“Design is always political. From who you work for, what you work on, who you involve in the process, who is affected by the product. Design = Labour = Political”
-Mike Monteiro, How to Fight Fascism talk
‘Hope to Nope: Graphics and politics 2008-18’ is an exhibition featured at the Design Museum between 28th March and 12th August 2018. The exhibition showcases designs such as protest posters, infographics, badges, textiles and videos produced during an unpredictable and turbulent 10 years of politics.
Upon entering the exhibition, you are met with huge displays of contrasting colours – a bright yellow wall to the right clashing with the red one behind you. The whole room is a vibrant canvas layered with pieces featuring aggressive messaging in sans serif fonts, neon LED light displays, dynamic infographics and illustrative screen prints. It’s bold, it’s loud, it’s in your face. It captures the essence of protest perfectly – every piece of artwork is fighting for your attention, wanting their voice to be heard.
While it may sound overwhelming, the exhibition does have some structure. It’s split into three sections – ‘Power’, ‘Protest’ and ‘Personality’. The segmentation of the artwork works really effectively with the idea of travelling through the years from 2008-2018, slowly but surely creating a huge juxtaposition between the 10 years.
The first section focuses on the differing opinions of the leading political parties, as well as topical issues such as Brexit, gentrification and climate change. While the majority of this section’s display takes the form of the traditional medium of print, there is also a focus on the influence of social media and technology. A huge timeline is displayed on one of the walls, showing the years in which various social media platforms were released to the public and the various political movements they influenced and created. It is fascinating to see how far we have come as a society in such a short amount of time, particularly when it is all laid out in front of you in physical form.
This section displays raw footage of mass protest projected on the walls, the billboards from the Three Billboards Outside of Grenfell protest and Black Lives Matter tapestries. Here, we see the people behind the flashy leader’s debates, interviews and speeches. We see where the problems really lie and who they are affecting. The pieces displayed are touching and personal, heartfelt and soulful, making them incredibly powerful in their own right. Every piece points back to the same idea: community. It doesn’t have to be the most perfectly designed poster or a high production video, the real creativity lies in the rawness and passion that lives beneath the surface.
The displays become more aggressive and radical, concluding with a fully functioning “All Seeing Donald Trump”. What is most interesting is how the more recently created pieces are displayed in the ‘Personality’ section. A whole wall dedicated to caricature magazine covers of Trump, comic books and even a mini video game of Jeremy Corbyn. While it is disheartening that recent years have turned attention away from what truly matters – the policy rather than the personality – it’s great that such a strong reaction can be generated to inspire creativity to help spread a message.
A truly thought-provoking and powerful exhibition. It’s inspiring to see design be at the foreground of such strong political power and influence – if you have a voice and the means to be creative about it – use it!