In honour of International Literacy Day on 8 September, the UNACTO Media Committee brought Toronto’s creative community together in an event to promote a broader understanding of literacy and the significance of visual literacy.
With an introduction that echoed the day’s motto—Reading the Past, Writing the Future—UNACTO Chair of Media, Staci Benny, spoke of the relationship between images and literacy, connecting ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics to the now ubiquitous emojis used to shade and contextualize texts and emails.
The event was organized into a workshop format with the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) or Global Goals—which vary from No Poverty and Zero Hunger to Sustainable Cities and Communities—provided the framework for thinking about literacy and world transformation.
The creative space was divided into two areas: one where illustrators, designers and writers drew and wrote, and another where participants gathered into groups to think and write out solutions to advance some of the Global Goals. The work created ranged from a one-page multi-panel comic by Jess Sheridan that reflected on health advocacy, to a portrait by SitunCè that blended a woman’s and man’s face to promote thinking on gender equality.
The thinking section formed itself into five groups and using design thinking principles, tackled each other’s ideas in an iterative process to refine them. Even these non-artists found themselves leaning, at times, on images and crude drawings to elucidate ideas. One participant spoke about the brainstorming he had taken part in, noting that, “a creative outlet for a difficult topic sparks different ideas and ways to approach them.”
Mustefa Jo’shen, the founder of Ci. Strategy+Design and The Writing Project, graciously sponsored the event’s space, noting the importance of literacy "as a tool to understand issues around us and take action.”
Additionally, materials and artist outreach were sponsored by Draw By Night Toronto and Copeesh! Printing provided the evening’s Global Goals cards.