• Int_activism_w_-1799

    Enjoying a beer at the talk

  • Int_activism_w_-1828

    Lucienne Roberts

  • Int_activism_w_-1832

    Bloggers commentators

  • Int_activism_w_-1840
  • Int_activism_w_-1862
  • Int_activism_w_-2019
  • Int_activism_w_-1844

    Francesca Gavin

  • Int_activism_w_-1871

    Lucienne Roberts answering Qs

  • Int_activism_w_-1911

    Ken Garland

  • Int_activism_w_-1923
  • Int_activism_w_-1928

    Ken Garland presenting some original designs

  • Int_activism_w_-1969

    The venue: Red Bull Studios

  • Int_activism_w_-2008

    Q&A session


On [Activism]: Event write-up

Posted by Maya Davies,

Rather ironically we had to postpone On [Activism], due to the madness of events – the wide-scale rioting – in August. So the talk took place last night and although it had been a while since we were at Red Bull Studios (for On [Narrative]), it felt like a happy home-coming. And this was only improved by our speakers, Francesca Gavin, Lucienne Roberts and Ken Garland providing blinding talks and some food for thought.

Lucienne Roberts opened the discussion by introducing two ways to think about graphic design and activism (or design activism as it’s known). According to Lucienne, upper case ‘A’ctivism graphic design presents weighty, hard-hitting or political subject matter in a confrontational, provocative way whereas lower case ‘a’ design tends to be less polemic and engage people in a more passive/subtle way. She believes the two approaches are both valuable but appropriate in different settings as she illustrated with her work and that of others. Her passion for graphic design, and belief in the “power of design” to inform, and bring about change was very heartfelt; she continues to reject the notion that the industry should be inward looking, but rather it must engage with the world on many levels.

In a different vein, Francesca Gavin showed us a number of interesting and playful internet-based open source projects from the last 15 years or so, that fall under the umbrella of activism. The internet is a public sphere/space which is politically unbiased and allows a multitude of artistic voices rather than one dominant voice to come to the fore, unlike the role of traditional artists; it democratises art. There is a pretty unquantifiable plethora of imagery already existing in the world and now internet artists are working more like curators to adapt, manipulate and reinterpret this. By providing the code, they encourage others to do the same as an on-going collaborative process, widening access, pushing boundaries and engaging an-ever increasing online audience.

The luminary Ken Garland took to the floor with an enviable energy for someone who has been working long before most of us were born, as he pointed out. His brilliant sense of humour, and stories about political campaigning in the 1950s and 60s, including a sit-down protest with Bertrand Russell and Arnold Whesker (whoa), had us all utterly captivated. We were treated to seeing original, much-sought after copies of his posters for the CND campaign, some of them are the only ones in existence (lucky us).

His designs went through various iterations and developments because they were deemed as likely to “incite violence”. Garland said this called for “sneaky behaviour”; a team of people joined forces to go round under cover, physically sticking the text back on the censored posters. Garland called for us to take up this mantle, “we need more sneaky behaviour” in the industry. He also explained that he’s become a devotee of “partially chaotic, diverse graphics”, as he realised uniform, ubiquitous identities, swamping an environment (although effective in political marches) have a chilling effect, reminiscent of Nazi Germany. He finished with a rousing call to arms, urging us to think about what activism ours and future generations will engage in, now that once again we’re facing nuclear threats from around the world.

A massive thank you to Lucienne, Francesca and Ken for such a fascinating and enjoyable evening, and to all the other speakers who featured in the On […] talk series hosted at Red Bull Studios. It’s been emotional. We hope you’ll join us for future events, and keep your eyes peeled for a big conference we’re planning for the end of the year which is going to be HUGE.

Images: Steve Stills for Red Bull Co. Ltd.

Posted by Maya Davies

Maya joined It’s Nice That in 2011 as our first ever events manager as well as writing for the site, in particular about architecture. She left in the summer of 2013.

Most Recent: Events View Archive

  1. List

    As one of the most fundamental visual tools, creatives use colour in a multitude of ways. It’s Nice That is excited to be partnering with G . F Smith for three evenings exploring how an eclectic mix of visual practitioners think about colour and harness its power. They will take place across the UK and each evening will also feature an exclusive screening of the Colorplan film Bright Red. The exciting line-ups we have helped curate for the events are:

  2. List

    An elegant townhouse in central London has been transformed into a multi-storey, multi-sensory celebration of Italian style and culture. The House of Peroni, which opened last night, boasts a host of retro-inspired creativity – inspired by 1963, the year Peroni Nastro Azzurro was launched – and it brings to life a stylised version of la dolce vita.

