William Drenttel | Projects


Poster design by Nicholas Rock, 2008

Would you like to own designersforobama.org? What would you do with it?

Last February, in the heat of the primary campaign, Winterhouse got (very) excited about Barack Obama's candidacy, and we asked what designers could do to help his campaign. We wondered whether there wasn't some opportunity for collective action, or for a specific initiative, or for a news source about the campaign focused on design issues, or maybe even a citizen journalism project. So we rushed out and bought this historic URL — designersforobama.org. (As fortune tellers, we're one-for-one: we also bought designersfordean.org in 2003. We let it expire if anyone wants it.)

We're not going to use this URL in this election cycle, and want to offer it to an individual or group who will do something powerful or influential or collaborative with it. We will entertain serious proposals, evaluating them on their potential. Ultimately, we will also evaluate the proposer's ability to realize that potential. Can they make the project real, actually accomplish something with this URL? Read on for more details.

Proposals should be succinct, clearly outlining the idea, who is involved, and how you'd implement the project. Proposals may be emailed directly to [email protected]. Or a short summary of a project idea may be posted on this site, but please keep them under 250 words (additional information can emailed to [email protected]).

Readers are also welcome to enter ideas as comments — perhaps another reader will take your idea on. Social networking is encouraged, and hopefully readers will be constructive. All ideas are welcome, but obviously we will only be able to give the URL to a real person with a real email address. Student proposals are encouraged: what about getting the tens of thousands of design students to vote for Obama? Winterhouse will make the sole decision: time is important, and we are prepared to move quickly. (If you have an idea but do not want to enter this process, designersforobama.net and designersforobama.us are also still available as URLs. Go for it!)

Note: comments on this post are limited to ideas or proposals, and discussion thereof. General discussions of politics, dispersions on Obama or this URL, etc., will be removed. Constructive comments required.

Posted in: Politics

Comments [19]

OK, I'll byte.

how much you want, wild bill?

on a related note, edel rodriguez is hosting a "politics 08" show at the society of illustrators next month: http://www.societyillustrators.org/uploads/popups/2444.pdf

I'm sure you'll see plenty of designers/ artists who are amped up for Obama. Personally I'm looking forward to seeing Barry Blitt and hearing him wax a bit on that NYer cover. If you're interested here is list of the artists: http://www.societyillustrators.org/uploads/popups/2486.pdf
felix sockwell

also for sale: http://www.artistsforobama.org/

when designers work on causes I think there is room for elevation/ demotion. plus "artists" widens the panoramic.
felix sockwell

We've received two thoughtful proposals today. Thank you. Keep them coming. We expect to make a decision by the end of the week.

We've also removed three comments as being irrelevant to this discussion.
William Drenttel

"We've also removed three comments as being irrelevant to this discussion."

This comment will probably also disappear, but that's okay.

As much as I love Design Observer, I have to say that "designersforobama.com" is one of the sillier URLs I have ever heard. The thought of loads of well-meaning Obama fluff being thrown around by us solipsistic self-gratifying designers is something I'd like to not think about. I think that the only thing worse than designersforobama.com would be something even more self-serving like artdirectorsforobama.com.

Surely it would be more useful to do something to get Obama elected - like maybe working to get people to the polls - than to just be a designer for obama.

The above response will likely be painfully accurate if what ultimately becomes designersforobama.org is geared toward any audience broader than designers. I tend to doubt the efficacy of standing together and talking politics behind the badge of "designer."

A better alternative: a site built around organizing designers to use design to an end. Instead of a blog by some designers who happen to support the senator's campaign, an effective site would recruit and organize, perhaps even just solicit, curate, and display. But perhaps that would go best with a slightly different URL. Designforobama.org?

This article on obama iconography was interesting (rare for such a shoddy publication). I am an Obama supporter and I tend to agree that the glut of Obama imagery seems more to be an expression of collective neurotic desperation rather than of "hope."

