Anthony Burrill lends his support to Extinction Rebellion

The designer has created a series of posters and graphics to support XR’s protests in central London this week, also joining supporters at a live printing workshop in Trafalgar Square. We talk to Burrill about his work with the group

Extinction Rebellion protestors have set up camp in Trafalgar Square this week as part of a mass protest to demand urgent government action in response to the climate crisis. The demonstration began on Monday and is one of a series of protests taking place in 23 major cities around the world. While the group’s actions have prompted criticism from Boris Johnson – and led to hundreds of arrests – protestors have been keeping up spirits with singing, dancing and speeches, and celebrities from Benedict Cumberbatch to Mark Rylance, Mystery Jets and Disclosure have turned up to show their support.

Designer Anthony Burrill has created a series of graphics and slogans to support this week’s action. He has also joined in with the protests, taking part in a live print workshop at Trafalgar Square on Wednesday.

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“Clive [Russell, a member of Extinction Rebellion’s art group] emailed me a few months ago and asked if I’d be interested in having a chat – so we met up and talked about potential involvement. I went to a meeting about planning for this week’s action, and came up with some ideas for slogans and phrases, which Clive [and Extinction Rebellion’s art group] developed and implemented,” Burrill tells CR.

Over the past few years, Burrill – who is best known for his upbeat typographic prints – has lent his skills to various causes and charities including Hope Not Hate, Shelter and Amnesty. His decision to work with Extinction Rebellion was driven in part by a desire “to help save the planet” and to use his creative skills for good. “I think it’s the times we’re in now – you have to be involved and you have to put whatever skills you have to help create change and momentum,” he adds.

Burrill’s designs in the wild

His designs aim to encourage others to think about their own carbon footprint and the steps they can take to reduce their impact on the environment. “I was thinking about change and those small changes we can make to our lives that have a bigger effect when we all do them,” he explains.

With his use of bold type and bright colours, Burrill’s aesthetic feels like a natural fit with Extinction Rebellion’s visual identity. The group has become known for its striking graphics, posters and props, which draw inspiration from protest movements of the 50s and 60s.

“All the stuff they’ve been doing with woodblock type and flat colours, I’ve always worked with those simple elements, so it seemed to fit in quite seamlessly – I’ve just extended my range of typefaces a bit,” says Burrill.

Designs were created using woodblock type from Adams of Rye, a printer in Burrill’s local area. “It’s classic wood type but bit more condensed so you can fit in longer words in. It’s all stuff that’s been used for over 100 years and I love the idea that it’s been used hundreds of times [before] and set in different combinations to print all of these different messages. It used to spell out things for car boot fairs and jumble sales and now it’s spreading messages about saving the world.”

Burrill’s work has been used to create flyposters and large-scale banners, and as with all of Extinction Rebellion’s graphics, the designs will be made available to other Extinction Rebellion members around the world.

“It’s all open source, so it’s a matter of handing over design templates for people to use in their own ways. That really appealed to me – the fact that there’s no one art director dictating how things should be, but it still has an overarching sense of visual cohesion.”

anthonyburrill.com; rebellion.earth; listen to Anthony Burrill discussing design and politics on the CR podcast here.

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Leeds, West Yorkshire

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Farnham, Surrey

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United Kingdom