Print

Crowdsourced Poster Design

I crowdsourced a crowd scene for a May Day poster using Mechanical Turk, Facebook and Twitter friends inviting them to draw a robot holding up a sign. In just five days, I assembled a protest scene with 250 unique characters. It was great fun. Here are the results in color and black and white.

Click below for high resolution versions.

unplug_may_day_green_thumb

unplug_may_day_bw_thumb


The Back Story

For May Day 2012 Occupy Wall Street and groups around the country called for a general strike. The folks at Occuprint put out a call for posters and a mixed group of artists, writers, film makers, students and art historians met at the Interference Archive to kick around ideas. I wanted to contribute something but had a hard time getting my head around a message. In recent years, May Day protests in NYC have centered around the rights of immigrants. In the past, May Day has commemorated the Haymarket affair, demanded an eight-hour work day, celebrated the dignity of workers, protested globalization, and more recently, highlighted the precarious nature of a “flexible” workforce when the social safety net is ever more frayed. (See this interview with the studio bildweschel / image-shift to see some of their fantastic May Day posters on this.) But how to reconcile all this with the many messages of Occupy and a general strike?

Taking a cue from the Occupy movement itself, I decided to focus on form and process instead of a specific message, to depict the expression of power — not to mention getting out together on a bright spring day.

My initial idea was to script a crowd scene of characters generated from a random combination of heads, hats, bodies, etc. The result had a nice color space to it, but felt too simple and homogenous. It needed more variety, more edge, more life.

So what better way to draw a crowd, than invite a crowd to draw it?

I found a bit of javascript that lets the user draw on a web page then figured out how to post the drawing as an image file to the server. I intentionally made the radius of the pen good and thick so the drawings couldn’t be too precious and would have a consistent, low-rez look. I used the same tool to draw some of the type as well.

With the script in place, I commissioned my first few drawings via Mechanical Turk. Originally, I wanted to depict a crowd of protesting people, but nearly everyone turned in the same stick figure.

However, one early image looked a bit like the Android mascot. So I tried running with this. I asked instead for drawings of a robot holding up a placard… and received the most wonderful humanoid figures! This ended up shaping the message of the poster (and makes for a nice layered metaphor.) Response on Mechanical Turk was slow, so I posted the URL to my modest network of friends and family on Facebook and Twitter. I would love to do something with thousands of these some day, but time is short so I cut it off at 250 robots.

As much fun as this was for me, I heard from the contributing artists just how much fun it was for them — another nice surprise.

I’m thrilled with the results. Download a high resolution version color (2.5 Mb) or black and white (1.4 Mb) for poster printing, or just to see all the little robots up close.