Community member launches “How to Wear a Mask” project

Lexi Potter hanging her "How to Wear a Mask" poster in the community

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, community member Lexi Potter noticed that many people seemed confused about the proper way to wear a mask. She started her How to Wear a Mask project with the goal of creating informative posters to help people understand how to effectively wear masks to protect their friends and family.

A few weeks later, she and a group of friends have hundreds of printed posters, some now translated into Chinese (with other languages on the way), that they are distributing to local businesses and hanging up throughout the city.

With the Governor’s mask mandate going into effect today, we wanted to check in with Lexi on her efforts and help spread the word about her project:

What inspired your How to Wear a Mask project?

I am an essential worker, and commute to and from my office by bus. Every day I was seeing people on the bus wearing masks, but in odd ways — like only covering their mouth (with their nose exposed), or scrunched under their chin (not covering their mouth or nose). Or, they were doing things like wearing a mask while listening, but then taking their mask off to talk.

I found that pretty concerning. I think there’s this idea that so long as you’re wearing a mask (whether or not it’s covering your mouth and nose), you’re protected. Just having a mask, even if it’s not on your face, can give people a false sense of security.

It occurred to me that it’s probably not reasonable to assume that folks who don’t work in the medical industry or haven’t been exposed to regular mask-wearing know how to wear a mask. I wondered whether the message to wear a mask — and specifically, how to wear a mask in a way that effectively protects others — was actually reaching everyone.

I know that Public Health and the CDC have some great, general resources encouraging people to wear masks, but most of the resources are either online videos or articles. To see them you have to actively seek out the information for yourself and you need access to the internet, which not everybody has.

Both Public Health and the CDC have got a lot on their plates though, and I don’t think we can expect them to do everything — especially with limited budgets. I wanted to do my part and communicating how to wear a mask effectively seemed like something I might be able to help tackle, at least in a small way. 

How did you go about making it happen?

I thought posters would be a good idea because they’re more-or-less visible to anyone who walks by; you don’t have to have internet access or intentionally search to absorb the information on a poster. So, one morning I sketched out a rough picture, and contacted a designer I know from the Asian American community at Drag & Drop Creative. I got a quote, then fundraised from friends and family. It was a pretty fast turnaround — within a couple weeks, I had 500 glossy purple “How to Wear a Mask” posters. We intentionally made the posters generic so folks can post them in any city, not just Seattle.

I’ve mostly been distributing by myself and with my sister, handing them out to small business owners to post for their customers and putting them up near bus stops, as well as on telephone poles and other places.

I’ve been really grateful to get help from friends, too. A friend of mine who volunteers regularly in the International District translated the posters into simplified and traditional Chinese at no charge, and now International Community Health Services is printing some for distribution among nonprofits that serve our community of Chinese elders. I’m excited to see where things go next. I’m hoping someone would be willing to help us create a Spanish version!

How have the posters been received?

Most small business owners have been really pleased to have the posters. I’ve heard from a lot of them that they see people wearing masks incorrectly, or not wearing masks at all.

I don’t know whether the poster will do much to change the behavior of folks who are unwilling to wear masks. My primary goal is to help people who are trying to protect their friends and family — just to help them do that more effectively.

Sometimes I get questioning looks at first (like ‘What is this?’ or ‘Why are you doing this?’), but once I explain, people usually get it. I don’t expect every small business owner to put up the poster; it’s just another resource to add to the arsenal. 

I know it’s just a small thing, but I hope that along with all the other small things, maybe it will save lives.


Download the How to Wear a Mask poster to hang or distribute in your neighborhood:

If you have translation experience and want to assist with creating versions of the poster in additional languages, email Lexi Potter at lexi.potter7@icloud.com.