Part 3: Researching campaigns

“Campaigns of all forms have a rich social and visual history, from the banners of the suffragettes and trade union movements, to the placards, tee shirts and protests of anti-war movements, from iconic government campaigns to enlist soldiers or warn of health issues to powerful propaganda. Identify some ways in which designers have helped to support campaigns through posters, logos or other strategies. Reflect on how these campaigns have worked. What was the key message and how has this been embedded within their designs?”

I actually found it harder than I was anticipating to find information about this subject. Its rather strange that the subject of social campaigning – an area you’d think graphic designers would be proud of – doesn’t appear to feature that much within the general history of graphic design. Perhaps I’m reading the wrong books?!

Of course not all graphic design has encouraged social change for the better. The most horrible visual identity ever devised was the nazi swastika. It was designed by Hitler himself, with the encouragement of the American businessman Ernst Hanfstaengl, who was familiar with the concept of branding. Of course the original symbol is much older, but it has come to represent evil, and is so strongly associated with fascism that it would be hard to understand it in any other context.

War Recruitment Posters


Posters opposing War

Anti war and nuclear disarmament. Many artists and designers have created artwork that protested against war, notably from the first world war onwards.

CND has a very memorable logo designed in 1958 by professional artist and designer Gerald Herbert Holtom. It has featured widely on posters, banners, badges and is instantly recognisable. The slogan “Nukes Out” was commonly used when I was growing up in the 1980s. Key message: Peace. This symbol is only obvious in meaning because its so famous – but it contains semaphore for the letters “N” and “D” (nuclear disarmament) The fact that it is so pared down makes it a very useable logo, that was quickly adopted in other countries, particularly in America.

The suffragettes and suffragists employed various visual strategies – notably the use of flags, banners, badges, shashes all with the distinctive colours – purple, white and green. Its easy to see that the slogan clearly and simply shows exactly what these women were fighting for. Key message: Votes for women/equal rights. The colours are thought to represent purple for loyalty and dignity, white for purity, and green for hope. The white being so light in tone compared to the green and purple, is striking to the eye. The colours certainly work well as a group. So well that Selfridges and Liberty sold various items supporting the cause, including tricolour-striped ribbon to adorn clothing and accessories. No to mention handbags, shoes, soap and slippers. I didn’t know that Sylvia Pankhurst trained at the Royal College of Art – she was responsible for much of the movement’s visual identity.

Amnesty international have a strong tradition of hard hitting poster campaigns, complete with an instantly recognisable logo designed in 1963 by Diana Redhouse originally selected as amnesty’s first christmas card design. It sums up the function of the charity perfectly – hence the longevity of the design. Key message: barbed wire (cruelty/capture) candle (hope)

Campaigning posters


AIDS awareness also has a strong identity; the red ribbon has been used over and over throughout the world. Key message: red (symbolising blood) hope (ribbon)


The campaigns I’ve selected here have been highly effective in terms of being instantly recognisable. Each has a strong visual identity, that is simple, clear, easy to recognise and reproduce. The key message can be summed up in a few words in each case.




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