Creative Outcry:

The design features of an impactful protest campaign


This dissertation is an investigation of the role of design in impactful protest movements, specifically focusing on protest material and ephemera. It concerns the visual appearance, the form and function of information pamphlets, websites, posters, and puppets. The focus is on movements striving for social political change that are referred to throughout as ‘protests’, ‘activism’, ‘social movements’ and ‘campaigns’. This work questions whether an update in the way protest movements represent themselves is needed using three case studies of movements from the 1960s through to the 21st century. The question is explored and supported with analysis of protest ephemera, studies of design theories, and the positives and pitfalls of online activism today. 

 In Chapter 1, I discuss the visual language of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. This chapter examines the material and strategy used when the campaign was first established in 1958, including the CND symbol as well as campaign posters by graphic designer Ken Garland. Bringing it into the 21st century, I consider the effects of dilution through reproduction. Additionally, campaign material from today is assessed using primary research from anti-nuclear demonstrations, and information leaflets from this cause. In addition, design theory in relation to the effectiveness of the campaign material, is assessed by considering typography and the hand-made. 

Chapter 2 is a comparative study of the student riots of 1968 in Paris and those of 2010 in Europe and particularly London. Concerning the Paris protests of 1968, I focus on the student activist group Atelier Populaire and their extending impact elsewhere. I investigate the 2010 student protest using a case study into the Book Bloc protests of that time. I also consider how campaign material was distributed in 1968 and 2010, with a look to how the Internet and social media dissemination has changed the impact of protest material. 

 Chapter 3 explores Greenpeace’s campaign against oil company Shell in its attempt to drill in the Arctic, with reference to non-violent direct action, use of puppets within protest, and online campaigning methods. This chapter also looks at the impact of funding on a campaign and the advantages attached to this. 

 I conclude this dissertation with an evaluation of the most effective aspects of protest design as exemplified in the preceding chapters, to show the crucial importance of creativity to an impactful campaign. 

Full text available on request