Politics in art and graphic design

Copy-fitting a 1961 quote from John F. Kennedy on the importance of the press. The left side is done with an EF66 nib cut to a small broad edge; the right side is done with a #6 Mitchell nib. Walnut ink. Drawing paper.

I've been making progress on my latest variable edition of manuscript books, which includes, in part, quotations from presidents 1-44 on threats to democracy. Writing out these quotations has been a good experience, reminding me that our nation has had some great leaders.

It's interesting to see what how other artists are addressing our current political problems.

"Gerry" typeface: rendered maps of gerrymandered districts. Ben Doessel and James Lee , typographers.

Hyperallergenic reports on a new typeface, "Gerry", which renders maps of gerrymandered districts into letters of the alphabet as a commentary on the “eroding of democracy.” The entire article is here.

I would like to have attended the exhibit "Hope to Nope: Graphics and Politics 2008-2018" at the Design Museum in London last year ... before many of the artists removed their artwork from the exhibit early to protest the the "artwashing" of an arms industry leader: the museum hosted a private event for Leonardo, an Italian defense contractor.

Paul Kennard had donated Union Mask, which featured an image of a gas mask spewing US and UK missiles, to the museum, but demanded that his work be withdrawn from the exhibition. As he put it, "I certainly don't want my work to be viewed during a jolly by arms dealers at the museum." Protesters held signs that read, "#NopeToArms and "The revolution will not be patronised." Clever.

AIGA has devoted an entire category (or is it a tag?), Politics + Design, on their website. My favorite recent article, filed in Design History 101, is one about Corita Kent.

Zadie Smith on the practice of reading


don't know any calligraphers or book artists who aren't voracious readers. In fact, most calligraphers I know credit the start of their interest in calligraphy to two things: 1) a love of reading, and 2) OSA. Makes eminent sense, really. But there's another piece to it, and that's the budding calligrapher's interest in turning over the words, processing them, re-reading them for new emphases and slightly altered meanings.

I was reminded of this this morning when I read Boing Boing's transcription of a portion of an interview with novelist Zadie Smith on KCRW's Bookworm program:

But the problem with readers, the idea we’re given of reading is that the model of a reader is the person watching a film, or watching television. So the greatest principle is, "I should sit here and I should be entertained." And the more classical model, which has been completely taken away, is the idea of a reader as an amateur musician. An amateur musician who sits at the piano, has a piece of music, which is the work, made by somebody they don’t know, who they probably couldn’t comprehend entirely, and they have to use their skills to play this piece of music. The greater the skill, the greater the gift that you give the artist and that the artist gives you. That’s the incredibly unfashionable idea of reading. And yet when you practice reading, and you work at a text, it can only give you what you put into it. It’s an old moral, but it’s completely true.

She describes it so well. You can listen or watch the entire interview here.