Unless you're one of those people who just hates the feel of newspaper sheets or finds the news online/on TV too hard to handle, you'll have heard of the worldwide Occupy Together movement by now. Starting in New York with Occupy Wall Street, the global protest against the chokehold of international finance on disempowered individuals has now spread as far as Johannesburg, Mumbai and Copenhagen. Still, we were interested to explore a dimension with ever-growing importance in protest communities: that of design.
We caught up with Max Slavkin, of Occupy Design. It started as a hacker's movement which then spawned a creative space for designers to create & disseminate a set of standard infographics on stats demonstrating economic inequalities. Now, these are the posters trying to reclaim and occupy public space in a way that's both visually engaging and hard-hitting. We spoke about the movement's impact, its role in protest situations and why simplification works.
One of the OD poster templates, to be printed and used at US Occupy Together camps
So Max, what's your personal role in the Occupy Design movement to kick things off?
Like everyone else on the project, I'm a part time volunteer excited about a new way to get involved with the movement. I was connected by some friends to the group at the hackathon right after the site launched, and watched it spread online overnight. I started managing the project's social media [here's their Twitter & Facebook], and have been doing that since.
Can you tell our readers a little bit more about how OccupyHack spawned Occupy Design?
I honestly don't know where the idea came from, but a hackathon was organized at a shared work-space here in San Francisco, for hackers and designers to get together, come up with an idea, and build it. The restraints of doing something so quickly can limit it, but also force a real tangible outcome out of a group of loose-knit volunteers.
The group wanted to use their unique skill sets in ways that would help the movement, and saw a need for clear visual language across cities and countries occupying for the same things. We opened the platform for anyone to submit their designs, and have grown our community over social media and articles like this one since!
A submission from the Occupy Design Tumblr
How do you hope the posters are being used around America for the various Occupy movements?
We hope they're being used around the world (and they are! We've seen images from Germany, Spain, Switzerland, France, and more!) to support the work so many people are already doing. We hope to arm occupiers with a clear visual language to communicate the message.
How do you relate to the roots of Occupy Wall Street on a personal level? And why do you think it's important to link designers to the movement?
I relate as someone who can't wait any longer for some fundamental changes in our society. How many more banks will we bail out, how many more homes will we foreclose on,how many more people will be laid off, before address the influence of the wealthiest 1% over the rest of us?
Another of OD's own posters
With issues so complex it's important to simplify what's going on, and even more important to do so without losing focus on the real stories of what's happening in America. Designers are able to translate these broad concepts and huge amounts of data into content we can understand and rally behind.
What do you feel Occupy Design should be aiming to achieve?
It should achieve what it's been doing every day - offering free, quality, content to the movement around the world, and a collaborative space for designers to contribute their skills to a movement they care about. We hope to build our community of crowd-sourced design to fight back against the rhetoric, jargon, and nonsense that's been spreading far too easily.
The poster from the top image, as its original design print
And finally, what has/have been the most inspiring moment(s) on the project so far?
I can't pick just one, but every time a post, or a tweet, or an email, comes in from someone I've never met, from somewhere I've never heard of, offering their valuable skills to this movement, it gives hope that we do have what it takes make some change.
Keep up with the latest Occupy Design news on their site.