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.