Design
for Uprising

Opinion by Mikell Fine Iles, Executive Design Director

A global social movement put into context

In the summer of 2020, we confronted a series of events that would profoundly reshape the way we look at the world. The tragic deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of the police, and the murder of Ahmaud Arbery by racist vigilantes hit us hard. Soon after, a social uprising took place around the country, quickly reaching across the world. In the middle of a global pandemic, people of all backgrounds took to the streets venting their frustration and anger, and many of us took part in demonstrations to express our outrage.

During this complicated time, we lacked the energy and desire to go back to doing the same type of work we’ve always done. Things needed to change, and making ads just didn’t feel like the right place to direct our energy. Overwhelmed both emotionally and mentally, we sought ways to contribute to the movement. We found solace in identifying what other artists and designers have made during times of social strife. Seeking historical context to help guide us, we started gathering examples of protest art. Little by little, we gathered dozens of images of posters, paintings, installations, and videos created from the early 1900s up until today.

Protest art: Then, now and beyond

The work culminated in a potent collection of images that showcased the power of art during turbulent times politically, socially, economically, and environmentally.

Featuring a curated selection of more than 40 examples, the collection, shared in this Google Slide deck, focuses largely on American artists and spans a range of social issues, many still relevant today.

Google Slide deck

The deck is organized into three chapters, ‘A Brief History of Protest Art,’ ‘What’s Being Made Now,’ and ‘Where Do We Go From Here.’ Each piece of art is accompanied by the artist’s name and the year of creation.

Sparking ideas at Hook

What began as a small conversation amongst the design team quickly grew into a company-wide presentation that resonated with the entire Hook team. Individuals from all backgrounds and disciplines shared an interest in the subject matter, and it became clear that this exercise would help serve a bigger purpose in our organization. We collectively felt a strong desire to make sense of the moment, and to find inspiration and hope through our craft.

Around this time, we started the internal slack channel #hookactivism, empowering us to share feelings, resources, and information related to the Black Lives Matter movement and numerous social events to follow. Many of these ideas fed into the final chapter of the slide deck which ends with a call to action suggesting ways allies can support the Black Lives Matter movement through design.

Ultimately, several of us were inspired to jumpstart our own personal projects to raise awareness around important causes.

Designer Sam Becker led the creation of One Vote Like Yours, a website that inspires individuals to vote. Copywriter Rob Liggins received national attention for his photo documentation of the Los Angeles Black Lives Matter protests and the people behind them. Those photos were later used in a short film commemorating the words of Angela Davis that I created with motion director Mark Fain.

Rob Liggins' photography from the LA Black Lives Matter protests
A still from our short film commemorating Angela Davis

Where do we go from here?

We share this deck in the hopes that it will inspire our generation of artists to amplify underrepresented voices. We aim to continue this discourse, and will look for ways to use art to address social issues that impact us and our communities.