Professor and MFA Alumna Designs 2021 School of Art T-Shirt

For the design of this year’s CMU School of Art t-shirt, professor and MFA alumna Huidi Xiang drew upon a common motif in her own artistic practice: five apples. She first became interested in this motif because Sanrio, the company behind Hello Kitty, calls the character “five apples tall.” Why Sanrio would pick an apple as a unit of measurement, rather than centimeters or inches, fascinated Xiang and led her to reflect on how marketing strategies are geared toward global mass culture.

“Starting from that, I gradually developed apples as a math model in my art practice, and it’s become an important tool in my studio,” she said.

Xiang is also fascinated by the myriad other associations with apples. “‘Apple’ is the first word I ever learned in English,” and it is nearly universal in books that teach the alphabet to both native and non-native speakers. Because of this, apples are often tied to childhood and cuteness. Yet another common association with apples is health, demonstrated by the common idiom, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”

Xiang brings all these associations, and more, to her playful design for the School of Art t-shirt, which features five apples in the shape of three-dimensional a’s for the word “art.” The t-shirt is available for all current School of Art students for free.