As a second-year university project, and my first project using Adobe Illustrator, I wanted to create a social campaign on a subject near and dear to me: autism. Having studied the current Autism Rights Movement - as well as my perceptions - I truly believe that autism is not something that needs to be cured. It is something that is just a part of someone. That is, autistic people, want to be understood, not cured, and accepted for who they are.
So, to educate the general public about autism and what it feels like to live with it, I created a hashtag campaign with a series of 12 posters. These posters have been made for both traditional and digital platforms. And, depending on the platform, they include both illustrations and sound effects. The purpose of the campaign is to generate a human reaction. To learn about autism from someone who is autistic and not from someone interpreting what it is like to be autistic. The hashtag name, “You are not alone, blue,” is based on the color chosen to represent autism. However, blue is just one part of the autism spectrum.
From an artistic perspective, the illustration from the poster represents stress because a person with autism may react strangely and could make others look at them when they feel the pressure inside. But, the artwork is a model of an auditory illusion. And, psychologically, the sound can create a feeling of tension in the listener.
"The Shepard Tone" consists of several musical octave tones layered on top of each other. But, they play different roles when the sounds move up (or down) the scale. The high octave gets quieter, the middle ones remain loud, and those in the low octave start to become audible when they rise (or fall) at the same time. When played in a loop, your mind is tricked to believe that this will go on and on with no break. This auditory illusion was featured in the outro of Pink Floyd's "Echoes," the background music of the endless staircase in Super Mario 64, the sound in Franz Ferdinand's "Always Ascending," and in the soundtrack of "Dunkirk," composed by Hans Zimmer.
Seeing is NOT believing. Autism is not a sickness. But, education and understanding are the best ways to learn what autism truly is. For example, one person with autism has a reason why he wanders around, having an eye of curiosity, while he is exploring reality. Being sincerely human is hard when we look into our eyes; there is always a connection between us.
The sound-included flash illusion creates a shocking turn-of-events of what you see and hear. How does the illusion work? Its sound beeps twice when you look at an image that flashed "twice." But the truth is the image flashed ONCE when hearing two beeps. The sound in your ears altered the sight from your eyes. In the animated version of the poster, the eye doesn't appear by flash. It does the opposite. The eye disappears on the first beep and reappears on the second.
This illustration features a group of ones and zeroes, known as the binary numbers. But, here, they represent the mind and thought. Autistic people are, too, always using their brains, it is the physical actions of autistic people which makes them seem different and unique to others.
This binary coding is a computer sound of data and process in action. All of the beeping play in different pitches and patterns. It can represent the function of a computer, but it can also signify the thought process of the human brain. Every autistic person thinks differently, and that is what makes autism great!
Illusions can also be symbols of autism. For me, these are often based on art and science. The illustration was created in 2017 as one of my first artworks called, Crystal. A 4-mirrored kaleidoscope containing a mixture of minimalist colors and shapes. Also, kaleidoscopes are one of the best types of illusions.
Reversed orchestra music is like a kaleidoscope mirror, making the audience think that objects are appearing and disappearing from it. The music, played in reverse, is a recomposition of Vivaldi's "Spring" by Max Richter. In the animated version of the poster, the music makes the audience reflect on the moving kaleidoscope applying to how an illusion can be incorporated into their surroundings.
Autism is recognized as a disorder. But, it can also be a great tool for "imagination." For example, autistic people can imagine the cosmetic universe of stars, galaxies, nebulas, and planets. Space is an isolated system of wonder, and like autism, it is also a mystery.
The sound of Saturn, recorded by NASA, plays an ambient tone of an eerie breeze coming from the planet itself. Maybe because Saturn is one of the solar system's gas planets, the sound becomes even more interesting. Maybe it can also represent the sound of imagination coming from the mind of an autistic person.
The word "ambience" identifies the character and atmosphere of a place. This also may include a unique sound for your ears. Ambient music and soundscapes can be relaxing, epic, scary, or anything else to reflect or stimulate the mood of the listener. For me, these sounds can also symbolize the mind of an autistic person - a mind constantly moving with thoughts.
