Old Is New Again: Power to the Poster

The dusting off of political graphic design.

In 2008, the Power to the Poster project launched. It was designed to bring people together around a ready supply of well-designed, wild postings that commented on the issues of the time. The posters were for anyone, anywhere, to download, print, and post. The central question: As a global citizen, what moves you?

There is a restless, hopeful movement with eyes set on new possibilities for change leading to the prosperity of the collective. And, of course, there is the clutter-ridden madness of a constant control room information flow. Power to the Poster is the former taken to dismantling the latter.

The basics went like this:

  1. Download a Poster in 11 x 17 PDF format.
  2. Open your Poster in a PDF viewer program on your computer. One such program is Adobe’s Acrobat. Totally free.
  3. Print your Poster on any printer capable of printing at 11 x 17 inches. If you don’t have a printer you can print it at just about any copy center. Also, if you can, you should always print your posters on some serious FSC recycled, chlorine free paper.
  4. Take your new Poster print to a high traffic area. Maybe it’s at your work, maybe a wall in your neighborhood, maybe a coffeehouse, maybe it’s your refrigerator. (Respect people’s property, of course).
  5. Post it and watch heads turn.
  6. Repeat.

When the project wrapped in 2010, there were 181 posters in the collection. Some ended up in the streets and some ended up in galleries. A case study of the project can be viewed here

Initially, the project only accepted poster designs in black and white. At the tale end of the Bush era, issues of war, blood for oil, pollution, and financial collapse were all very top of mind. The designs coming into the project reflected the mood. The visuals were that of protest, of warning, and of pleading for America to stop its insistence on going backwards.

With the election of Barack Obama and his promise of hope and change, the project shifted slightly. It asked for full color designs that could help illuminate what exactly it was the people who elected President Obama wanted. With his powerful new position, what did we want to make better and what did we hope to accomplish?

Before the omnipresence of Facebook. Before the hip filters of Instagram. Before the fancy algorithms and whatever the hell SnapChat is (I honestly do not know). And before President Twitter. Before all of this, the Power to the Poster website existed online and offline in a very traditional way. People visited it directly and that was that.

With the rise of Donald Trump, amidst the asking of What Do We Do Now?, there’s an unsettling familiarity and striking resonance with many of the designs from the project. History, it appears, moves fairly slowly and, of course, repeats itself.

Power to the Poster hasn’t accepted a new poster in years. But that certainly doesn’t mean the designs don’t strike a chord today. Some shed new light while others are that old, familiar warning shot. Regardless, the restless, hopeful movement is still out there and the clutter-ridden madness of the regressive right is stronger than ever.

Backwards appears to be the course for America, at least for now. While resistance on the left grows and the movement to stand up to this administration strengthens, the battle to inform, inspire, persuade, and motivate will only get more intense. It will be important that progress continues to speak truth to power just like it always has. Old is new again and these posters will keep doing what they originally intended — to give power to whoever posts them. 

A new Action Backed side project is currently in the works. Power to the Poster: Resistance Age is moving ahead quickly. We’re hoping to have it launched very soon. In the meantime, our Instagram account is the place original Power to the Poster designs will be shared. When relevant, expect to find posters on immigration, the environment, health care, and whatever else DT seeks to attack.

Follow on Instagram »

Keep your ear to the ground and your feet ready to march.

– Justin Kemerling, Action Backed Design Lead, Power to the Poster Co-founder.


What Do We Do Now?

Let’s Make Something New

Work With Us