Guerrilla Agitation

Guerrilla Tactics to reform Graphic Design's role in Assisting Agitation

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THE AIM

(SELF DIRECTED BRIEF)

To develop guerrilla graphic design based outcomes that are self-driven, without commercial or brand-led support to discourage co-opting and appropriation of the chosen movement, and to equip the dissenting populace with tools that can be customised and adapted by them to be means of active dissent. It aims for the outcomes to be adaptable in a post digital context as well, to examine possibilities for future transformation through new media and technology. For this project, the outcomes developed were looked at throuh the lens of the Black Lives Matter Movement.

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THE CHALLENGES

To develop guerrilla graphic design based outcomes that are self-driven, without commercial or brand-led support to discourage co-opting and appropriation of the chosen movement, and to equip the dissenting populace with tools that can be customised and adapted by them to be means of active dissent. It aims for the outcomes to be adaptable in a post digital context as well, to examine possibilities for future transformation through new media and technology. For this project, the outcomes developed were looked at throuh the lens of the Black Lives Matter Movement.

PROBLEM SPECIFICATION

Following the research and discussions around design and decoloniality, two issues became visible, each of which possessed different stakes and agendas. Two different stakeholders were prominent in the fight against racism- the affected “minority groups” consisting of people of colour, and the dominantly white majority upper-middle class audience who as perpetuators of silent racism pillar oppressive systems, despite being self-elected as “well-meaning”. However visual and social research suggested that all graphic design solutions thus far had been aimed at people of colour who were already well versed in minority struggles and realities of systematic oppression.

THE BIG IDEA

Two guerrilla tactic programmes were thus developed as a response. The first programme aimed at the white majority group is a series of guerrilla stickers which with the sticky side up and a camouflage pattern on the upside are placed at public concourses. The intent is for them to get stuck to people’s shoes when stepped on. When the sticker is noticed and peeled off, the flipside is revealed carrying messages such as “Don’t step on our rights” and “Step up for equality” as correlative wordplay.

Similar stickers as a part of this guerrilla campaign were positioned at handrails, and near public elevator buttons with similar calls to action like “stop holding on to stereotypes” and “push for change” for their respective locations.

The visual language of the campaign outcomes draws on minority culture visuals as an attempt to decolonise what is defined as “acceptable good design” by taking influences from patterns from Zulu and Nigerian aesthetic language. Black and yellow colour palettes which have become synonymous with the BLM movement have also been used.

THE BIGGER IDEA

It is important to assist dissenters and equip them with tools and resources that actively help disrupt the status quo and disorder the established order. Research shows that within protests exists an urgent need to share information—what to do in case you are arrested at protests, emergency shelters, where to donate funds, history and background information for the movement.

The outcomes designed were a series of postcards to be handed out at Black Lives Matter protests which were seemingly innocuous but when overlaid on a specific website could be used to highlight locations for emergency services, safe spaces to avoid arrests, reveal fake right-wing news propaganda etc. The main goal was to equip the dissenting populace with tools that could be customised and adapted by them to be means of active dissent as per their individual needs, rather than create a one-size-fits-all performative graphic solution with no active role.

One of the major strengths of the postcards is that combining paper postcards that look seemingly innocuous with another layer of encryption by adding a digital element further assists the intended purpose of subverting surveillance. By essentially hiding the message in plain sight, one can harness the power of low tech, obsolete tools to evade high tech surveillance.

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