The Paper War on AIDS

Posted inThe Daily Heller
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Twenty-five years ago, the HIV/AIDS virus began killing thousands and infecting hundreds of thousands more. Although the western world was hit unaware, the disease had been coursing through the third world’s bloodstream for years before. When Europe and the Americas were directly impacted, however, curative and preventative measures were gradually instituted and awareness began—much of it through posters.

Even in this hyper-media, information saturated age, printed pieces of paper continue to influence and inspire, incite and inform. Anyone who says this is hyperbole should look closely at Graphic Intervention: 25 Years of International AIDS Awareness Posters 1985-2010 at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

The poster, a universal medium and, arguably, the most affordable means of accessibly conveying cautionary messages, has been essential in the war against AIDS. Before viral videos circulated throughout the web, posters held sway and crossed all boundaries. Today posters go where WiFi cannot.

Curated by Elizabeth Resnick, Professor and Chair of Graphic Design at MassArt, and Javier Cortes, partner and creative director at Korn Design in Boston, Graphic Intervention draws from an extensive archive of arresting, graphic, intense, and fearless international public health announcements.

“With approximately 150 examples from 44 countries this exhibition presents a comprehensive overview of the diverse visual strategies employed by government agencies, community activists, grassroots organizations, and motivated citizens to educate the local population. From Papua New Guinea to Denmark and Venezuela to Morocco, these posters demonstrate the different approaches used for discussion of a socially complex subject,” say its organizers.

For more information go here. And contact the gallery ( to order the profusely illustrated catalog. Incidentally, the exhibition is travel-ready for other venues and institutions.

Anon. Hong Kong.

Ismail Anil Guzelis, Turkey.

Fang Chen, China.

Andrew Lewis, Canada.

Eduardo Barrera, Mexico.

Catalog cover.