Julian Acevedo’s Smoke, Ashes, and Persuasion

The relationship between cigarette smoking and terminal disease is well established. But how much of that stark reality should be incorporated into an anti-smoking ad campaign? Third semester Communications Design student Julian Acevedo experimented with this relationship in three ways for an assignment for his Advertising Design class with Prof. Thomas McManus. One is an obsequious reference, another seductively irreverent, and one blatantly portrays early death.

“I wanted to show in one ad the cause, in another the effect, and finally the truth of how people–while knowing the facts and having experienced health problems–are stuck in a bad habit or addiction,” says Acevedo.

“The ads show an evolution of thinking from something that was a little obscure, to heavy-handed, to very sophisticated, smart and compelling,” says Prof. McManus. “It was a great progression how he took his thinking as he solved an advertising problem.”

Julian Acevedo's "Smoke Free"
Julian Acevedo’s “Smoke Free”

In the most brazen ad, three smoking, corpse-like figures sleepwalk down an incline. The entranceway toward certain death is represented by an iconic Marlboro cigarette box.

“It ties into the ‘Walking Dead’ television phenomenon,” says Prof. Elvin Kince, with whom Acevedo studied Typography II. “It’s sort of a double-entendre, playing on the image of three zombie-like characters and the word “kil” literally spelled out from the cigarette smoke.”

Julian Acevedo's "Smoke Free"
Julian Acevedo’s “Smoke Free”

In the scene of another ad, an open casket lies in a lonely, wintry cemetery. Black smoke arises from it, in what might be the shape of a women’s legs.

Acevedo employed photography, digital collage and photo montage with typography.

“The visual execution of his ideas is greatly enhanced through composition, clarity, visual hierarchy and contrast,” says Prof. Kince. “Julian uses scale, simplicity and repetition to visually and emotionally tie his series together. I like that he sought to create a graphically interesting series in addition to having strong concepts.”

Acevedo’s Design History class provided inspiration from the masters. “The Modern movement in America stayed in my mind while designing. Having attended the exhibition ‘The Cut-Outs’ of Henri Matisse at MoMA helped me expand my perspectives on the final development, as in the ad with the three figures and the Marlboro box.”

Julian Acevedo
Julian Acevedo’s “Smoke Free”

Prof. McManus said the third ad (above) was Acevedo’s most compelling. “It links the ashes from the cigarette to the ashes of cremation. It’s a simple clean layout and it’s striking.”

For Prof. Kince, there’s no “mistaking the intent of the ads. Coffins are a strong symbol of death. Zombies are not far behind, and the ‘ashes to ashes’ phrase is a comment often made after someone has passed…People would respond with a quick recognition and acknowledgement of the messages.”

Acevedo choose his campaign theme after a conversation with a friend who had begun smoking to alleviate stress. “I felt the need to react in my own way to this, and that is art,” says Acevedo.

The differences in perspective don’t just get his professors talking. “The more perspectives the better,” says Prof. Kince. “Various sources of feedback may help students to understand different ways their work and its presentation can be interpreted.”


Images used with permission

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