For many women, birth control has become a normal part of life, but contraceptive ads still tend to be patronizing and outdated. That’s why two designers, Erin Knutson and Ria Roberts, approached their friends and asked them to create updated versions of their own. They first became concerned with the problem back in 2014 while they were graduate students at Yale School of Art. Intent on exploring how birth control ads can be a mixture of personal and political, they reached out to their friends with a simple brief: design a full page ad for any contraceptive method in any style.
The results were diverse, covering multiple methods, such as abstinence to pulling out, and delivered in a range of ways, from poignant to laid-back. Knutson and Roberts decided to take the ads they collected and release them in a magazine called Methods, which is currently on its third issue. The profits made from the magazine go toward Planned Parenthood of New York City and usually features interviews alongside the ads. This year the magazine will feature interviews with Abigail DeAtley, the director of development for PPNYC, and Marilyn Minter, an artist, activist, and Planned Parenthood advocate.
The union between the two not only helps PPNYC monetarily, it also helps the magazine reach a larger audience and acts as a means for activists and like-minded designers to link up. Since it’s conception, the magazine has evolved and matured along with the submissions. “The ads in this coming issue are much more poetic and much more sincere,” says Roberts. The most recent issue includes an ad featuring an email exchange and blog post about a contraception “hack” for those who are unable to get ahold of the morning after pill, while another is just a blank page with “Sabbatical 2015-2016” printed in the top left corner of the page.
With all the public attention reproductive rights have garnered in the past couple of years, the magazine has been a reflection of the current events and has been working to close the gap between the political and commercial side of birth control. “The main issue we have with contraceptive ads was that it’s so psychotically disjointed with what’s at stake,” says Roberts. “On [a] personal level, in terms of women’s bodies and choices they have, but also what that means on [a] political, national, and international level and in the way that reproductive justice affects our lives and our economy.”
Pick up a copy of Methods here.