After moving to Beijing four years ago, Derek Man Lui started noticing the government posters plastering city walls. Aimed at uneducated migrant workers, they say things like “Keep Beijing civilized,” and offer lessons on not littering or spitting. Lui, an artist, decided to document the posters and then make a series of his own aimed at a younger generation.
“I wanted to create posters that spoke to the Chinese millennial,” he says. “What resulted is a series of slogans about life in 2015–social behavior in the age of Weibo and WeChat, navigating relationships and personal wellbeing in a hyper-speed society, and how to brace for an uncertain future.”
To make the intervention stand out, the slogan on Lui’s posters are written in English. They’re designed to make people think. “Why stop at one billion?” one poster asks, referring to the country’s population. “Wealth is health,” says another, a nod to the obsession with making money.
Each poster looks like a miniature version of the government originals, which Lui photographed as part of the project. “There’s a quirky beauty in them–a Windows 95 aesthetic–that symbolizes what China could be: a picturesque land of prosperity,” he says.
The project was a guerrilla attempt at advertising his personal values. “I work in advertising and contribute to the thousands of messages bombarding people every day,” he says. “I do believe advertising has the power to do good and shape behavior in a positive way.”
“For the posters I created, I want people to reflect for just a moment, to question their place and purpose in this ever-evolving country of contradictions,” he adds. “That they’re not one faceless statistic in a billion. Hopefully, they find some positivity. I guess my posters function like the government’s posters: To make China a better place for its people.”