Sunday, February 25, 2007

A Terrible Irony

I am very sad to report that Mark Norris, the creator of the controversial HIV/AIDS campaign "Have You Been Hit?", has been shot to death this month in Philadelphia. I was there when "Have You Been Hit?" was eloquently critiqued by activist Kevin Trimell-Jones in this presentation for its promulgation of live-fast-die-young negative stereotypes by depicting urban black males in the crosshairs. Jones and others successfully lobbied for pulling this contentious campaign from the advertising landscape of the city. It was certainly one of the social marketing campaigns aimed at at-risk populations about which I have been publicly concerned.

However, Norris's company ZigZag made many contributions to developing the brand identities for important public services in Philadelphia, a city that I visited several times during the past academic year and which hosted the annual MLA convention, and for shaping the graphic identity of urban spaces more generally. As a gay black man, who was nonetheless respected as a designer of official messages in the public sphere, it's a loss for the whole field of applied rhetoric.

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