Design as Activism Research

For our research into deforestation we mainly used the internet to search for agencies and charities that are campaigning to save our worlds forests. The main ones out there are WWF, Rainforest Action Network, Greenpeace, world rainforest, the size of wales. We wanted to look into the kind of campaigns that they used to get their message across.

Here are few that the WWF have created to raise awareness for deforestation.

The two images with animals I find particularly effective, with the tagline ‘stop the chopping,’ they conjure up empathy for the animals.

Main causes of deforestation

  1. Urbanisation
  2. Greed
  3. Mining
  4. Agriculture – One of the main causes

The effects

  1. Carbon emissions
  2. Loss of biodiversity
  3. Effects the weather and water cycle
  4. Soil erosion

The are steps that have been put in place over recent years that many governments have adopted, they have started to preserve their forests, understanding the need to have them protects. Also the banning of illegal wood.

This campaign ephemera below is one that I appeals to myself. Its something a little different. The use of the real trees within these are clever. Its a lot more hard hitting than the use of just photographs of trees. Bringing a real element to it, which encourages us to have emotion. Emotion has the power to get the viewer to make a change.

Activist and campaign design has changed some what over the years. Design activism as these Ephemera above, they try to bring about change by generating positive alternatives to the status quo. Making you think about your own position. Ultimately, most design activism is about better understanding the problem, rather than acting with certainty towards a single right answer. Giving the viewer something to think about rather than being told what to do.

Design Activism involves taking action that makes a claim for change on behalf of a wronged, excluded or neglected group —it is driven by the identification of a wrongdoing or problem that needs changing. This ongoing piece of work below by Douglas Coupland called Slogans for the 21st century  is another example of a design activism piece. He says wants to “try and isolate what is already different in the twenty-first century mind as opposed to the twentieth.” The seem some what humorous but are ironic and questionable. All have been hand painted on plywood  Coupland states, “If you were to attach a stick to each of these slogans and carry them in the street, would they read as protest or would they read as complicit guilt? For example, twenty years from now, were I to look at a picture of someone holding up a slogan reading ‘being middle class was fun,’ would that read as heartbreaking prescience or as rational acceptance of a by-then sociological certainty?”


I find this work by Coupland thought provocative. Something that I want to gain though my own campaign, perhaps with the use of a clever tagline to go along side of the animation.

Initial Ideas – Design as Activism

As Im all for the environment my initial ideas was to focus on the effects that we are having on our home (the world). Sustainability is one of the issues that I feel is important to be aware of as a graphic designer. After reading Green Graphic Design – Brian Dougherty it has given me a better understanding of how I personally can make a difference. The book breaks down the concept of green design step by step, reframing the way that designers can think about the work that they create. If all designers thought this way when producing their work it could be a huge step forward for positive change, and giving us a more sustainable solutions for a better future.

My thoughts were to make green design mainstream – graphic designers have a major role to play in aiding the development of a green market place, the knock-on effects give the corporations an understanding that they too have a responsibility.

To go about this I thought of the possibility of making graphic designers into super heroes to save the world. Below are some initial drawings for a logo. I imagine a super hero with a cape flying around the world.


All of us can embrace a green more responsible model for graphic design, we have the ability to shift the status quo, then making it the norm for future designers.

Unfortunately my ideas were a no go for our group. Perhaps something for a personal project that I could develop further in the future. Watch this space…….!

Story Boarding Workshop

Over the coming weeks we will be producing a short animation. To help us with the process of coming up with concept and shot ideas I took part in a Storyboarding workshop. This was to give us a better understanding of the construction of video shorts to inform our own work better

In groups we were given the advert below to deconstruct.

From watching this we started off by sketch out each different shot change, considering movement, pace, contents, focus and perspective, aswell as looking at the camera angles.


Above is the storyboard that we sketched up from watching the Playstation advert. Each slide includes a brief description of what is happening, the shots that were used (in orange) and the music / voice over (in green).

