Nathan Smith and Sam T Smith’s postcard project ME & EU was prompted by last year’s Brexit result in the UK/EU referendum. Disheartened and disconnected by the outcome, the designers appealed to the UK’s creative community in an attempt to re-engage with their counterparts on the continent.
The pair’s plan was to ask a range of artists, designers and illustrators to design a postcard that expressed their view on Brexit and that could then be sent to people in the 27 remaining countries in the EU. When Article 50 was finally triggered, instigating the leaving process, the 116 designs were dispatched across Europe.
The project is currently on show as part of the Beazley Designs of the Year show at the Design Museum – and next week will see the publication of over 100 of the postcards in book form, courtesy of Craig Oldham’s publishing outfit, Common Practices.
“We went through other initial ideas such as flags, pin badges, or protest posters – the latter being pretty well covered in all the demonstrations that happened – but we wanted an intimate connection,” says Nathan Smith. “The postcard was the right vehicle: it’s personal and one-to one. Postcards talk of travel, of crossing borders, and strike up a conversation in a really personal way.”
In the ME & EU book – available from meandeu.uk – each card is reproduced with a perforated edge and a blank reverse, explains Oldham. “The original message from the creators are still present, but the book extends the project to a wider audience in the hope they too will have their say on Brexit and become testament to this state of transition.”
Sam T Smith says that the intention behind the cards was “to dispel this idea that Britain was an inward-looking country, and we wanted to reach out, and look over our island shores. Do something outward-looking, and in such a seemingly negative scene, do something about positivity, unity, and in good humour.”
Oldham adds that while creative practitioners can often be reluctant to express personal political views in their work, the Brexit result prompted a particularly passionate response from the community. “I think it’s this which separates ME & EU from a lot of the designer ‘sewing-circle’ projects out there,” he says. “And to express them onto postcards is a profound touch. They’re an almost perfect technology.
“They afford creatives the opportunity to make eye-catching, enticing, thought-provoking images on the front, with a personal framework on the back. Throw into the mix the political storm of Brexit, and that becomes a really exciting thing.”
Other contributing artists to ME & EU include APFEL, Billie Jean, Malcolm Garrett, NB Studio and Yoni Alter.
ME & EU is published by Common Practices (£25) and will launch next week at D&AD (November 8), followed by Magma Books in Manchester (November 16) – both events will feature an exhibition of the postcards and “a small discussion on politics and creativity”. The book is available from meandeu.uk. See also nathansmith.design, samtsmith.co.uk and commonpractices.co.uk