SVA's Subway Series Posters Win 2019 Graphis Poster Awards
May 16, 2018 by Michelle Mackin
SVA Subway Series poster illustration by Edel Rodriguez. Yellow background with illustrations of eyes, with a text overlay that says "Wake Up!"
Chris Buzelli's three SVA Subway Series posters, featuring a larger-than-life cat, squirrel and pigeon, with text overlay saying "Observe," "Unearth," and "Imagine."
SVA Subway Series posters by Chris Buzelli.

Congratulations are in order for the creators of four recent SVA Subway Series campaigns that have received high honors in the 2019 Graphis Poster awards. According to Rick Valicenti, founder and design director of Thirst Communication Design Practice, the Poster Annual is a "collection of design excellence" where "the best traditions of the past stand alongside optimistic hints of the future." These qualities are certainly reflected in the art practice of SVA’s winners, who include design legend and SVA’s Acting Chairman of the Board Milton Glaser and Chris Buzelli, Edel Rodriguez and Yuko Shimizu (MFA 2003 Illustration as Visual Essay), all three of whom are on the BFA Illustration faculty and have their own distinct artistic styles.
Buzelli's larger-than-life urban animals took home the gold, Glaser's and Rodriguez's calls to action won the silver, and Shimizu's creativity-inducing illustrations received an honorable mention. Take a look at the award-winning posters below and read what each artist had to say about the inspiration and process behind them.

Chris Buzelli
On the choice to feature a cat, pigeon and squirrel on his posters…
"Those animals were chosen because for me they are these incredible urban creatures that coexist with us in NYC. Although they may seem common, they have figured out a way to adapt and survive in this harsh urban environment."
On why the animals tower above the trees and skyscrapers of New York…
"I wanted the animals to become a larger-than-life metaphor for the students at SVA. As a young student, I felt very similarly to the cat character in my painting when I first came to NYC and wandered around the city while quenching my curiosities."
Read more here.

Milton Glaser's three most recent SVA Subway Series posters, featuring colorful designs with the text "It's Not About Me, It's About Me. Art Makes Us Better," "To Dream Is Human," and "Give Help. 'The smallest act of kindness is work more than the grandest intention.' -Oscar Wilde."
SVA Subway Series posters by Milton Glaser.

Milton Glaser
On how the SVA Subway Series sets SVA apart from other art institutions…
"What you do [and what the College did], is assign first-class people who were considered to be the best in their field and give them an assignment that demonstrates the quality of what they do and what the school is committed to."
On his intentions for these posters, his 24th subway poster campaign for SVA…
"I have an objective with these three posters—although it was implicit in all the other earlier posters—that is, the role of design and art are basically roles that also include social engagement."
Read more here.

Three SVA Subway Series posters by Edel Rodriguez. They all have a bright yellow background and other bright colors like red, blue and green. The first says "Wake Up!," and features eye illustrations; the second says "Speak Up!" and features open-mouthed faces; the third says "Rise Up!" and features an illustration of a hand reaching upwards.
SVA Subway Series posters by Edel Rodriguez.

Edel Rodriguez
On how his process for these posters differed from his usual work…
"The main way in which they are different is that I came up with the writing in conjunction with the visuals. I usually tend to work from a writer’s text or prompt. Coming up with the concept for the campaign—the progression from Waking, to Speaking, to Rising—was something new for me."
On his hopes for those who view this work…
"I hope people that see the posters question and ponder their meaning, and that the posters will help them start a conversation with friends or other [subway] riders. Perhaps people will think about their place in society and become more involved, or encouraged to continue doing so, as a result."
Read more here.

Three SVA Subway Series posters by Yuko Shimizu, all featuring very detailed illustrations. The first has a yellow background, and features a person swimming surrounded by many swim tubes and says "Dive deeper." The second is red and features a person holding leashed monster-like creatures and says "Unleash ideas." The third is mostly blue and yellow, and features a person soaring into the sky with the text "Fly higher."
SVA Subway Series posters by Yuko Shimizu.

Yuko Shimizu
On how thinking about her vast audience affected how she designed this campaign…
"[The posters] are for everyone who takes the New York subway system; everyone who likes art, or is curious; and perhaps looking at the posters makes some people curious about taking a class at SVA. I take the subway myself, and sometimes you miss a train and have to stand on the platform for a long time until the next train arrives. This made me think of making the images in a way that, if someone stops and spends a bit more time, there are more things they can find in there."
On how she changed her usual approach for the posters…
"The most important thing for me was that the posters needed to come off as accessible, easy to relate to. I decided to make these posters in a style a little bit more accessible than I would normally draw."
Read more here.

Since the mid-1950s, SVA has featured the work of practicing faculty members as part of a promotional initiative staged on NYC’s subway platforms. The Subway Series posters promote the College and showcase the individual artist’s vision, offering a thought-provoking and visually exciting appeal to potential students and fellow New Yorkers as part of their everyday lives. Featured artists have included Louise Fili, Steven Heller, Stefan Sagmeister and Paula Scher, among many others. SVA Executive Vice President Anthony P. Rhodes has served as creative director for the posters since 2007. In 2016, the Visual Arts Press began producing short video profiles of each artist to accompany their posters’ launch and give a behind-the-scenes look at their making.