Earlier this month, our Curator came face to face with an unusual MTA change of service poster. Below is an interview with Ezequiel M. Consoli, one of the three minds behind the Pride Train poster campaign.
Poster House: This is the first year that I’ve noticed the Pride Train posters. How long have you actually been doing this project?
Pride Train: The project started in June 2017. This is the second year.
PH: How many different types of ephemera does Pride Train put out? I’ve seen the posters, but there are also stickers and other things as well, right?
PT: The first year we had posters and rainbow flag stickers that were hung up on the trains underneath the American flags. We soon realized that the flag posters were nearly impossible to hang up, so we stopped with those. For 2018, we produced new posters and new stickers. These new stickers are fun, rainbow quote bubbles that say “Pride is…” We thought it’d be fun to give people the opportunity to share what Pride means to them.
PH: How do you choose which subways to hang the posters?
PT: We just try to target as many stations as possible to spread our message everywhere we can.
PH: It’s interesting that some if not all of you involved in Pride Train were involved with SVA. As you know, SVA has the longest running poster campaign in NYC, which to me shows that it’s a school that really values and understands the power of the poster. I also think it’s funny that the one other guerilla subway campaign we’ve highlighted was also created by an SVA alum. Is that link between the school and the subway something that at all drew you to using the it as a venue to spread your message or is it just a coincidence?
PT: It’s just a coincidence. We came to this independently after hearing about incidents of hate crimes in the community. We felt the subway was a great place to spread our message considering this is a place where hate crimes happen and it’s just such a public place. However, SVA has been a very inspiring place and definitely teaches its students to do good things.
PH: Are you, Kyle Harrison, and Thomas Shim all graphic designers in your professional lives, or otherwise involved in the advertising world? Do you get to make posters or is that something you find that the graphic design field has moved away from over the years?
PT: We actually are not graphic designers, but we do all work as advertising creatives which is closely related. Thomas is a creative director, and Ezequiel and Kyle are an art director/copywriter team.
PH: How easy is it to copy the MTA’s style when making these posters? Is this something anyone with a vision and a little time on their hands can do?
PT: Yes, it’s definitely doable. But we gave it extra attention to make sure they were all accurate and visually pleasing.
PH: I love that your Pride Train posters aren’t necessarily LGBTQ-specific – they’re inclusive messages that apply to everyone and anyone. Was that a goal or just a happy accident?
PT: Yes, that was the goal! Pride Train is part of a larger inclusivity movement. We feel Pride is not only something for the LGBTQ community.
PH: Within many of the posters, you riff on contemporary pop culture (my favorite being this season of Drag Race’s meme-worthy Miss Vanjie). Do you think this type of light-hearted humor goes hand in hand with expressing your core message of inclusion? And how do you choose which bits of pop culture to reference?
PT: We think that humor and light-hearted messages always get people to take a look and keep reading. If you start with a very dense and strong message, people might be like “oh no, another ad.” We do think that the core of this idea is about love so it shouldn’t be anything overly negative or aggressive. As for the RuPaul’s Drag Race references, we felt this was a great thing to include as the LGBTQ community is at the center of the campaign. But our ultimate goal is simply to put a smile on people’s faces.
PH: How long does a single poster generally remain up? Do you often go back to rehang posters in the same station or are you always moving somewhere new?
PT: We’re not sure, to be honest, but probably not very long. And yes, we have to put them up every day because they disappear quickly. Luckily we have a great team of collaborators who put them up every day.
PH: Just because the world is full of assholes, I’m assuming there have been instances where some posters have been defaced. Do you find this happens a lot or is the public response generally positive?
PT: The response has been positive and amazing for the most part. A lot of comments like “This is why I love NYC” or “This made my day!” Those are great to hear. Naturally, there have been instances where they’ve been defaced. Most negative responses are happening online, but in one instance, someone tore down all the posters in a station and changed the messaging (in crayon, which we thought was funny), to read “Bigotry, hatred, and prejudice allowed.” Acts like these just prove even further that we need to do projects like these.
PH: What’s the weirdest response you’ve gotten to the campaign in the past two years?
PT: We often see comments of people questioning why their tax money is going towards posters for Pride Month because they believe the campaign is done by the actual MTA.
PH: I’m assuming you’re going to continue this campaign into the foreseeable future. How do you see it evolving? Do you have any ambition to see this become a guerilla campaign around the US?
PT: We hope to see it become a much bigger thing. For starters, we’d love to work with MTA or NYC Pride to join forces and make the project even bigger for years to come. We’d also love to expand the campaign beyond pride month, but this is difficult considering we all have day jobs. But we welcome any new ideas and other collaborators to join the project to make it bigger.
PH: Well, we’re all in favor of celebrating Pride all year long! At the very least, I’m looking forward to seeing what next year’s posters will look like.
A selection of Pride Train posters are now part of Poster House’s permanent collection.