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January 12, 2011

Haiti—The Day After

One year after the mighty earthquake that devastated Haiti, the small Caribbean country still needs our help. The earthquake literally destroyed the capital Port-au-Prince, which counted a population of 704,766 as of the 2003 census. The Haiti earthquake is therefore considered to be "the largest urban disaster after WWII," as David Meltzer, senior vice president for international services at the American Red Cross, stated in an online live chat hosted by The Washington Post. Still much needs to be done to rebuild the country and ensure safer and healthier living conditions for its inhabitants. How can we, as the NOVA communication design community, help?

In the wake of the earthquake, Moxie Sozo—the Boulder, Col. based creative agency that organized The Hurricane Poster Project to raise funds for the victims of Katrina—paired up with Josh Higgins, a San Diego, Calif. based art director who created The So-Cal Fire Poster Project to benefit the victims of the 2007 California wildfires. This design/humanitarian partnership resulted in The Haiti Poster Project, a collaborative effort by the design community to help bring on change through design work. The Haiti Poster Project was launched on Jan. 15, 2010, only three days after the earthquake, and was open to all designers in the world. As of today, the website is still accepting submissions. All you need to do is design a poster for Haiti (minimum size 11x17), print at least 25 copies, sign them and mail them to the following address:

Haiti Poster Project, c/o Merch Lackey, Inc.
8510 Production Ave.
San Diego, CA 92121

(Please, see the website's Call for Entries page for further details and specifications). 

While many participants used fancy and costly printing techniques such as lithography, letterpress and silk-screen printing, common four-color digital prints are also accepted. All entries are uploaded to the website and sold at a starting price of $25 to raise funds for the Doctors Without Borders earthquake disaster relief effort.

Actually, some of our students and faculty have already joined this project. In the spring of 2010, the then-members of NOVA Studio—the student-run design studio for the communication design program at NOVA Alexandria—and their instructors/creative directors Lisa Hill and Angela Terry decided to donate some of their time and talent to this humanitarian cause.

So if you're too busy to design a poster or can't afford to print 25 copies even digitally, you can still help the cause by buying a poster designed and signed by one of your fellow students or teachers!

"I barely knew Haiti at all before the earthquake," says former NOVA Studio member Sandy Wang. "My heart fell apart when I saw a beautiful land become such a disaster. That's why I had the shape of Haiti filled with hearts for my poster." "We all thought it was a great idea to put our design skills to use to help out such an important cause, and we wanted to try our hand at designing for screen printing," adds Annie Mueller, who, with Alfredo Ramirez and Brian O'Neil, opted to stay with NOVA Studio for one more year. "It almost didn't happen because we were all so busy and we didn't have any funding at the time," Alfredo adds.

But the funding eventually happened, courtesy of Arthur Lander CPA & Attorney, a former employer of Annie Mueller's, and the group took up enthusiastically this endeavor. It also was a very formative experience for the students from a design point of view, as they faced some challenges due to the fact that the posters would be screen printed. "When screen printing, you cannot use normal tints," explains Annie. "You have to produce a screen of the color to show graduation of color, so we had to learn how to do this properly. We used 2 PMS colors and it was difficult to choose the right colors that would work well with both people's designs, as we had to pair up (2 posters per color combo)." "We only had two colors to work with," echoes Alfredo. "So we had to adjust our files so they met the printer's requirements. I used halftones and overprinting. I did some research and worked with Angela and the printer to make sure our files were set up properly. In my poster you see a light shining down on a little boy. I couldn't use gradients or transparencies so I made up for that using halftones and overprinting to get the effect I wanted."

The results of this effort are eight great posters that reflect how each designer approached the disaster/relief theme.

Instructor Angela Terry was inspired by a quote by Kyle Cooper, which she illustrated in her poster: "It is the American Dream to acquire as many material possessions in life in order to seem successful, but the only thing we have in life that is valuable is what we give away to others—our time, our knowledge, our love… and yes sometimes material possessions."

Student Brian O'Neil also focused on the importance of giving away to others: "I used the word 'Haiti' repeatedly to create the silhouette of a person in need. Then I placed the word 'give' just above the hands of the figure. Although I used the words Haiti and Give, I feel that the message is clear in any language. We all must do what we can, and give to those who are in need."    

Instructor Lisa Hill focused on the rebuilding effort: "The message is simple. Rebuild Haiti. But achieving that is not. It will take decades. My hope is that this timeless message will endure as the world’s eyes turn away from this tragedy. This poster serves to remind us that it is our duty, as global citizens, to help however we can."

Student Annie Mueller also called for a global effort to rebuild the devastated country: "My poster encourages people to take action by making sure Haiti does not physically or figuratively fall through the cracks the earthquake created. The physical rubble needs to be cleaned up, but more importantly, the people of Haiti need to be able to reclaim their lives and have hope for the future."

Student Sandy Wang sent a message of love: "I saw lots of pictures after the earthquake. They all broke my heart. Before the earthquake, I barely knew anything about Haiti. I’ve been surprised at how beautiful Haiti was before, and I want more people to know and help Haiti. Let our love fill Haiti!"

Student Alfredo Ramirez found inspiration in the rescue and relief efforts: "My design was inspired by videos of people being rescued from the debris. The video I found particularly touching was one of a young boy being rescued and then reaching for the sky. The relief and joy he felt that moment could be felt by all those who watched the video. In my poster a young boy is in need but sees a ray of sunshine and knows relief is on the way."

Student Agustina Gaviola was impressed with the devastating effects of the earthquake: "When looking at images of Haiti after the earthquake, something impacted me; what was now indistinguishable debris used to be somebody’s home. Home is where the day starts and where the day ends. Home is a safe place, home is a reunion place. Home is a place to go back to. So after seeing so many people’s homes shattered, the question in my mind is: How can I stay indifferent?"

Student Marie Chambers sent a message of hope: "The boy in this poster symbolizes the sorrow and grief that the earthquake has caused the Haitian people. I want this poster to entice individuals to want to bring hope to a land that has been stricken by so many decades of poverty, turmoil, and now this tragic catastrophe. While much of the world has moved on, Haiti and its people have not. I hope this poster project can help those still in need."

Remember, you can send your message, too. It isn't too late. One year after the tragic event, Haiti still needs help from the whole world! Design can be a powerful agent of change. We just need to be aware of that, unite our efforts and be careful of what or who we design for.

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