  3. Main

    I love Pick Me Up, especially the private view. Fine cheese, meats, booze and the best illustration and graphic arts you can hope for under one roof. In its fifth year the festival seems to have graduated from being a trade fair at which members of the public could by prints and knick knacks they wanted to hang in their kitchen, to being a place that celebrates the true craft of the world’s youngest and most talented artists.

  4. List

    We’ve featured Brinkworth’s beautifully designed skate parks on the site before when they launched Nike’s BaySixty6, a community project under London’s Westway that invited people of all ages to pick up a deck and try their hand on the ramps. The initiative was such a success that Brinkworth have become something of an authority on skate park construction and have since been invited to create a temporary set-up at the Old Selfridges Hotel, located inside Selfridges department store.

  5. Main

    A lot of websites and magazines have technology and creative digital media as the forefront of their coverage. I never really got it before, until visiting Resonate festival in Belgrade last week when suddenly it dawned on me: turns out technology really is the future. Whoops!

  6. List

    It’s that time of the year – the YCN Professional Awards are now open for entries and once again competition is sure to be fierce as the freshest creative talent at work around the world battle it out for the prestigious prizes.

  7. Virginatlantic1

    Somewhere in the financial district of Manhattan, Virgin Atlantic are quite literally flying the flag for Britain with Fabergé’s second Big Egg Hunt, which follows the resounding success of the inaugural event in London two years ago. Over 250 eggs have taken residency across New York for the month of April, with familiar creative names such as Tracey Emin, Oliver Jeffers and Shantell Martin have all transformed the blank canvas of a shell provided.

  8. List

    What’s the only thing better than a celebration of Italian style and culture? A celebration of Italian style and culture with a retro twist, that’s what, and Londoners are in for that very treat next month with the return of The House of Peroni. Visitors stepping through the doors of 64 Lincoln’s Inn Fields in Holborn will be plunged into a world of all things italiano featuring food and drink, fashion and design.

  9. List

    Last weekend we were honoured to be invited to speak at Dublin’s OFFSET festival; a three-day feast of creative insight and inspiration. More than 2,000 people flocked to the Irish capital for talks, panel discussions and live interviews and it was amazing to be part of a line-up that included the likes of Jessica Walsh, Marian Bantjes, Marina Willer, Richard Turley, Mike Perry, Richard Mosse and Jon Burgerman.

  10. List

    Creative conferences come in all shapes and sizes and they all have different reputations, but Dublin’s Offset is renowned for its combination of great speakers and a super-fun informal line-up.

  11. List

    By this time of January, most people have started to add caveats to their well-intentioned New Year’s Resolutions. I won’t drink on weekdays. When there’s a full moon. Unless I hear a dog bark. But if your plans for 2014 extend to something slightly more ambitious then digital education start-up Steer have just the thing for you.

  12. List

    The Barbican’s current show is all about examining the relationship between all-conquering cultural phenomenon Pop Art and the design world, and when it comes to graphic design in particular, few people are better qualified to discuss the creative culture clash than Nigel Waymouth. As part of the legendary (and perfectly-named) Hapshash and the Coloured Coat design and music collective, Nigel and his partner Michael English helped revolutionise the way we see posters as an art form. Their colourful, psychedelic screen prints for the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd were a huge part of establishing the visual vernacular with which we still associate London in the Swinging Sixties and the significance of their work was confirmed when the V&A Museum held an exhibition of their posters at the turn of the century.

  13. List

    It’s Friday, which means we’re starting to get a little delirious here in the It’s Nice That bunker. The heating’s turned up to an anaesthetising 30 degrees and we’ve got some nondescript house music blasting from the stereo. The only thing we need to complete the picture and really get this Friday party pumping is some kind of memey-cat-themed brilliance to keep us entertained until it’s time to crack open some cheap Dutch lager and greet the weekend with open arms. What’s that Hungry Castle, you’re putting together a project that combines cats and lasers and art and explosions and is set to premier at next year’s ADC Miami Beach Festival? Well yeah, of course we’d like to see it. “Meow, meow, peow, peow. Boom!”