Posted Friday 12 May 2017
East Londoners were treated to a different kind of advertising on their way to work recently, with graphic design students plastering the walls of Shoreditch with a series of posters that published the entire text of US historian Timothy Snyder's new book, On Tyranny.
In what is believed to be a first for the publishing industry, Kingston University students worked with the Vintage design team, part of publishers Penguin Random House, to bring each chapter of the book to life and displayed them in a sequence of large-scale posters along Leonard Street. The poster installation, which took inspiration from 1930s-era propaganda tools, captured the author's lessons on how to resist tyranny with striking graphics and major political undertones themed in black, white and red.
Students worked alongside Vintage to create the artworks under the guidance of graphic design course leader, associate professor Rose Gridneff. "They responded to the brief really well – it's such a political book and our students are very passionate and politically driven so it resonated with them," she said. "It was also a great opportunity for them to see their work in print and in public."
Ms Gridneff was particularly impressed with the students as they were given just one week to design and complete the posters. "Working on a design project with such tight constraints sounds challenging but it actually allowed the students more freedom, as they knew exactly what their perimeters were," she added.
The publication of the entire book on posters was described by Vintage as ‘a provocation and a rallying call', with each chapter designed by different students in order to give every poster its own visual character.
The final year BA(Hons) Graphic Design students used the project as an opportunity to engage the public with politics through design – a cause that resonated with second year student Charlie Jeffries soon after the Westminster terror attacks that shook the heart of London in March.
"The book highlights some of the bigger legislative issues facing us nowadays and draws such serious and true comparisons between past and present political affairs," he said. "Having the opportunity to create a piece of design accompanying something of such great weight was a huge honour for us."
Charlie's classmate Millie Tyler said the project highlighted how design could help people respond to issues in society. "The quote from the last chapter of On Tyranny tells us to be as courageous as we can – I think it's a significant one to reflect on," she explained. "We really felt the message throughout the process of designing these posters. It is always important to make noise, to start conversations and to have a voice."
With the eye-catching posters attracting widespread media attention in the United Kingdom from publications including The Guardian and It's Nice That, Vintage is now looking to replicate the project in the United States to promote Mr Snyder's book, which launched a month earlier in the United States.
Creative director at Vintage Suzanne Dean, herself a graduate from Kingston University's graphic design programme, led the project with her team and said the students gained a lot from the experience. "We really enjoyed seeing the students bring their ideas to fruition and to see their excitement when the posters went up," she said. "It's an important book for our time and they were able to identify and connect with the political nature of the subject matter."