Getting safety down to a fine art after 80 years of design
New book highlights decades of creativity in safety.
Color and creativity are rarely paired with safety in oil and gas operations, but a new Aramco publication produced by the Loss Prevention Department (LPD) has changed that.
Saudi Aramco and the Art of Safety is a collection of artwork and messaging created by the company over eight decades.
As a large format, hardback coffee-table book, the publication stands as a homage to safety, showcasing the company’s pioneering and extensive promotion of teaching safe working practices.
While Aramco is not alone in producing safety information for their workforce, it is the only company to have uniquely blended logistics, language, culture, and history as part of its industrial safety communication.
The sheer volume of material, running to thousands of posters, pamphlets, booklets, and newsletters, as well as marketing material, is testament to Aramco’s unwavering belief in the necessity of keeping its workforce safe.
As such, the book mirrors the evolution of the company’s corporate safety culture through the artwork it produced.
A seed that grew
Richard Bartlett, an editor with LPD’s Support Services Unit (SSU), authored the book and has always been drawn to the archive content.
He described the idea to publish as “a seed that grew.”
“It was important to tell the story of progression in development,” Bartlett says.
“What is unique is not only the level of artistry in the images, and their concepts, it’s also how the originators so precisely adapted the work to conditions of the time, whether those were within the company, the Kingdom, or the world. And they never stopped.
“At no time in the past 80 years has the company ever ceased producing safety material,” he says.
Although initially focused on operational safety, as time progressed, Aramco communities and off-the-job safety became part of the remit. The company was unique with its community camps and “take safety home” messaging, which was unknown in the region at the time, yet evident in artwork where a worker and a family man were portrayed as one and the same person.
Decades-long safety journey
The book begins in the 1940s at a time when no mass printing presses existed in Saudi Arabia, and the people creating the first images were engineers, not artists, who used their detailed focus to adeptly produce graphical safety messaging.
Far from being solely about safety communication, Saudi Aramco and the Art of Safety represents a totality of the company’s corporate and community safety vision from its beginnings.
“It is a book we are very proud of,” says Ghassan G. Abulfaraj, manager of LPD.
“There is a lot to be seen in parallel with the company as it is today — persistent endeavor and striving for a level of excellence that once reached, turns into the next challenge.
“That pursuit of excellence was in evidence then, and remains an integral part of what we do in the company now.”
“The artwork in the posters is very much the product of what was going on at the time,” says Bartlett, “but in many ways it was so far ahead of its time.
“The print logistics, the typographic challenges, the necessity of two languages — nowhere else was producing this kind of work for the audience demographic of nationals and expats. There was a lot to consider in sending any messaging out at all.”
Informative and pleasurable
The book’s design is the creation of Pdour H. Al Tamimi, a graphic designer with the SSU. Her creative goal was to support the artwork while not overwhelming it.
“We used a slightly minimalist approach,” Al Tamimi explains.
“We very much wanted the book to be informative, but also pleasurable to read. A book to dip in and out of as you wish.”
Paging through, there is no doubt that wherever you land has its own intrigue — blackout curtains, caricatures, some daunting H2S warnings, a famous Saudi footballer, and even some vice presidents and CEOs in their earlier career roles.
“The use of humor and dramatics is evident,” says Bartlett. “But it really works. It probably couldn’t in the same way today, but it certainly worked then.”
“The book is synonymous with the company’s spirit of innovation and ingenuity,” says Abulfaraj, “and exerting ourselves to go as far as we need to, to achieve our goals.
“There is a lot of color and life too; the vibrancy of this book certainly embodies the energy of the company and the department today. I think it is a good reminder of how committed Aramco has always been to its people in whatever it does.”