Keith Haring’s Best Buddies is one of the most recognizable logos in the world. Featuring two simplistic figures embracing at the center of the image, with rays emanating from their shared hug, Best Buddies is a heartwarming image. The background of the image is uncomplicated, only featuring a sky and dotted ground, allowing the two figures and their idyllic relationship in the foreground to shine as the focus of the work. The two figures seem to be facing each other as they embrace, sharing a moment of compassion for each other. Always printed in different colors, the two, like all of Haring’s outlined figures, remain faceless and genderless. As such, they are able to act as universal stand-ins for humanity as a whole, while still representing the importance of bridging and accepting difference. Viewers are able to imagine whoever they wish in that embrace, and the open-ness of this image makes it a powerful representation of friendship and love that can have a widespread impact. With their arms wrapped around each other, the two figures in Best Buddies are a hopeful image that represent humanity at its best.
Best Buddies is named after the non-profit organization of the same name. Best Buddies is a charity organization that is dedicated to supporting individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Haring designed and donated the logo in order to support the organization’s mission. Anthony K. Shriver, the International Founder and Chairman of Best Buddies, talks about the power of Haring’s work, and the importance of the logo: “It is hard to imagine any artist who could have captured the spirit and mission of Best Buddies better…His artwork is so simple and spot-on in capturing the concepts of friendship, togetherness and one person helping another. You just look at the Best Buddies logo and your heart beats a bit faster—you can feel the power of friendship coming to life right before your eyes.” Described as an image that represents “one-to-one affection and acceptance” on the Best Buddies website, the simplicity of the design makes it an accessible and relatable image of acceptance. Though Haring provides no hints as to what the relationship between the two figures might be, it is clear from their embrace that the viewer is witnessing a kind-hearted moment.
Haring’s artistic practice was often socially engaged, as Haring involved his art with social justice causes frequently—the artist advocated for safe sex and AIDS awareness, anti- Apartheid, and more throughout his career, and often used his art to promote causes, movements, and organizations that he supported. Best Buddies is a wonderful example of the way that Haring was able to mobilize his art to support causes he was passionate about. By donating his artwork at a point in his career where he had achieved great fame, his logo played a big role in launching Best Buddies into the public eye and making their mission known.
Associating his work with Best Buddies widened the audience for the work that Best Buddies does. The theme of friendship was also one of particular importance to Haring, whose friendships fueled much of his art. As he was friends with other artists, such as Basquiat and Andy Warhol, as well as singers like Madonna, Haring’s art was heavily informed by his interactions with these influential figures of the time. Either meeting those artists while at school in New York or through his career, his work always reflected those relationships and was indebted to the larger artistic community of which he was part. The Best Buddies organization still uses Haring’s Best Buddies as their logo to this day. Haring’s approachable style and the fame he had already amassed at this point of his career makes his work a perfect choice for a logo of this nature, which is able to speak to a large audience and impact a large number of
Haring’s Best Buddies was the last print series he was able to complete before his death in 1990. The motif of two figures embracing first appeared in his imagery in 1987 in Keith Haring's Pop Shop series. It is one of his most popular and widely circulated images, and a particularly heart- warming one. An image of goodwill and affection, the lasting legacy of Best Buddies speaks to the power of kindness and charity. As it continues to circulate, Haring’s Best Buddies continues to spread an uplifting message that solidifies Haring’s importance as an artist and ability to influence not only the art world, but a wider public, and to do so for the greater good. Even though it was an image created at the end of his life and career, Best Buddies has had and continues to have an incredible impact, and will for years to come, and Haring's work continues to play an important role in the world.