Design to Transform the World?

Coinciding with the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool, The World Transformed was a four-day fringe festival of “art, music, culture and politics” organised by the Momentum group. We talk to designer Sana Iqbal about the identity she created for it

As the focal-point for Momentum’s presence during the Labour Party Conference, The World Transformed has attracted a lot of press attention. Aside from its role in the internal battles of the Labour Party, the event was set up to be “a space of inclusive and respectful debate, discussion, creativity and idea generation, where attendees have the opportunity to contribute to a radical, positive vision for the 21st century”.

Designer Sana Iqbal, a recent graduate from Liverpool John Moores University, created a ‘brand identity’ for the event which consciously steers away from the typical vernacular of protest graphics. We spoke to her about the project.

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CR: Can you us how you came to be involved with Momentum and the event? Had you worked with them on anything before?

SI: I saw an advert on Momentum Arts asking for creatives to get in contact. I’ve always had an interest in politics and arts, and so I got in touch. They liked my work and wanted a graphic designer for an upcoming event. I met the team and loved the idea of The World Transformed. I have always wondered why political groups haven’t done anything like this before! I also liked the vibe of the team. Young, passionate people from all walks of life wanting to actively make a difference to the current dismal landscape of food banks, disability cuts and austerity. Something I too feel passionately about changing.

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CR: What was the process for the project? Who was the ‘client’ in this case?

SI: I had a lot of creative freedom. The World Transformed team were very open to my suggestions. They were very trusting and just let me get on with the design and create. We had periodic meetings and they would try their best to assist me in anyway possible. Towards the end it was becoming impossible to design, research material and liaise with printers. They helped me find volunteers for which I am very grateful.

The World Transformed's visual language is in marked contrast to that of the traditional Labour Movement
The World Transformed’s visual language is in marked contrast to that of the traditional Labour Movement
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Jeremy Corbyn speaking at the World Transformed. Note T-shirt and tote stage right
Jeremy Corbyn speaking at the World Transformed. Note T-shirt and tote stage right

CR: You have deliberately stayed away from the visual language of ‘protest’ graphics – can you tell us about the thinking behind this approach?

SI: You don’t attract the disengaged to politics with dark, angry imagery and shouting headlines. I also didn’t want to preach to the converted either. From my past political projects I’ve learnt people respond better to a design which is attractive and inspirational. Not everybody wants to be a protester, but that doesn’t mean they can’t get involved in other means and make a difference. By dispelling the typical design of protest graphics and making it approachable, lively and even cool, suddenly you’re opening the doors to so many other groups, from across the political spectrum to feel welcome and get involved. That’s exactly what The World Transformed wanted to do.

In the mist of post-Brexit Britain and the contentious Labour leadership contest, The World Transformed needed to be a positive force. The design needed to engage the disenfranchised, modernise traditional socialist design and make politics exciting. I felt The World Transformed needed to echo three key messages: building bridges, unity and optimism. A message which is needed beyond the Labour Party, beyond Britain but across the entire world.

The World Transformed took place at The Black-E arts centre in Liverpool
The World Transformed took place at The Black-E arts centre in Liverpool
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CR: It feels much more ‘professional’, less confrontational in its approach than, for example, the work done for Occupy – was this deliberate? If so,why?

SI: Yes definitely deliberate. This was my pitch to The World Transformed. I wanted the design to move well away from hard, political graphics, and instead be modern, lively and attractive. This approach actually enhanced The World Transformed message by communicating that it’s an inclusive event full of creativity and positive visions. I explained the importance of brand consistency to the team, so having them onboard made my job a lot easier. I was particular aware of the media hostility towards Momentum. Therefore The World Transformed not looking like your average left wing group was important in giving the event clout and good attention.

Dressing the venue
Dressing the venue

CR: We would imagine that many of those involved in Momentum may be suspicious or opposed to the notion of ‘brands’ and ‘branding’: how did you approach the idea of creating a brand identity in that environment? Did you face any opposition to the idea of The World Transformed being ‘branded’ in this way?

SI: When I first met them I had an honest conversation about their current branding. I showed them different case studies on why branding is important, particular pointing out the recent Conservative rebrand. I explained branding isn’t all about selling products, but instead its power can be turned around and used for ‘good’. I explained that a consistent, thought-out brand would help amplify their message and make a positive impression. Something they wanted to achieve. I’ve personally always wondered if we sold peace, political engagement and other useful ideas like Coke, what would the world be like? During the early design process I shared and explained my ideas and would welcome feedback. By involving the team in the development they would feel part of The World Transformed brand.

CR: Can you tell us about the design team that worked on the project and your role?

SI: I didn’t have a design team – it was just myself. I had help from friends to do the social media templates and teaser trailer, but that was it. At the beginning it was crazy because I was interning in the day and working the nights on The World Transformed. Design had officially taken over my life, but I loved every minute of it. For the venue dressing I had amazing volunteers who worked very hard in making my vision come to life.

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Guardian journalist Owen Jones at The World Transformed
Guardian journalist Owen Jones at The World Transformed
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CR: What’s next for you?

SI: I’m still awaiting that answer. I’m currently looking for a job, and soaking in all of this experience. It’s been a surreal last few days, seeing several months of work come to life. I’ve heard there may be another The World Transformed event, so we’ll have to wait and see.

Photos: Sana Iqbal/David Walters/Zaid Thanoon. See more of Sana Iqbal’s work here

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