Design in politics has been around for a long time; a lot longer than we think. From Benjamin Franklin designing the “Join, or Die” emblem to Ronald Reagan’s doodles, design had and will continue to have the power to persuade and support change. When post-war designers arose, there was a rise in independent campaigns that spoke out against the government. People wanted to see change happen and they took matters into their own hands. The influence of independent work moved into the modern-day where there is little government work and instead huge amounts of independent work. Whether that be party or issue-driven, people are still designing ways in which they want to see better change for our country.
For me, it’s not about the designer or who they’re designing for, it’s about the story and message they’re trying to convey. It’s about the ethical responsibility that they hold when they refer their design concept or idea to the world. To see the intersection between design and politics makes me feel belittled and yet hopeful. Growing up I never found interest in politics or how design intersects with it and how it influences people of every kind. I was in the dark; I didn’t know who and what to listen to because all I wanted to do was make a difference. But here I am, an official voter in the 2020 election, and all I can say is that I’m hopeful.
One specific design piece that has stuck with me throughout my journey of becoming more politically attuned is street artist, Shepard Fairey’s brilliant piece of “Hope” which displays the now-iconic image of Barack Obama. I find this piece of political design effective because it demonstrates the power of one’s voice to encourage people to rise up and stand in hope. It pushes and supports people to create their own vision of hope. Because Obama was the first Africa-American President of the United States, that sparked a trickle of hope and light for people. Bit by bit, piece by piece, there is hope if we believe to see it for ourselves; for this country.
Whether you believe design and politics go hand-in-hand or you feel like you can never catch up, take a deep breath and know you’re not alone. I have to remind myself that every day. The journey of gaining political understanding is a daily responsibility and choice. Although it may be overwhelming and scary to put your design work out into the world, specifically with politics, there is power in the story you tell. Similar to Reagan’s doodles or Fairey’s hopeful poster, I’m excited to see change not only in my own design work but also in the work of our country. With a new president, a new year, and a hopeful heart, the best is yet to come.