“The rampant spread of the HIV/AIDS virus over the past 29 years has created the most significant global public health crisis in modern history. Despite the complexity and scale of the epidemic, there is still a lack of worldwide strategies to lead AIDS education. AIDS education in many countries is still shouldered, to a great extent, by government agencies and grassroots organizations led by community activists who are often motivated local citizens” note Elizabeth Resnick, professor and chair of graphic design at Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Boston and Javier Cortés, partner and creative director at KORN DESIGN aka the curators of Graphic Intervention: 25 Years of International AIDS Awareness Posters 1985–2010.
“Ever since the AIDS epidemic struck, the responsibility of educating the world's public has gained dramatically insignificance. In many countries, the poster as a medium of information was unknown before the emergence and identification of the HIV virus. With a disease involving sexuality and sexual behavior, and therefore social and moral issues deeply rooted in culture and tradition, messages to raise awareness and encourage preventative behavior have varied significantly to best serve the intended audience.”
“The poster has played a special role in promoting AIDS awareness and safe sex education across cultures—different aims, messages, visual metaphors, and strategies have strongly influenced the content and design of AIDS posters. These messages can successfully reach specific targeted groups because the poster as a medium is cheap and easy to produce locally.”
“Regardless of cultural differences, AIDS posters are meaningful to viewers because they frequently draw on images from popular culture and express the living habits of people, which can vary in approach and style. As such, the messages in these posters can illuminate how public health educators and activists see themselves and their audiences, and how they conceptualize disease and define 'normal' behavior within each given culture.”
Silence = Death, ACT UP, USA, 1986. The simple graphic emblem, "Silence = Death," printed in white using the Gill Sans typeface underneath a pink triangle on a black ground, has come to signify AIDS activism. The original emblem was designed by six gay men calling themselves the "Silence = Death Project" in 1986 and later used by ACT UP (AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power) to produce T-shirts, buttons and stickers as a means of fundraising for the cause. Historically, the inverted pink triangle is a symbol of oppression. It was used as a marker of homosexual men in Nazi concentration camps much in the same manner that Jewish people were forced to wear the yellow Star of David as an identifier. Wearers of the inverted pink triangle were considered at the bottom of the camp social system and subjected to particularly harsh maltreatment and degradation. Thus, the appropriation of the symbol of the pink triangle usually turned upright rather than inverted by Pro-gay activists in the 1970s was a conscious attempt to transform a symbol of humiliation into one of solidarity and resistance.
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Harry Pearce assisted by Jason Ching, Pentagram UK. The United Nations' Office on Drugs and Crime produced a series of posters to highlight the relative merits of drug treatment and rehabilitation around the world. The posters had to be eye-catching, easy to absorb and not reliant on language. The typographic solution creates a simple world map from internationally recognized country abbreviation codes (GB, US, RU etc). Variants were then designed, using color-coding and icons to provide comparative statistics about drug abuse, the incidence of HIV, Methadone and opioid maintenance therapies, and needle and syringe programs.
True Love, Anon, State of California, AIDS Education Campaign, USA, 1994. This poster is one of the early iconic posters to feature a drawing or photograph of a condom as a substitution for the letter "o" in word message. Here it accentuates the word "love."
Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?, Andrea Rauch, Rauch Design, Italy, 1991. Translation: "AIDS is not the big bad wolf. It is a serious illness, one that should be prevented with attention, and treated with every means available, but it is nothing more than an illness. Those who suffer from it should be helped in every way possible, not isolated and avoided like convicts. AIDS is fought also with caring and solidarity. Fear, solitude and isolation are the real big bad wolf."
“Graphic Intervention: 25 Years of International AIDS Awareness Posters 1985–2010 draws upon James Lapides' extensive archive of international AIDS Awareness posters along with posters generously donated to Massachusetts College of Art and Design. A cohesive selection of 153 posters presents an insightful overview of diverse visual strategies employed by many different countries working within their own distinctive cultural perspective in response to the subject of AIDS as a public health emergency.”
A 96-page, full-color catalog is available for purchase through mail order.
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