It’s Not Just Important, It’s Imperative

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Over in the Design Does Good department, two pretty incredible exhibitions are busy showcasing the past and present of that famous function of graphic design: social issue posters.

“The Graphic Imperative: International Posters for Peace, Social Justice and the Environment 1965-2005” collects 121 posters from around the world that champion messages from civil rights to global warming, literacy to AIDS. The show is up at The Design Center at Philadelphia University through May 23, 2006, then heads out on a multiple-city tour. The website itself, however, is an emotional journey through what’s been on designers’ minds during the past 40 years. You’ll find famous American anti-Vietnam War visuals like Seymour Chwast’s “Stop Bad Breath” and Lorraine Schneider’s “War Is Not Healthy For Children and Other Living Things,” but some of the best work is by designers we’ve never heard of before, and most of it is extremely, and triumphantly, unsettling.

Over at AIGA’s site, the “Inequality Matters” exhibition offers social issue posters for the internet age. After Tom Geismar created a series of posters for the United Nations illustrating the widening gap between rich and poor nations, the call for entries went public, and dozens of posters from designers are now available for download, twisting the print-and-paste mentality originally intended for such campaigns. Modern activists–you have two choices: drag and drop the images onto your websites, emails or blogs; or fire up the Epson, grab some Duct Tape and hit the streets.