinders my design work. Therefore, it is always in my designs. I understand why people may be offended by these pieces, but if you look beyond the harshness of the words you will see beautiful poster design. The schizophrenia poster very alluring and passionate with its bold use of red and flowing line work. The structured and confined look of the OCPD poster has a slighty trapped feeling, which I find very close to home. Again, I see why some people are uncomfortable with these, however, I find them beautiful.

  • I lean towards thinking the artist means well, and is accomplishing his/her goal with the posters. In the description of the items there is a dedication to all the artists and designers who have suffered from the disorders.

    “This poster is a tribute to all artists affected by Schizophrenia such as Louis Wain for their incredible work.”

    Mental illness is such a taboo topic, and these posters really bring to light the fact that behind the disease is a person. The less people are willing to discuss the topic, the longer it will continue to be taboo.

    Art is supposed to inspire discussion and introspection, and the artist has clearly accomplished this.

  • I am beyond impressed with the Design Sponge community and their (well, the majority) understanding that good design, something we all value and respect, comes second to respecting those who suffer from debilitating mental disorders. The misuse of the term “OCD” as a descriptor for a small neurosis still makes it difficult for many to understand this is a disease that tortures its victims with far worse symtoms than a desire for cleanliness, order, and minimalism. It ruins lives.

  • You’re a class act, Grace. I appreciate your calling attention to this subject.
    If there’s a place for black humor it’s likely to be in the private company of people who truly “get” it at it’s deepest level. Not meant for prime time. Great art may provoke attitude change in a society but the exploitative nature of these posters hardly qualifies them as art.

  • I have OCD and I think it’s pretty darn funny…sometimes we have to laugh at ourselves to keep from crying.

  • Liked the comment by Jody of “Fiscal Autism being Awful” that did make me laugh.

    I was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1976 and put on Mellaril and Imprimine, for the most of 6 years after that. Turned out I only had psychosis and hallucinations from drug abuse. Now just 3 weeks ago I got OCPD, disthymia (depression) diagnosis with a list of negative lab results for other pyschical disorders. I am a recovering alcoholic and addict 28 years sober. I have always taken antidepressant meds most of the time for major and disthymia depression and some anti anxiety meds.

    I think the schizophrenia remark could of come from either a person trying to flame things implying it a choice to be that or very possibly someone with the disorder who hopes that possibly they have an artistic ability like someone said earlier. Thats because when I was hospitalized in 1976 we did allot of art therapy and later some of those objects I made or painted, when I saw them at home on my parent wall and shelf, made me feel I could accomplish something. Currently as far as I know art therapy is the most popular therapy to get people to become and feel active in a simple and somewhat personalized way. Seeing famous (successful) people with mental illnes in books and now online motivated me to go to college eventually getting a M.S. In Rehabilitation Administration from a top University. I barely pased high school with a D- but that was because I didnt like it and was to dysfuctional at the time to do well in it.

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