Curated and Organized by:
Professor and Chair, Graphic Design
Massachusetts College of Art and Design
Partner and Creative Director
Boston, MA and New York, NY
"The study of visual form and language is limited if it does not consider the forces of cultural production, which involve a set of social relations between producer and audience." —Andrew Howard, "There is Such a Thing as Society", EYE magazine 13
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.
Ever since the AIDS epidemic struck, the responsibility of educating the world's public has gained dramatically in significance. 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.
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.