What makes an effective piece of political graphic design?
MC: Something that connects people and immediate and responsive to the event – illustrations in response to the Charlie Hebdo attacks provide a perfect example. Graphic design can encourage people to change the way they perceive or look at things in a different tone.
LR: If by ‘effective’ you mean that it achieves what it sets out to do then there is no straightforward answer. ‘Authenticity’ has arguably always been important in this field – currently this seems to exclude some work that has the hallmarks of commercial graphic design. In times as politically turbulent as these, projects that are obviously heartfelt responses to a given situation, or that signal not being the work of professionals, can often be very persuasive.
Examples of the former might be the hugely varied illustrative depictions of Donald Trump who has become something of a graphic icon in his own right. His distinctive hair, tanned skin, long red tie and baggy black suit have provided image-makers with a palette of recognisable visual symbols. One of the artists whose work we exhibit is Cuban born illustrator Edel Rodriguez who arrived in the US as a child, a fact that informs much of his work. Endlessly inventive and full of wit, he has created numerous images of Trump, including cover commissions for TIME, The New Yorker and Der Spiegel, and recently shared downloadable anti-Trump artwork for use in protests.
Another interesting example is Peace Factory, an initiative of Israeli designer Ronny Edry. When war seemed likely between Israel and Iran, he posted a selfie with his daughter on Facebook, colourfully captioned, ‘Iranians, we will never bomb your country. The image spawned a Facebook community and other groups promoting peace. This led to Peace Factory, a social media movement and website aiming to ‘make peace viral’ in the Middle East through sharing personal stories and images and using Edry’s graphic as inspiration.
When it comes to the work of ‘amateurs’, it would be hard not to reference the great swathe of posters, placards and banners at the women’s marches held on the first day of Donald Trump’s presidency, and exactly one year later. In 2017, nearly 4.5 million people in 914 marches protested against Trump’s attitude to women’s and minority rights, among other issues. Participants carried handmade, angry and often witty placards or wore hand-knitted pink ‘pussy’ hats, referring to Trump’s boast about grabbing women with impunity. Many of these items were clearly conceived with social media in mind and some even used English in non-English-speaking countries to widen appeal.