25 Years of Aids Awareness | Posters 1985–2010


“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 1.

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.

Design: Jyri Konttinen
Painting: Bronwyn Bancroft


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.

Design:Young Woo Yu

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.
Here we picked for you randomly 30 of those posters. Enjoy!

Photo: Claudio Alessandri Design. Momix dancers: Erin Elliott,
Solveig Olsen, Terry Pexton, Brian Sanders,
courtesy of Riezouw Associates, LTD


CANADA, 2004
Advertising Agency: MARKETEL,
Creative Team: Gilles Dusablon, Linda Dawe, Stephane Gaulin


CANADA, 2007
Design: Andrew Lewis




CHINA, 2007
Design: Fang Chen


CUBA, 2006
Design: Idania/Del Rio


FRANCE, 1996
Design: Delphine Chanet


FRANCE, 2007
Illustration: Skwak


INDIA 1995,
Design: S. Gosh


INDIA, 1995
Design: Ramesh Sukumar


ISRAEL, 1992-1993
Artist: Mi’raj Faris, Republic of Iraq, Ministry of Health, Health Education Section


ISRAEL, 1993
Design: Yossi Lemel, Photography: G. Korisky


ITALY, 1991
Concept and Photography: Oliviero Toscani


ITALY, 1993
Concept and Photography: Oliviero Toscani


MEXICO, 2007
Design: Eduardo Barrera, UNICEF


Anon, ALCA Association de lutte contre le sida


Photo: Albert Sword


Design: Sara Gama


Advertising Agency: Oglivy & Mather Portugal,
Models: cia. da Gente, Photography: Atelier da Ilusão/ House of the image,


Design: Myung Kwang Kwon


Design:Kye-soo Myung


Design: Anton Beeke


TURKEY, 1995
Design: Bülent Erkmen; Photo: Tülin Altilar


UK, 1995
Anon, British Deaf Association/AIDS Ahead


USA, 1988-1990
Design: Steff Geissbuhler


USA, 1990
Design: Cedomir Kostovic


USA, 1994
Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi


Agency: crDDB Basel, Art Direction: Michael Oswald,
Design: Michael Oswald, Marc Rutishauser, Photography: Harry Burst



Massachusetts College of Art and Design presents:

25 Years of International AIDS Awareness Posters 1985–2010

Curated by Elizabeth Resnick and Javier Cortés from the collection of James Lapides, International Poster Gallery, Boston and Massachusetts College of Art and Design
Massachusetts College of Art and Design

Boston, MA
September 13–December 4, 2010
Art Center College of Design

Pasadena, CA
February 25–April 24, 2011
Art Directors Club

New York, NY
June 7–July 29, 2011
York College of Pennsylvania

York, PA
August 25–September 22, 2011
Museum of Design Atlanta, MODA

Atlanta, GA
October 1–January 1, 2012
Edinboro University Pennsylvania

Edinboro, PA
February 1–22, 2012
Wolfsonian Museum in Miami Beach

May 11 – 9 September 2012
University of Central Michigan
October-November 2012

The exhibition is sponsored by International Poster Gallery, Korn Design, Sappi Paper, pixelslam, AIGA Boston. A 96-page full color catalog will be available for sale at the events and on the website: www.graphicintervention.org

View more: The Graphic Intervention: 25 Years of Aids Awareness Posters

Maria Papaefstathiou

VISUAL DESIGNER since 1996 and blogger since 2010. Living in Athens, Greece. She has been focusing her research on poster design and particularly on social poster design and portrait design. Her main poster project is a series of posters celebrating great personalities of traditional and popular culture in Greece and Jamaica. These include actors, singers, musicians, poets etc. This is an ongoing project. “I believe that design is a powerful tool that we designers can use to spark enthusiasm, change mindsets and bring positive actions to our world and our culture”. FOUNDER AND EDITOR OF GRAPHICART-NEWS.COM BLOG. She carefully curates high-quality designs, illustrations, and art, from all over the world that will teach and provoke other designers. Many consider her blog to be an exceptional educational tool. CO-FOUNDER OF THE INTERNATIONAL REGGAE POSTER CONTEST which was launched on December 2011, partnering, the creative activist Michael Thompson aka Freestylee. (www.reggaepostercontest.com)

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