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  • Mixed-media digital collage
  • 18 inches wide, 24 inches high

Publication Date



2020 pandemic, 1918 Pandemic, COVID-19, graphic design


Art and Design | Graphic Design


My main intention with this poster was to represent the seriousness of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. For the background, I used an image of a mass grave in Philadelphia from the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic and an image of a mass grave on Hart Island, New York, from 2020.

On the left side, I took a selfie, cropped out my face, and covered my head with a 3D representation of COVID-19. I did this to remove my identity from the piece; I felt that centering a poster around how the current pandemic is affecting me would be incredibly narcissistic given the death toll of this disease.

On the right side, I included an image of Woodrow Wilson with Donald Trump’s hair superimposed on his head and a smiley face meant to look like a pin on his jacket. The combination of Wilson with Trump’s hair is meant to represent the people in power during the 1918 and 2020 pandemics. The smiley-face pin represents the indifference shown toward the death toll of both pandemics by both leaders. The phrase “coughs and sneezes spread diseases,” along the top and bottom of the image, originated during the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic as a way to remind people to practice good hygiene. I first heard this phrase when I was very young, and its rhyming structure makes it almost cute. I used it both to remind people to practice good hygiene and to contrast this innocent-sounding rhyme with the harsh realities of mass graves and incompetent leadership.

The phrase, “You people make me sick,” along the middle, serves three functions. First, it helps cover the line between the two background images, almost making them appear as one long trench full of coffins. Second, it’s a reference to the way viruses spread through human contact. Third, it expresses my intense displeasure with the way people appear to be unconcerned with others contracting COVID-19, be it the people going out to parties or the politicians failing to contain its spread through policy.

Max Benson: 1918 & 2020 Pandemic Poster



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