Editorial

Good design

An effective poster engages (by arousing interest) and informs (by conveying a message) within seconds, though only if the context is conducive to the audience’s understanding.

This dramatic poster captures our attention by means of the seemingly absurd juxtaposition of imminently rising sea levels and a long-necked giraffe, allegorically the animal with the greatest chance of “surviving this mess,” as the designers put it.

The decontextualized giraffe draws our immediate empathy. We share the anthropomorphized fear and disquietude of a threatened “figure” removed from its natural “ground,” even as the urgency of a timely intervention ticks on.

The poster refers to the upcoming UN conference on climate change. In December, the global community will meet in Copenhagen, Denmark to work out a new global climate deal aimed at protecting the future of our planet. The poster’s call to action is for global leaders to heed the warning signs when they meet in Denmark.

This poster was a winning submission to Good 50× 70, an independent, non-profit initiative that aims to promote the value of social communication, provide charities with a free database of communication tools, and inspire the public via graphic design. Designers submit their works on a pro bono basis, thereby offering their talent to charities such as Amnesty International, Greenpeace, World Wildlife Fund or anyone who wishes to use the posters to further the featured causes. See Good50×70.org.

This poster, entitled “Guantánamo,” is a winning submission in the War on Terror category of the 2009 Good 50×70 poster initiative. Designed by Jose Rubio Malagón of Spain, the poster makes clever use of a well-known allegorical meme, invoking a stark, graphic likeness of Uncle Sam who we can almost hear saying, “I want you …” (from the famous World War l recruitment poster). In this case, the stripes from the U.S. flag turn into the bars of a cage, effectively expressing the threat, “I want you in a U.S. jail!”

In addition to addressing the international abuses administered to “suspected terrorists” by the Bush-Cheney administration, the poster’s hard-hitting visual treatment also drives home an important message about U.S. domestic practices regarding imprisonment. With only 5 percent of the world’s population, the U.S. boasts 25 percent of the world’s incarcerated population.

Robert L. Peters is a Canadian graphic designer and former president of the International Council of Graphic Design Associations. He blogs on design, social justice and other issues at robertlpeters.com/news.

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