By deconstructing the advert in this way we were able get a better insight into how we need to go about producing our own short animation, and storyboarding is an integral part of the process for visualising our ideas. Its much like a comic book, so that readers get a sense of what is happening making it logical and coherent.

From here we will need to look at relevant details to proceed, such as;

  • Thinking about background
  • If there is going to be a character or main visual
  • Does text appear on the screen
  • How the visuals react to the voice over or music
  • Overall message that we want to get across
  • camera angles and movement

These points will enable us to execute our own vision for our Environmental animation.

Joanna Quinn

As part of our field project we attended a talk by Joanna Quinn. She is a an animator, illustrator and director, currently running her own animation studio Beryl Productions. Joanna is a highly acclaimed figure in the world of animations, winning many awards and received Oscar nominations for her films.

Starting out in graphics, but soon changed to study Illustration, after having an animation project on her graphics course. Her first film made in 1986, won 3 prizes at the Annecy Animation Festival in 1987 which trust her in the international animation scene. From this she went on to make many films such as, Famous Fred, Canterbury Tales, also producing adverts for Whiskers and Charmin Toilet Paper.

One for the short films that she showed us Britannia (her first commissioned piece of work), which is a brilliant biting view of British Imperialism. It is an adaption of a book written by an American woman’ observation on the UK. It won her the Leonardo Da Vinc award in 1996, which was ironically presented by Prince Philip. Joanna talked about the process of coming up with the narrative of the film, from wanting to get all the political points across but in the end with the a few strong key drawings to progress with. The overall film shows Joanna ability to produce a beautifully  fluid and dynamic animation.

The process that Joanna uses consisted for 12 drawings per second. Having strong key drawings at the start and finish of each shot, with only showing impressions for the movement rather than a solid change of form. This gives her a unique outcome, she uses the same process throughout her short films.

Films like Britannia were made pre digital era, which made the process laborious, taking years to complete. Having said this Joanna is more than happy with continuing to use traditional materials, as she still prefers to draw on to paper, then scanning her sketches into programmes such as After Effects. The sketches that she produces are very organic, she captures movement beautifully.

The film Dreams and Desires with Beryl as the main characters, (which Joanna claimed to be her alter-ego) is a charming and humorous animation, I just love the dogs role in this. From talking about Beryl Joanna spoke about using real life to observation to influence her animations. Being based on reality she said they you can captivate the audience, as “everyone loves animation, you can expect anything can happen.” By putting real life situations in, you can write in a shock value or add more humour.

Overall Joanna gave a great talk about her career. She was quite an animated person herself, and could see the sense of joy that she gained from being an animator. Was a lovely insight to the animation world with some helpful tips. Im looking forward to producing my own piece of animation in the coming weeks.


Design as Activism

For this collaborative project we were asked to develop a campaign that raises awareness of certain issues whether it be political, social, cultural. The campaign has to incorporate a 45 – 60 second animation, one printed and one digital piece of ephemera with a consistent visual language throughout to tie all the pieces together.

Within our group of 3 we decided that we would like to explore the idea of a campaign for the environment. The aim to make our chosen target audience more aware of their contribution to the environmental crisis. Because of the vast amount of different campaigns we could pursue about the environment, we decided that we should concentrate on one particular area – Deforestation.

Deforestation is one of the biggest contributing factors to global climate change. This is a massive issue in our world today, and agree with it or not, it effects every single living thing on the planet.  We started off with some initial research on the internet. IMG_2477

We also watched a video on a chap who calls himself Prince EA. He is an american spoken word artist, poet, rapper and filmmaker. His videos are hard hitting with some really valid points made, that really makes you think.

His passion and deliverance is unquestionable which what make it impact on myself personally. The text that appears in the video of key points made, are something that I would like to recreate in our own animation.

Here are a few website for organisations that are currently working and campaigning to save the rainforests of our world.

Its devastating to think that if don’t radically reinvent the way that we work in order to operate within very real ecological limited we will be the demise of our selves and our home.

Im really looking forward to getting stuck into this project, as its a subject really that I am passionate about. A little apprehensive about working with Aftereffects as its something that I haven’t used before, however its going to be a positive learning curve, Im sure.

