December 2005


Mobil Oil

Parody of the old Mobil Oil logo seen along Silverlake Blvd in Los Angeles.

>  30 December 2005 | LINK | Filed in ,

The Hurricane Poster Project

Hurricane Poster ProjectI’m not big on “humanitarianism” as a political strategy, nor posters as limited edition collectibles, priced as luxury goods. But The Hurrican Poster Project hits a few good notes. From the site:

“The Hurricane Poster Project seeks limited edition sets of hurricane-related posters from high-profile and up-and-coming artists, designers, and firms from the United States and abroad. The donated posters will be sold online, and all profits will go directly to the Red Cross.”

As of this writing, the site shows 108 posters from around the U.S. and the world. As with any open call, the sophistication of the messages is checkered — but there are a few that do a good job. It’s also instructive to see the wide variety of approaches. And, despite the depoliticized context the campaign, several images do hold FEMA, Bush, and the media to account.

>  28 December 2005 | LINK | Filed in ,


City of LA - Made in Mexico

Manhole cover seen on the Venice Beach boardwalk.

Who’s the Illegal Alien, Pilgrim?

>  27 December 2005 | LINK | Filed in

SocialDesignZine Vol.UNO


Just in time for the new year is this massive collection of social design notes from the Associazione Italiana Progettazione per la Comunicazione Visiva, the Italian Association for the Design of Visual Communication.

SocialDesignZine Vol.UNO collects two years of posts from the blog SocialDesignZine.The book weighs in at 464 pages with over 1100 color images.

In my broken translation:

“The book is an immense anthology on topics of visual communication and the social responsibility of the designer. An appeal for us to think about the future, this collection is a small contribution to the formation of an Italian design community.

Introduced with essays by Steven Heller, Mario Piazza, and Oliviero Toscani, the text draws from a wide range of sources collection (text, Web, video) that deepen the arguments over time. Many pages include a sidebar of selected user comments from the site itself. Also of use is the immense analytical index that allows one travel over the pages again. Articles are cross-indexed on repeated themes through the book. The book costs 30 Euros online plus shipping.”

The book grabs a few items and images from my own site, though is more tightly focused on graphics. In fact, the introduction cites this site as an inspiration! It’s thrilling to see how far they’ve run with the idea. I can’t wait to see what happens in volume 2.


>  21 December 2005 | LINK | Filed in

Nothing Like the Sun

Solar Subway

On October 28, Wired ran this bit on NYC’s new solar powered subway station:

“On a sunny day, 60,000 square feet of integrated solar paneling on its roof can generate 210 kilowatts of power, enough to meet two-thirds of the station’s energy requirements. The solar energy doesn’t run the trains, but is expected to contribute approximately 250,000 solar kilowatt hours per year to the station’s other energy needs — primarily lighting and air conditioning in the station and its attached offices and retail stores....

In addition to the Stillwell station, photovoltaic, or PV, cells help power a bus terminal and rail yard in Queens, as well as the Whitehall Ferry Terminal at the southern tip of Manhattan.”

OK, pretty cool. (But are we subsidizing those retail stores? Or are they paying the MTA for the juice?)

And of note is this little factoid:

“Total renovation costs approached $300 million, though it’s not clear how much of that came from expenses related to the solar roof.”

OK, pricey, but these things stick around a while. And of course, there’s the MTA’s $1 billion dollar surplus this year.

But it all puts into further context the MTA’s last minute demand that pushed the union to strike.

From today’s NY Times we learn that in the final minutes before the midnight deadline for negotations, the MTA changed their “final offer”, and pushed a demand to cut the wages of new workers by 4 percent. The plan would have the union win current benefits at the expense of future members (a classic tactic of employers negotiating with unions) and save less than $20 million over three years:

“less over the next three years than what the New York City Police Department will spend on extra overtime during the first two days of the strike.”

>  20 December 2005 | LINK | Filed in , , ,

Where It’s At

On the west coast last month, I had a chance to visit the amazing folks of the Desgin Action Colletive in Oakland. Talking process and vision, something Innosanto Nagara said really stuck with me. It was something like:

“The challenge for progressives is not a lack of ideas. The models exist. The arguments exist.

But when you ask someone on the street if they want universal health care tomorrow, they say ‘Oh, that’s communism.’

The problem is a failure to communicate. And visual communications is a powerful tool that we need to learn to use better.

I strongly believe that on-the-ground organizing is where it’s at. And the communications work we do is to augment that.”

Now there’s a concise manifesto.

>  11 December 2005 | LINK | Filed in

Beware of the God

Like the U.S., Australia has a growing problem of fundamentalists in politics.

In response, graphic designer, artist, and activist Deborah Kelly has undertaken a large scale public art project in the streets (skies and train stations) of Sydney. From

“This site intends to be a resource of diverse material documenting, analyzing, and musing upon the impacts and aspirations of religious literalists in the public sphere. It is being produced in Australia, in 2005, so that is its first focus. However, you will also find here information, ideas and reportage from other places, because even though context is everything, a global phenomenon is also something.”

The project incorporates multiple media, including:

A 30 second film shown every ten minutes on 42 billboard screens in Sydney train stations, viewable in miniature here [Quicktime 874 Kb]

Projections onto clouds over Sydney Harbor:

Beware of the God, at the Opera

Distribution of 40,000 free postcard/stickers (you can mail or peel the front off and stick to your door.)

Beware of the God

And essays and analysis posted on the project Web site. On the site is an open call for further cultural and analytical material.

The effort is backed by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney as part of their biennial Contemporary Australian Art show, this year called Interesting Times.

Related projects from Kelly include a series of posters designed with Tina Fiveash satirizing the right wing regime of “compulsory heterosexuality”.


And a series of illustrated matchboxes satirizing the Christian right push in Australia to have muslim women and girls banned from wearing hijab “because they might be hiding bombs.” Kelly and friends made thousands of satirical matchboxes and left them lying around.

Indendiary Device

Kelly is also involved in a collective challenging the rhetoric of politicians calling refugees ‘boat people.’ See more at

Boat People

Though not aligned with a specific organizing campaign, I think such cultural work is important in the battle for hearts and minds.

>  3 December 2005 | LINK | Filed in , , , , ,

On to January.
Back to November.