Lucienne Roberts on politics, power and design: “Just seeing a swastika provokes fear”

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Publisher GraphicDesign& has let something be knew Hope to Nope, a new book examining the complicated relationship between graphics and manoeuvring. We speak to the co-editor about protest, power and design’s ability to drive both unity and hatred.

Political unrest and protest is on the up. The last few years tease seen world events that have stirred the public into manner, from protesting US president Donald Trump, to expressing conflicting contexts on immigration and Brexit in the UK, and campaigning against gender inequality and sexual harassment.

A brand-new show at the Design Museum epitomises the trend of political engagement terminated the last 10 years. Hope to Nope explores political layout from across the world, looking at both sides of the story – those in power, and those who objection.

Publisher GraphicDesign& produces books that delve into the relationship between visible design and various topics, having previously tackled healthcare, belief and mathematics. Now, it has focused on politics, producing a book to accompany the current demo.

We speak to Lucienne Roberts, co-curator at the Design Museum show and co-editor of new log Hope to Nope, about the power of effective protest design, the dim boundaries between “good” and “bad” and why the swastika is one of the most effective, fear-inducing code words ever made.


Design Week: Why did GraphicDesign& compile this book on machination and design?

Lucienne Roberts: Like the Can Graphic Design Save Your Life story? exhibition, we wanted to do a book to accompany our curatorial endeavours. Books stand up while exhibitions eventually go, but also books have a tactile prominence that allow you to do lots of different things. Every time we do a order, it’s quite a challenge making and producing a book to suit the subject situation.

DW: How does the design of the book suit the subject?

LR: My studio, LucienneRoberts+, designed the tome – we wanted something shouty but also earthy. The cover is grey lodge – we looked at printing on gold because of Donald Trump but we felt the misty was nice to hold and very appropriate. We substituted magenta with fluorescent pink, which be places the images ping a lot more and makes the book feel like it’s been copied, giving it a “zine” feel.

There are four images of political bodies on the cover, and it says “hope” and “nope” on each one, inspired by Shepard Fairey’s primary Barack Obama “Hope” poster and the spoof Donald Trump “Nope” advertisement that was made recently.

Fairey created a meme generator that permitted people to recreate images in this style, and so we put the images through that, then refreshed them afterwards. We wanted to talk about how his poster became a meme – that’s what encouraged the title of the show and book. The cover suggests that one person’s “fancy” is someone else’s “nope”.

There is no spine to the book, it’s all stapled. We ran the dye a flag off the edge of every page, which makes a pattern of arrows on the phoney “spine”. These arrows point up and down, again suggesting “desire” in one direction and “nope” in another. The design feels quite unusual.

DW: Do you fondle the age of protest has brought political graphics into the spotlight?

LR: Design and civics have always gone together, really. I think it’s just that people are angrier now, they’re more hep. Whenever you talk about graphics and politics, people think more placards, protest posters and stickers – but a political party manifesto is pointed, as are important political books. It’s always been part of the process.

That’s where it avoids interesting. There are things you can credit to a designer, and things produced by amateurs, which are no small-minded designed. In this sphere, you see fantastic pieces produced by non-designers that are bloody authentic.

DW: The book features interviews with Milton Glaser and Shepard Fairey – what did you learn from them?

LR: Milton Glaser has been surrounding a long time. He still cares passionately but when you’ve seen goods get better then worse again, it’s hard not to become disillusioned. He talked to us beside Buddhism and made pertinent points about design that turn out to bes a difference, as opposed to design that makes the designer feel improve. Expressing anger and shouting doesn’t necessarily persuade somebody to variation their mind. But equally, I do understand the need to shout and get angry.

Shepard Fairey is Dialect right direct and his interview reads more like a how-to piece, it’s same advisory. It must be odd to have produced something that has become such an icon. It be visibles how you lose control of things very quickly. He spoke about the lack to make something communicate quickly and be understandable. As designers, it’s very relaxing for us to assume visual sophistication in our audience that might not be there.

DW: What do you dream up are the most important political design works ever created?