Pat Murphy Presentation

This presentation was a collaborative body of work which was inspired by one volunteers journey to fight against the fascists in the Spanish Civil war 1936.

Part of my task within the group was to source the suitcase for all the pieces of work to be displayed in. This one above was bought from an antique market place, called the Pumping Station situated just outside Cardiff. This was one of the cheaper ones, though it looked the best for what we were going for. I liked the compartments within it, as I would be useful for displaying our pieces clearly.


This was our final piece displayed in the studio. Below are all the pieces that made up the final body of work.

Within are two letters, one of which is letter from his wife while he was serving in WW1, the other a letter that was drafted to send to his wife when he left to fight. A packet of cigarettes from Howells in Cardiff (his home town), a box of matches with International Brigade advertisement on. Two recruitment posters in welsh “Save Spain against Fascism”. A handmade dairy with his first entry in about his journey to Spain. A Western Mail article depicting the horrors of the civilians being killed by the hands of the fascist. Also a magazine called the National Union of Seamen, which he was very fond of. The burn out cigarette pack was thought to be a souvenir from WW1, where he was shot and very lucky to escape with his life.

To go with the case we decided that a synopsis of Pat Murphy was needed to help the viewer understand more effectively. I wrote up and designed the synopsis. It was decided to give it a modern look which gave a nice contrast to the other pieces of work.


Everyone within our group worked really well together we had great communication which made the process run smoothly. The final piece came together better than hoped with interesting research being put into each individuals work, all playing an important role into the final message that we wanted to put across to the audience. The inspiration for Pat Murphy as to why he decided to go and fight in Spain was wholly because of the media and propaganda which had a massive influence where the Spanish Civil war was concerned, with recruitment posters, newspaper / magazine articles, and advertising. His passion to fight against something that he truly believed in and willing to give his life to cause that was so far from home is inspiring.

From researching and creating pieces for this brief, it has given me an insight into what it would have taken to go and fight. If it wasn’t for brave individuals like Pat Murphy Spain might have been over thrown by Fascism and the outcome of WW2 may have been very different. Just shows you that fighting for what you believe could be a change in the world for the better.

Pat Murphy’s Passport

1930’s Passports

In 1855 passports became a standardised document issued solely to British nationals. They were a simple single-sheet paper document, and by 1914 included a photograph of the holder.The British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act 1914 was passed on the outbreak of World War I. A new format was introduced in 1915: a single sheet folded into eight with a cardboard cover. It included a description of the holder as well as a photograph, and had to be renewed after two years. The Images above are of a 1930’s passport. A 32-page passport with a dark blue cover, commonly known as the old blue style, came into use in 1920 with the formation of the Passport Service following international agreement on a standard format for passports, and remained in use  until late 1988. The passport included: number, holder’s name, “accompanied by his wife” and her maiden name, “and” (number) “children”, national status. For both bearer and wife: profession, place and date of birth, country of residence, height, eye and hair colour, special peculiarities, signature and photograph. Names, birth dates, and sexes of children, list of countries for which valid, issue place and date, expiry date, and a page for renewals at the back. They don’t look that dissimilar to the ones that we hold today.

The Making of the Passport

Having participated in our bookbinding workshop I was pretty confident about recreating a 1930’s passport. I took measurements from my grandparents old passports, as the dimensions hadn’t changed much. It was very difficult to get a clean finish on the leather from cutting out the information panels, on the front cover. I also had issues with the emblem and text on the front. I had never painted leather before, and found that acrylic paint was not suitable. Proper leather paint was needed and I had difficultly souk_passport_1930urcing gold. I decided that I was going to have to stick the emblem on instead, which meant that I wasn’t able to emboss the leather either. I took the image of the emblem from the front cover of the 1930’s passport image (shown above). With a little bit of photoshop magic I was able to brighten, resize and crop the image and print it. It was then painted with gold paint and stuck to the front. The same process was used for the text.

Overall I was pleased with the final outcome, even though I hit a few hurdles. It was especially nice to create something with my hands.