New book The Art of Protest explores the artwork of activism

A timely new publication explores the last century of activist imagery, exploring the role artists and designers have played in protest movements of all kinds

Everything from nuclear disarmament to civil rights and climate change is featured in the book, which uncovers the multitude of posters produced in response to social and environmental issues around the world. It’s also a record of more temporary artwork made by activists on the ground, which up until now would generally be unrecorded.

There’s iconic poster design – for example David Bailey’s Dumb Animals, created for Greenpeace – as well as less well-known examples, but what each piece demonstrates is just how powerful a clever bit of imagery can be.

Top image: Detail from 2017 poster by Josh MacPhee; above: 1913 poster by Cornelia Cassady Davis for women’s suffrage
Poster dated to the 1970s/80s to support conscientious objectors to the Vietnam War, unknown artist
2018 poster by Micah Bazant for Amplifier, created for March For Our Lives – a student-led protest campaigning for stricter gun laws

There’s a certain level of disappointment that we’ve been tackling some of the same issues for decades, with no end in sight, but there’s also something uplifting about seeing how stirring even relatively simple graphics can be.

Impressively as well, the book’s author, Jo Rippon, has tracked down information on every single piece of work. This includes essential historical context as well as, in many cases, the name of the artist and designer – lifting this book out of the morass of other coffee table books that are dense in pictures but light on facts.

Considering the current protests in Hong Kong, as well as Extinction Rebellion’s efforts in London and elsewhere, The Art of Protest feels like a particularly relevant book right now – and it’s fascinating to see how different designers have tackled the same issues over the years.

2017 Amnesty International poster, created in response to Trump’s executive order banning travel to the US from seven Muslim-majority countries
1984 poster by Dutch design group Wild Plakken
1938 poster by Stanley Thomas Clough

“The images in this book are a compendium of the will to a voice,” writes artist Anish Kapoor in the book’s rather grand introduction. “The poster, the banner, and the slogan have a homemade immediacy that is a sign of quotidian consciousness. Their mostly simple means help to ensure availability both as artifact and as message. We are all poster-makers, and through them we all attest to the unrest in our souls and our will to dignity.”

The Art of Protest is published by Palazzo in partnership with Amnesty International, priced £25; palazzoeditions.com

GRAPHIC DESIGNER

London, EC3R

SENIOR DESIGNER

Guildford, Surrey