Prison Press

The Angolite is a bi-monthly newmagzine written, edited, designed and printed by inmates at the Louisiana State Penitentiary. Since 1976, the publication has been “free to publish whatever content it wants.” Former death-row inmate and Angolite editor Wilbert Rideau also co-directed The Farm which was nominated for an Academy Award. The Angolite is a seven-time finalist for National Magazine Award and has received numerous awards including the George Polk Award for special interest reporting, the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, and the American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel Award.

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The Guerrilla Girls

“The Guerrilla Girls, established in 1985 and still going strong in the 21st century, are a group of women artists, writers, performers and film makers who fight discrimination. Dubbing ourselves the conscience of culture, we declare ourselves feminist counterparts to the mostly male tradition of anonymous do-gooders like Robin Hood, Batman, and the Lone Ranger. We wear gorilla masks to focus on the issues rather than our personalities. We use humor to convey information, provoke discussion, and show that feminists can be funny. In 17 years we have produced over 80 posters, printed projects, and actions that expose sexism and racism in politics, the art world and the culture at large. Our work has been passed around the world by kindred spirits who we are proud to have as supporters. The mystery surrounding our identities has attracted attention. We could be anyone; we are everywhere.”

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The New Typography

Jan Tsichold’s Die neue Typographie appeared in Weimar Berlin in 1928. An English translation was published in 1995. The book, one of the founding documents of Modern design in the Machine Age, caused an uproar in the world of design. Starting first with some historical context, Tsichold describes the principles of the new typography as a revolutionary movement towards clarity and readability; a rejection of superfluous decoration; and an insistence on the primacy of functionality in design. A critque of its populist rhetoric in the journal of the bauhaus challenged him “to address not just the visual appearance of advertising but the very existence of such advertising.”

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Adbusters’ Rhetoric of Revolution

“Last week on Nov 27th [1998], our university campus saw the staging of a campaign for ‘Buy Nothing Day’, a campaign sponsored by Adbusters, a publication of the Media Foundation. For many on the left, the Media Foundation, it’s quarterly publication Adbusters, and it’s campaigns around ‘International Buy Nothing Day’ and ‘TV Turnoff Week’ are basically where it’s at in terms of resistance to the corporate takeover of our society. Indeed, the last several years have seen great improvements in terms of the slickness, circulation and political currency of Adbusters magazine and the promotion of its ‘new’ ideology of ‘anti-consumerism’.... Despite adapting revolutionary rhetoric and repackaging glossy pictures of Indonesian student protests, the liberal politics of Adbusters have come shining through as exemplified by their near total contempt of the power of ordinary people create revolutionary change. There are three main parts to the analysis that has led Adbusters to this political dead end: their privileging of resistance in the individual act of consumption over the collective organization of production, their view of revolution as consisting of a purely subjective and highly individualized ‘mindshift’, and their insistence that the ‘revolution’ will be made on behalf of the masses by a small group of ‘culture jammers’.”

Read the rest, from Tom Keefer.

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Design for our Future Selves

“The Helen Hamlyn Research Centre explores the implications of social change. Its focus is ‘design for our future selves’ — using design to improve quality of life for people of all ages and abilities. It has four core social change themes: ageing populations, changing patterns of work, mobility for all, innovation in care and rehabilitation. The Centre collaborates with the staff and students of the Royal College of Art and with a range of external commercial, academic, government and charitable partners.”

Research projects cover graphic, package, industrial, architectural, transportation, and urban design.

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Transiciónes is both a spinal clinic and an “Independent Living Center” operated by and for disabled Guatemalans. In addition to medical care, the center provides vocational and educational training at a small graphic arts, desktop publishing, and printing business, as well as a computer and office equipment repair and maintenance business. The print shop produces notebooks, bound hard cover books, business cards, brochures, posters, and other jobs both large and small. The also runs a small center for manufacturing and refurbishing wheelchairs. The costs for living at the center are offset by the work of the residents, who also earn a small salary. And, in 2001, Transiciónes’ wheelchair basketball team represented Guatemala at the Central American Games. See the articles at Disability World and the Global Development Center site.

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World Studio Foundation

The World Studio Foundation runs a scholarship program for minority and economically disadvantaged students studying art and design in U.S. colleges and universities, a mentoring program for high-school students, and produces an annual magazine and quarterly newsletter to “stimulate, coalesce and channel social activism in the design and fine arts industries; to encourage discussion of the fields’ ethical assumptions; to promote professional practices sensitive to ecological and humane issues.”

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First Things, Again

In 1964, a group of London designers published a a manifesto, a challenge to designers involved to apply their skills to worthwhile purposes. In 2000, “First Things First” was updated and published in 7 design magazines. It provoked a bit of debate.

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Vote Redesign

Ballot design changes everything. How much was lost because of a bad interface? Since the 2000 election, the American Institute of Graphic Artists has lobbied Chicago on the redesign of a local ballot, and the U.S. Government to include communication design criteria in any election reform bill. See also Disenfranchised by Design, an essay written in 1998.

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Design for Literacy

“Dr. Juan Baughn, who oversees the [school] system for Edison [Schools Inc.], noted in a recent interview that some of his high school students were four to six years below grade level in reading....Those who were given books that appeared to be designed for grade school children were too embarrassed to use them effectively. Edison is now scrambling to find what Dr. Baughn describes as ‘age appropriate’ books that are written on a lower grade level but designed to be indistinguishable from books written for students who read well.”

From The New York Times.

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