The "THX Deep Note," created by Dr. James A. Moorer, from Lucasfilm, is an iconic sound design from THX-certified movie theatres and home video. The synthesized vast starts in a mess of waves until low-pitched sounds fall and high-pitched sounds rise slowly. As they separate, a harmony of continuous notes emerges from the sound effect. Some people believe that the Deep Note can give them nightmares because of how scary it sounds. The poster's illustration is based on the creator's sketch of the Deep Note's "music score," the company revealed for 35 years of their icon creation.
The infinity symbol is an advocacy-declared logo for autism. It also has a rainbow gradient featured in the symbol. Even though the symbol is part of the autism rights movements, there are still people with autism arguing about changing the logo to a rainbow-colored infinity icon. The artwork in this poster is based on the "infinity building" from the album cover of Foo Fighters' "Sonic Highways." The look of the layers below each other creates a "3D" effect to the audience like an optical illusion.
Ice skating can relate to infinity itself because an ice skater can draw a "figure 8" repeatedly from the scratch trails on the ice. The pattern repeats itself, around and around and around - to what seems could be done Infinitely. And, that is why I chose the sound of ice skating to audibly represent this symbol.
This poster has a clue to how the mind of an autistic person can work: repetition. For example, when I was a kid, I would not just watch a movie, I would watch certain scenes over and over. Especially, if a scene triggered something in my brain, I would watch it again and again and again. It was like a tickle in my brain. This repetition, to me, represents the curiosity of an autistic child's mind.
The speech-to-song illusion used in this piece was created and recorded by Diana Deutsch. Like me controlling a movie as a child, the recording starts until parts of the speech began to repeat. In this repetition, you hear "Sometimes behave so strangely" begin to mislead your mind to think that it is now "singing." For me, this can be a great example of an autistic person's curiosity through repetition!
Noises are all around us and cannot be avoided. They can frighten and disturb autistic people. They can make them extremely uncomfortable or even be painful. For example, …
Sirens. They come from police cars, fire trucks, fire drills, ambulances, and even megaphones. Their purpose is to signal a warning, but the noise can affect people differently. Because of the loud volume and wheeling sound they make, an autistic person may try to resist the noise... but cannot just ignore it. Autistic people can be very delicate to touch, light, and sound. And that's the reason why they NEED sensitive equipment!
"I don't go by or change my attitude based on what people say. At the end of the day, they, too, are judging me from their perspective. I would rather be myself and let people accept me for what I am than be somebody who I am not, just because I want people's approval." – Karen Patel
The sound of people screaming is featured in this poster. With no supporting visuals, the listener instantly recognizes a state of panic. I chose this sound effect to represent a myth about autism. Some people think autism is a virus; but, they're wrong. Autism is a disorder (have we learned yet that it does not need to be considered a disorder?) that does not spread like an infectious disease. It is present, but maybe unrecognized, at birth. Autism may be scary, but it is what makes autistic people unique to the world. It is through this uniqueness that some of the world's most significant advancements have been made. And, that is a fact to remember!
People sometimes question and study the basics of reality, like scientists. But, often, they will also bombard autistic people with questions about what they think and say and do. In my opinion, being asked questions continuously would make any person anxious. Some believe that autism is a sickness to cure. Autism is NOT a disease. It is a condition or an attribute of a person... just like being tall or short, blonde or brunette, left-handed or right-handed. The constant asking of questions, with what seems like so little time to answer, is represented by the drone of talking in this poster. Which conversation do you focus on?
The chattering voices of people can elevate the anxiety of autistic people. These sounds can exist on the street, classrooms, restaurants, hallways, TV - really anywhere. Through all this chatter, I hope to convey that these situations can seem scary or intimidating.
The word, talent, is a special thing for autistic people. Just like everyone else, autistic people are unlimited in their potential. They can create art, enter a sporting event, act in a movie, perform music, or do anything else. Music, in the illustration, is an example of a talent that an autistic person is often associated. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who started composing at the age of 5, is widely considered to be autistic.
"Polperro Beach" is a song composed by Adrian Sutton from a play called, "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time." What makes this story interesting is the protagonist, Christopher Boone. Christopher is a teenager with Asperger's Syndrome who wanted to solve a case of a dead puppy. But, this case turned into a life-changing story for him. Christopher is also an example of an autistic person with a unique talent. In this case, advanced mathematics, counting prime numbers up to 7,507, and knowing every country and capital city by heart.