Black and white. Good and evil. Hot and cold. Life and death. It’s no secret that opposites resurface often across art, literature, film and design. After all, such complementary themes lend themselves to visual and thematic contrast in any medium.
That’s why, each year, a group of students at New York City’s School of Visual Arts take a hard look at opposites in “Corporate Identity and Multimedia,” an honors class on visual identity design taught by the three partners of Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv. The students work closely with Sagi Haviv, Tom Geismar and Ivan Chermayeff, following the same methodology and the process that the firm takes with its own clients.
Needless to say, the students’ work is impressive. For this particular assignment, each student designs a poster that addresses opposing concepts. The opposites can relate to any subject—art, politics, sports, environment, or any other issue—and in any medium, but students are instructed to avoid using descriptive text (except in the case of a typographic poster) or the word “opposite.”
The following selection of work showcases several of the students’ poster projects, with comments from each designer explaining the rationale behind the concept.
Through the image of a tattooed baby, this piece explores the juxtaposition of purity and so many of its counterparts—altercation, rebellion, experience, decision, history. One of the ultimate symbols of innocence—a child—is used as a canvas for one of the ultimate symbols of corruption and permanence. “Purity” questions at what point and at whose discretion innocence appears to be lost.
Through purposeful placement of graffiti tags intently disobeying The Queen, this poster examines the hypocrisy of the anachronistic Monarchial society and probes the question of the true reason for the outdated institutions’ existence. If it’s not bringing about political stability and it’s not an accurate portrayal of modern British culture—what purpose is it serving? Graffiti culture (hardly considered a ‘high art’) expresses a fundamental artistic truth and raw humanism rare of royal art. Graffiti is primarily a form of dissent—but more than that, it holds the power to create culture and communicate authenticity.
The opposite poster was designed to express two opposing ideas in their most simple form. These symbols became the subject of my poster when I realized how effectively they communicated their intentions. While walking to class one day, I paused at the crosswalk, waiting for the orange “stop” hand to change to the white-lit “walk” figure. When it did, and the group of people I was waiting with moved in one swift motion, I took notice of how well these symbols were able to communicate two opposing ideas. Using photography with variation in shutter speed, I pushed the concept further by putting the “walk” symbol into motion.
Sunmin Chung – “Gravity vs. Zero Gravity”
The star is living on a zero gravity environment called the universe, while we are living on the Earth with the force of gravity since our birth to death. Because of gravity, we always create a shadow that reflects our motions regardless of locations.
For the opposites poster, I used foreground and background to create the opposing concepts of “exit” and “exist.” Also, to capture people’s attention and deliver the clear meanings of two words, I designed the poster as simply as possible. The red and white colors came from the classic American emergency exit sign, and using the bold typeface is to help to maximize the effect of the foreground and background.
The theme of my opposites poster is “Life and Death.” A flower represents the swift passage from life into death. I used a rose to symbolize love, beauty, and passion. By showing the process of a rose withering, I wanted to emphasize that “Live every moment of life with full of passion and love, because life will soon fade away.” The interesting thing I had observed while I worked on this project, flowers are just like us. As a flower withers, it shrinks like our skins shrink as we age. Also, the beauty doesn’t last forever. Even though rose is the representation of beauty, its petals are soon dried and shattered.
The shape of and colours represent male and female genitalia. I made the colours to give a contrast between a male and female. I thought blue represents a male and the red represents female. I tried to make it really simple and straightforward.