The Risky Rainbow of Artificial Food Dyes: A Visual Communication Campaign Designed to Raise Concerns about Potential Dangers of Petroleum-Based, Synthetic Food Dyes and Offer Healthier Choices to Consumers

Master's Thesis


We eat first with our eyes, so the appearance of food directly influences consumers’ perceptions and purchasing decisions. Food coloring additives have been used in the food for centuries serving as codes that allow us to identify products on sight. Nine kinds of synthetic dyes, approved by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the U.S., are derived from aniline, which is petroleum based, and they have long been controversial. Synthetic food colorings add absolutely no flavor or fragrance to the foods we are eating, but do in fact pose quite a few serious risks to human health. Many toxicological studies commissioned and conducted by researchers found that these synthetic dyes might lead to allergic reaction, organ damage, cancer, and ADHD-like (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) behavior in children. Certain dyes being used in the U.S. are banned in some European countries.

Creating access to scientific knowledge about food coloring is essential for public health. The design goal is to educate consumers on why synthetic food colorings are being used, the potential health hazards of consuming them, and the limited regulations the FDA imposes on their usage. Keeping in mind the specific target audience, parents with young children, from the standpoint of a visual communication designer, the design creates a compelling approach to deliver information which is both instructional and aesthetically appealing. There various integrated elements of the campaign incorporate a strong and consistent visual identity, relevant information and recommendations derived from studies by researchers and specialists, and government reports and regulations. Ultimately, this thesis aims to help people live better and healthier lives by making more informed choices about the food they consume.


Attribute NameValues
Author Yan Zhang
Contributor Andre Murnieks, Research Director
Contributor Emily Beck, Committee Member
Contributor Maria Tomasula, Committee Member
Degree Level Master's Thesis
Degree Discipline Art, Art History, and Design
Degree Name Master of Fine Arts
Defense Date
  • 2016-04-12

Submission Date 2016-04-15
  • English

Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

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