Students Discuss 'I Have a Dream' Poster Project

Posted on: January 20, 2014

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Students in Assistant Professor Henry Brimmer's advertising classes created posters last August to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. These posters are on exhibit along the first floor hallways of the CAS Building. The exhibit is part of Michigan State University's Project 60/50, a yearlong, university-wide initiative commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Topeka Board of Education and the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Madeline Rosemury (pictured on the left) and Miranda Miller (pictured on the right) are two Creative Advertising seniors who each created one of these unique poster designs as part of Brimmer's fall Typography class.

The poster assignment was slightly different for each of Brimmer's classes, depending on the focus of the class. For Rosemury's and Miller's class, the focus was on typography.

"The guidelines for the poster were minimal: black and white (no color), only type (so no graphic elements), and to highlight a quote from the speech," Rosemury said.

In response to these instructions, each student created their own process.

Miller read and listened to the entire speech and chose a relevant excerpt that she didn't expect other students to use. Her concept then began to take shape.

"I wanted to make the simple quote, 'I have a dream that one day, little black boys and girls will be holding hands with little white boys and girls,' hand-lettered into the shape of a heart to make it simple for viewers to understand that everyone deserves to be loved equally," she said. "The words 'black' and 'white' are enlarged so that it can be conveyed to readers that it's an issue regarding race."

Rosemury said she read the speech several times to find a quote that resonated with her the most. After doing some preliminary sketches and browsing some of her favorite design websites and blogs for typographic inspiration, she decided to remain consistent with her other work and add a personal touch.

"I hand wrote all of the type instead of using a font; I think that's what makes it unique. Basically, I wanted to give life to MLK's words," she said. "For example, the word 'rise' actually grows, and 'physical force' leans forward to create motion. The word 'we' is the only one that is white on black instead of black on white. I did this to emphasize that civil equality - be it race, gender, sexuality or religion - can only be achieved by working and fighting together."

Both students faced challenges along the way, despite having their own processes. Miller described it as being a "long but enjoyable process," resulting in 30 different designs before having reached the final version. Rosemury struggled for a few days with the limitation of typography and wanting to do the speech justice.

"It's such an iconic moment in history, so to commemorate it was challenging," Rosemury said.

Miller and Rosemury both found the assignment to be challenging, but rewarding.

"This project challenged me to create an attention-getting piece that was not only pleasing to look at, but also spread a positive message," Miller said. "I think this project exercised and improved my visual communication skills, which is very important to me and my future career."

Likewise, Rosemury said, "I grow and improve with each project that I do. And with this project, it was challenging to create a purely typographic poster, but it was a great learning experience. I'm also embarrassed to admit this, but before doing the poster I'd never read MLK's speech in its entirety, so reading (and re-reading it) was enlightening."

Check out the "I Have a Dream" posters hanging in the first floor hallways of the CAS Building. Miller's poster can be found by the south lobby elevator and Rosemury's is across from the advising offices.

"One of my favorite things about our building is all of the student work covering the walls - it makes walking the halls a little brighter, plus it's inspiring to see other student work," Rosemury said. "I hope they (the 'I Have a Dream' posters) stay up for awhile!"

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