I, like many, have been dismayed by the global political system in recent times — the never-ending conflicts in the Middle East, the war on terrorism, Brexit the increased battles and numerous economic and environmental crises. As a result, peoples’ sense of safety, power and representation has diminished, in part because they feel they have no voice. At times, it feels as if society is breaking down, rather than repairing itself.
The recent Trump protest in London was a thing of beauty to behold. On reflection, it is sad that we continue to live in a world where we need to protest. However, this right is essential for each and every global citizen to exercise to enable democratic societies to remain healthy.
Each significant movement in Western history has been brought in to being by everyday people, who have used their right to protest against conformity to a particular political system. Each protest has been accompanied by a unique collection of language and design, including women’s suffrage, the labour movement, civil rights, anti-war, feminist and, more recently, the environmental movement.
I was privileged to be in the Middle East during the Arab Spring and in New York for the 99 Percent protests. Part of the 99 Percent protests took place in Union Square, around the corner from the office in which I worked. I used to enjoy using my lunch breaks to sit, and be as one with the gathering of people who were united by a single cause. I found a sense of calmness in the chaos and complexity, and the protest boards became objects of beauty and inspiration.
In every protest, one is given an open invitation to access people’s creativity via a pop-up public art museum, where humour, wit and passion abound. I love to read the messages and see the beautiful designs housed within each and every one — for me, this is graphic design at its best. A Twitter feed is incapable of achieving the same effect …nor comes anywhere near being as much fun.
The power (and ultimate beauty) of graphic design finds its expression within three main component parts, that of informing, persuading and directing — nothing more, and nothing less. The merit of each component part is the extraordinary power it possesses, like all creative forms. Each protest board is put together using creativity, time and genuine emotion (be it love, anger or something else), by everyday people who have a compulsion for self-expression. These individuals then go on to illustrate graphically their deep desire for the change they want to see (nobody is worrying about ‘kerning and leading’ at these events).
Let’s look much deeper at these influential events and recognise the hidden beauty of experimental creativity, of graphics and of typography by everyday people, as a source of inspiration. At its heart is the real power of graphic design — a power that has the potential to fill an individual with joy.
We are all born with a built-in creativity mode, one which has no borders and is infinite in power. To judge creativity is to limit it. To recognise creativity is to enable it to take shape — and to thrive.