By Jay Meekins
An ongoing visual and typographic exploration of phobias and other stimuli that cause people to experience discomfort.



Discomfort is a common part of life, it could come in the form of waking up earlier than usual, reaching out to someone you haven’t heard from in a while, or worst of all starting a new exercise routine. However, given the times we live in discomfort comes in much more concerning and even scary forms. The news is fraught with reports of shootings, missing persons, global crises, just to name a few. With that in mind, I was curious how these things affect people, and what identifiable factors these different forms of discomfort carry.


My goal with this project is to visually explore the different characteristics that something like phobias intrinsically have, and how condensing some them down into a single image might change the meaning, or even make the phobia easier to understand. All of the posters and more will be uploaded to the instagram account in the sidebar.



I began my exploration of phobias by looking at what fears I have and what discomfort I feel on a (nearly) day-to-day basis. The biggest phobia I have is arachnophobia (fear of spiders), and upon further exploration I’ve come to the conclusion that what is so discomforting to me about them is their legs and how they move. I used this process of identifying a fear and examining what about the subject is so off-putting to create the first image of the discomfort series. In it I use an image of a person trapped in a cramped space, barbed wire, thorny roses, and spider legs, to create an image that represents how these different factors combine to cause a person discomfort. I wanted to show that these fears can encapsulate someone and keep them in a constant state of discomfort and anxiety.

For the style of the imagery, I wanted to try something that was completely new for me. I tend to work in vector with very clean assets, so going with a photo-compilation surrealist style of design was challenging for me, but fun and exciting all the same.






The first phobia I tackled was Xenophobia, the fear and hatred of strangers and foreigners. With the social issues plaguing the world this seemed like an important subject to try to address, using my understanding and past experiences as a jumping-off point. In my experience, religion is a great source of comfort and community for a large amount of people, however some beliefs held by certain religions can be alienating, so I thought it might be an interesting place to begin.


I started by thinking about how the beliefs of certain religions are pointed in their messaging, both in how people should address those who are different from them, and in how those who are different need to be shown a different path dictated by their subject of worship. The statue is representative of a divine commandment, and the wings are meant to reinforce the divine imagery. The chains making the heptagon around her as well as her halo are representative of how this mentality is restrictive and prevents people from being more open to the lives and experiences of those around them.


This imagery is not meant to be insulting or shame those who do follow different faiths. It is merely meant to cause some ideological discomfort.





Mysophobia, or more commonly known as Germaphobia, is the fear or hatred of uncleanliness or contamination. I felt that this phobia was very relevant given the global pandemic that we are currently experiencing, and because this scenario that we all find ourselves in is going to have lasting impacts on how society operates for years and years to come.


The main goal that I had with this poster was to be as off-putting as possible, through both the color and imagery used. I started by finding a microscopic image of a virus and duplicating it around the page. I then thought about what might be the most concerning way of transmitting germs might be to someone who has Mysophobia, and the constant reiteration of wearing a mask during this pandemic came to mind. From there I tried to find an image of someone’s mouth that I could tweak and make as discomforting as possible, ultimately ending up with the reverse-mask face that is on the final poster. I used the imagery of the virus making up the rest of the head of the individual to represent how the constant worry of coming into contact with uncleanliness can fully occupy someone’s mind, as well as how this worry is now one shared by the country as a whole.





Athazagoraphobia is the fear of being forgotten or replaced, or forgetting. I chose this phobia because this is something that I started to experience as the isolation of quarantine and social distancing went on. Days started to run together and suddenly when I thought it was Thursday it was actually Monday and when I thought I had just eaten lunch it was already dark out and time to head to bed. With all of the disorientation I was experiencing I began to think that I was inevitably going to be forgotten by my friends and family (dark, I know).


When I started to try and analyze what aspects of this fear were the most concerning or worrying, the main thing that I kept coming back to was a fear of being forgotten after one dies. Gravestones are meant to not just mark where someone has been put to rest but also to be a reminder of who someone was. So to me the scariest way of being definitively forgotten would take the form of a featureless gravestone. To make the image a bit more disheartening I thought that the image of a lonely statue sitting next to the grave somberly acknowledging a person that no one could remember would make for an even more soul-crushing scene. In the end my goal for this poster was to cause discomfort in the form of sadness and futility.





What I found through my exploration of these topics and the ways they impact my life and the lives of those around me is that, yes they can be very difficult to deal with, and even harder to talk about. I for one am working on it every day, however if you or someone you know is experiencing something that you don’t understand but you know is very difficult to address, don’t let them go through it alone. Even with all of the scary things that go on in the world everyday, we’ll all go crazy if we try to take them on alone.


My plan for this project moving forward is to continue making these posters and to continue growing the Discomfort Series on Instagram, with different phobias and things that cause people discomfort. I believe that the best way to get over something is to go through it so, by continuing to grow as a designer, I will also continue to grow as an individual.







*All images used in this project were sourced from Pexels.com and Pixabay.com, or were my own.


*All phobia definitions were sourced from Mirriam-Webster.com.

Jay Meekins was repsonsible for posting the content on this page. Any inqueries should be directed to the contact information listed above.