Seven years ago, in my final year at university on my Illustration BA (Hons) degree, I put the finishing touches on a distinctly average dissertation. Back then I believed it would change the world. Studying at that time, we still had full freedom when choosing our topic to study. I picked graphic activism. I was one of thousands of kids who got really excited by Bristol based street-artist Banksy’s work. The clever, political nature of the pieces excited me, as did his anonymity. I was intrigued by the idea that sitting on your arse, drawing or designing an image could be far more effective than potting a window or marching with a banner.
Once I delved a little deeper under the surface, I discovered a wealth of projects, campaigns and assorted activity that questioned and challenged things. People used images and songs to educate and inspire and I was all over it with my weak essay and my weaker sketches. Thankfully I’d get a little better on both fronts and perhaps my biggest driving force in my career is creating things with a purpose beyond just looking good. I discovered Ken Garland and his 1964 ‘First Things First’ Manifesto in which Garland and a host of other prominent designers called for a better use of design talent and excess wealth. All of this was certainly the catalyst in me heading the Xpress campaign on behalf of CALM.
In today’s society, everyone has something to say and we’re saturated in information. Social media and the internet ensure that people filter out so much because there’s only so much a human can process. Inevitably, much of it goes unnoticed or ignored, no matter how relevant or important. So images and video become the key language more so than ever before. Religion, the economy, sexuality, privacy, politics are just a few of the topics turned over on a daily basis. (Danny Allison’s ‘Religion Is Dangerous above).
Last month I met Ken Garland, now in his early eighties. We talked for a long time and despite our fifty-plus year age gap, we shared many of the same ideals, opinions and desire to use words and pictures to address the things we care about. So we’ll be bringing you that exclusive feature and interview with Ken in the build up to Xpress: The Album’s release date. In the meantime, enjoy the selection of images with a statement to make.
(Lead Image by photographer George Osodi)