MassArt student Allie Simons, 24, created posters for Project ME, an HIV/AIDS outreach program at Roxbury’s Whittier Street Health Center.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in California, and we moved to Connecticut, London, and New York. I call Cape Cod home right now.
Tell me about your interest in graphic design.
I was very new to graphic design. Honestly, I didn’t even know it was a type of art for a while.
Can you give some examples of design that inspired you?
I try not to pick a book by its cover, but if it has a great cover, I hold onto it. I love looking at paintings, but I felt there was something more approachable about everyday design, like CD covers and posters.
What did you learn about the communities you studied in terms of sexual taboos?
What really struck me were all the sexual taboos women had. If they talk about sex and carry a condom, they’re called names. There was one story where a grandmother convinced her daughter to be tested. [The grandmother] agreed to be tested, too, and she was HIV positive. I was blown away by that.
Did you have a concept for the posters immediately?
I wanted to tell women that you’re not a bad person if you decide to be proactive with your sexual decisions. I wanted to make it short [but] powerful.
How did you design the posters visually?
I wanted the important information to stand out. I picked red to stay with the HIV red ribbon. Everything else is black and white, to take a supporting role.
You’ve grown up in the age of AIDS. Do you recall when you first became aware of what it means to be HIV positive?
In sixth-grade health class.
How were the conversations with your parents, if any?
My mom was all for it – “Yes, let’s empower women.” My grandmother was very supportive, but she was like, “Oh, we never talked about this.”
What kinds of things would you like to design when you start your career?
I’d like to stay passionate, do projects out of love for things I feel strongly about. The more attention we can bring to HIV, the better.