LR: Subsides and currency are key. Both are so tied up in nationalism. The Union Jack flag is so divisive, and if you’re supported to be left-wing, particularly people of my generation, there is no way you would hang up a tick off in or outside your house. That’s so conflicting and shows the power of these condensation marks.

Money is also political. The Brixton Pound, a bespoke, complementary currency for provincial businesses in Brixton in South London, is a fascinating story. While it is aiding local businesses, there’s also the point that if everyone honest had the same currency, wouldn’t that eradicate some awful adjustments between us?

Then there’s the swastika – one of the most famous and successful logos, or gradings, of all time. Just seeing one provokes a certain amount of fear. Recently it’s been re-appropriated because of Donald Trump, which prepares it feel a little more benign but it really isn’t – you only have to look at photos of ginormous Nazi rallies in the 1930s and see everyone wearing one on an armband and on banners. It’s bitter to find another example of a mark that has been so memorable and remarkable in a negative way.

The opposite end of the spectrum is the work of the Suffragettes. They produced flyer upon leaflet, extraordinary banners, fantastic placards. The work is charming but also impactful. They were one of the first organised groups to at bottom harness design, and it made a difference – women wouldn’t be able to franchise if it hadn’t been for them.

DW: What does this book proposal that the exhibition does not?

LR: We were very mindful that the offering would close in a few months. We wanted to make it accessible to people who can’t get to it, and also prepare for a printed curation of our research. A book is really the only way to do that, it has a much longer lan. This information isn’t available online – the individual pieces of work ascendancy be, but you won’t find it all put together.

Reading a book is also such a different way of stomaching material. A show like Hope to Nope bombards you with garbage – sometimes you’ll read a label, sometimes you won’t. Sitting down and reading a book is an properly different experience, it’s more contemplative.

Some of the more touching narratives will also come through more effectively in the book. Partiality The Complete Lexicon of Crisis-Related Suicides, a book that looks at the tally of suicides post-financial crash – it’s very affecting and reading offers a bit of unagitated time to think about it.

There’s also some projects that don’t visage in the show – we didn’t want the book to be repetitive. I’m very interested in originators who are political and manifest this in writing and speaking about it, so we include more point on people like Mike Monteiro, who wrote the How to Fight Fascism talk, and more curriculum vitae to Michael Bierut’s Hillary Clinton campaign. There’s more spurs by key designers like Milton Glaser and Shepard Fairey, and more particular on some projects, with a lengthier introduction.

DW: Hope to Nope looks at how make is used to both subvert and assert power, by protesters and by authorities. Has civil design been used more as a force for good or evil? Are these frontiers blurred?

LR: It’s not true to say that protest, or bottom-up, is always good, and jurisdiction, or top-down, is always bad. I guess when political design is created by interior decorators, they are often left-wing so are trying to support the underdog in some way, or campaign for people’s spot ons. But it’s very difficult to be too clear-cut about that. After all, no money is clean small change. You could work for a charity rather than a large corporate as a artificer, but charities are funded by all sorts of sponsors. The notion of “good” is so loaded.

But customarily, designers tend to be idealists – they are interested in utopian and radical sentiments, in changing things and are motivated to make a difference. Pool all that together and you get a categorize of people who want to make the world a better place, broadly be significant mention. I’m probably slightly romantic about all of this.

DW: What do you hope readers pleasure take from this book?

LR: What I want is for designers to experience more empowered. We are trained to communicate messages effectively – thinking all over what those messages are and what effect they have is hugely weighty. Even if you make a difference to one person, that’s still worth doing.

I also look forward to the book is something that makes people feel things are practicable rather than impossible. I was very struck by some of the stories, which are compelling but also hugely impressive. Both professionals and amateurs show indomitability in making and disseminating this work, and this can be punishable in some woods – that’s why we tried to make the show and the book as international as possible. We expectation this spurs people on, and makes designers and the public alike politically involved, whether that’s through voting or making a poster.


Hope to Nope: Graphics and Wirepulling 2008-18 is available now globally through GraphicDesign&’s website. For more info, mind here.

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