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Designs for Occupation

October 1, 2011

I’ve been trying to synthesize some of the ideas (and add some of my own) coming out of Occupy Wall Street here in New York City in order to try to create some better-designed messaging, possible posters, images for people to use, etc. I’m going to start posting some of these designs here on the blog, and I’d love feedback to help narrow down which ones work best. I hope to start printing some soon, once I get a handle on which are communicating.
The trick with doing this is that there has been little clear messaging out of the movement, especially with content I find compelling politically. Many of the signs at the occupation, and the Occupy Wall Street statement, reference a “THEY” as an amorphous bad guy? Capitalism is an economic system, one in which we all participate to varying degrees—and are all largely beholden to for survival—whether we are janitors, artists, or CEOs. When we start anthropomorphizing this system as a set of people, things get really slippery, and politically questionable, really fast. There is only a couple degrees between labeling the “Bankers” as the bad guys before we slip into the evil “Masons,” “Lizard People,” or “Jews.” I ain’t going there.
Anyway, here are some early designs, let me know what you think. Once I get some feedback, I’ll start putting up higher-res versions for people to use and print out.

Lots of people gave feedback to get to this point, and Cindy Milstein and Dara Greenwald crafted a lot of the specific language.





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9 comments on “Designs for Occupation”

Fantastic. Keep the high res versions up asap!
And I disagree about calling out bankers. They very much need to be called out and held accountable for their crimes. But you’re right in that we also need to keep our eye on the ultimate enemy — capitalism and oppression.

The 99% vs. 1% language is compelling, and is clearly resonating. OWS will not abandon it. Their language comes in the context of a national discussion of the “Buffet Rule” and attempting to reverse 30+ years of economic and tax policy that redirected wealth towards the top.
But I hear where Josh is coming from. Calling out the banks — as institutions — for their crimes is one thing. Calling out bankers — people who do their jobs within a system of rules not of their creation — is another thing.
From talking with some people in Zucotti Park, there’s an interesting divide. By not having consistent messaging/ideology, Occupy Wall Street is succeeding at being all things to all people. There are both anti-capitalists and reformers who think the “free market” has been corrupted, along with a smattering of Ron Paul “end the fed” nuts.
All of which is a long way of saying: Occupy Wall Street HAS chosen a pole, a point of unity — calling out regressive tax policy that directs wealth towards the top as an injustice. The role for radicals — and artists — is to move that pole towards the left.
#1 works great, would be better minimalist: Money Talks Too Much with the muzzle, no bullseye.
It’s Not A Crisis, It’s a Scam is a great slogan.
The bull poster works best if the scissors image was tied to a pun on cuts (don’t cut pensions, cut here instead).

I like the social war design.
and the cutting the balls off is great,
could use dozens of slogans for that!
I dont know the discussions happening there, but In Serbia last night some Greeks were discussing the fact that this isnt “our” debt that is creating crises.
There seems to be plenty of wealth that is created, its just being squandered by few. Messaging that conveys and agitates that, I don’t have enough time on the computer to discuss.
Thanks for sharing Josh!

Great designs. I suggest that you put them all up as hi-res images that people can download and we create a section similar to the Wisconsin labor movement graphics.
As for a critique, I like the top design but not crazy about the text. Maybe just “occupy wall street.”
Also, you might want to make some more bold designs that read from a distance. i.e. designs that work specifically for marches.
Also, wouldn’t mind to see some designs that show people at the occupations/demos.

My favorites are “Direct Democracy not Deceit” and “Commons not Capitalism” – They offer a conceptual alternative and a direction in which to move rather than purely a call for (yet another) war.

Hey Josh-
This is awesome! Graphics for the people!
My three questions are:
1. Is the message on point?
2. Is the message understandable to a wider range of people?
3. Will the image be powerful and readable from a distance/in photos online or in the papers?
My thoughts:
1. I think the messages are all on point word-wise, but I’m not totally sure the bull’s butt and balls are working for me – I don’t think “castrating the bull” actually works as a metaphor for lifting the foot of the corporate-controlled state from the neck of “the 99%”
2. I think the best message for connecting with a wider audience will be “It’s Not a Crisis, It’s a SCAM – Occupy Wall Street.” I think that powerfully re-frames the “economic crisis” that everyone is aware of and talking about as a “Scam” perpetrated against people all over the world by corporations/governments/CEOs/politicians. I’m not sure enough people are clued into words and concepts like “austerity,” “social wage,” “commons” and I think that “wage war” and “social war” are outside of most folks’ language and conceptual frame, as well as muddled alongside anti-war messaging.
3. I don’t think any of the bull images are very decipherable from far away – partially because of the low contrast, and partially because they are a photo of something not too recognizable, from an unusual angle. The text-only posters are very readable and quickly register as “political slogan” images that evoke old-school political campaigns and labor movement/IWW type placards. But I’m still looking for something that is emotionally and viscerally instantly understandable and powerful as Dick Cheney’s face with oil on it or Condo-zilla. I’m looking for an image that a person will see from across a crowded protest or in a picture of the protests online and be able to instantly think – we have the same enemy, and I am on your side, and it will be fun to join you.
You might also be trying to generate discussion with more challenging messages that are not easily decipherable to folks who don’t follow movement semiotics… but I think you can find a middle ground that will hit folks in the gut and also push people to think bigger and further about the change we’re fighting for.
That’s just my three-cents – I love that you are doing this, and that you are getting feedback in this forum.
Angela is looking over my shoulder and says – She likes the bull’s balls, but it might read better as an icon/drawing instead of the photo… and if you are using a picture of the bull’s butt, can’t you work “bullshit” into it somehow?
Anyway, I can’t wait to see what you come up with and I can’t wait to see people all over the world waving these things around coming together to kick the bull in the nuts, or cut off its balls, so to speak.

I like “its not a crisis, it’s a scam”. Speaks to defining the system of capitalism in common language. I like it better than language like “social wage” and “social war”. I like the bull image, but its milder in the crisis/scam one, which means it could translate better in other cities

Hey these posters are great and there are really useful comments people have posted here.
I am all for puns – the cut balls/don’t cut pensions (or budgets or jobs or wherever you want to go with it) is strong.
There may be room for some occupation/occupation pun someplace too but that’s a different poster and message. There may be a way to quickly communicate something having to do with inhabiting space and inhabiting jobs but off the top of my head I don’t have a phrase.
Overall, I think “It’s not a crisis, it’s a scam” is the way we need to move things. I understand wanting to broaden the message so that the idea of waging war on capitalism is out there but the crisis/scam message makes a quick moral appeal that I think has wide resonance.
Nicely done!

With the cutting of the balls images, I’m trying to think of something relates to sterilization/reproduction. Perhaps: Capitalism cannot reproduce itself. Capitalism Breeds Misery.
(I worry that this line might slip from a critique of systems into something that sounds like eugenics or policies of forced sterilization)
I like the It’s Not a Crisis, It’s a Scam. Can you put up you off-register version of that too.

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