But...it's like George Carlin said "It's called the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it."
James M

Why so negative about designers for Obama? What could be wrong with a group declaring their preference? Why does one HAVE to go full tilt or not at all (regarding the commenter suggesting doing something more helpful like getting people to the polls). As a designer I have very little time to hand out fliers or drive people to their voting places. I don't have a problem whatsoever with plumbers for Obama, or engineers for Obama, even architects for Obama. Lighten up designers.

oh, why not just have a bake-off? happy to see what designersformccain.org and designersfornader.org would look like. i think anyone with objections really only has an issue with the political bent at DO. if they have issues with "designers" per se involved with supporting a candidate, then they truly misunderstand the power of forging an identity around a position based on vocation - ie teachersfor..., anthropologistsfor..., scientistsfor...

all the better to create this designersforobama edifice, for if there are detractors, let them counterpunch. it's (so far, anyway, more or less) a free country. hooray for rolling in the dirt with one another versus picking your nose up in that ivory tower.

i'll spearhead designersfornader.org - anyone want to join up? all 3.5 of you?
Gong Szeto

Wow. Those are interesting sites, but probably not the best representatives for Obama. I do like the bake-off idea. Maybe Carmen Electra could make something?

so when are you gonna be picking an idea? The election is rapidly approaching...

We are pleased to announce that we have found an exciting project worthy of this URL (and designforobama.org). Congratulations to Aaron Perry-Zucker and Adam Meyer, two students at RISD. This is their description of their project:

Design for Obama
Many artists including Sheppard Fairy have already proven that poster art is not a dead medium in the United States and have also shown how much of an impact a single poster can have. It is in this spirit Design for Obama (http://www.designersforobama.org) was created. With the goal of supporting Barack Obama’s campaign for presidency, Designers for Obama will bring web-powered grass roots campaigning to visual communicators. Think Threadless.com, but for political poster art. That is, members create posters and upload them to be judged by the community, of which anyone and everyone is a part. But instead of selling merchandise, the best posters will be mass-produced and distributed in cities across the country to be seen by millions. Designers for Obama will begin accepting poster submissions on September 4th and will hold four, two week contests in the two months before the election.

Designers for Obama was created when DesignObserver.com essentially asked the question “what can graphic designers do to support Barack Obama?” Our answer ended up extending the question to cover visual communicators at all levels. In addition to supporting Obama for America we were glad to be able to jump at the chance to be able to showcase poster art widely in America, a method of advertising that is virtually dead in the States but that is still widely popular in Europe. It is our hope that this project can help revive (if only a little) poster art as a means of visually communicating in urban areas and help elect Barack Obama while doing it.

Designers for Obama was created by Aaron Perry-Zucker (www.aaronperryzucker.com), a senior studying graphic design at the Rhode Island School of Design, and was built by Adam Meyer (www.adam-meyer.com), a senior studying industrial design at said school.
William Drenttel

To me, interactive short movies or presentations would be more useful than adding more pretty posters of Obama's handsome mug. Many people are on the fence about voting from Obama or voting at all. Creative videos (or) showing factual information in a creative manner can sway opinion. (Clearly so can a still image if done properly.) Documenting the failures like Katrina, the WMD's in Iraq, abuse of power, ect. would be a better way to go I think. Limiting these efforts to one candidate or election cycle is less effect than an on-going effort.

Thank you so much William for being given the chance to start such an enormous undertaking. We are in the process of publicizing and looking for support in certain areas and thought that this would be a good place to do a bit of the latter: we are seeking printers who are looking to become the next hero of the Obama campaign by printing our posters. If anyone is interested and willing please send an email to Design Observer or myself for more information. [email protected]
Aaron Perry-Zucker

Flaherty: I agree that interactive short movies or presentations can be more informative, but being solely informative is not always a designer's goal or purpose. We chose posters as a classic medium that our user's can make as informative or otherwise as they like and it will be up to the entire community to decide which poster will best impact the campaign. I agree that we don't necessarily need more posters of "Obama's mug" But believe that together we can assemble a body of work from which several posters can be selected that will do the campaign and the country good and will really be put design to good use.
Aaron Perry-Zucker

My greatest fear seems to be EXACTLY what is happening here. While the creator of this idea has a good little spiel, he doesn't have the backup in the form of printing. (As far as I know, Threadless actually produces t-shirts.)

I'm sure the site will be inundated with hundreds of brilliant poster designs which will -- when printed by, like, whoever -- change the minds of millions of voters, who will learn from the posters just how amazing Barack Obama is!

Go design! Yay! If you'll excuse me, I have to go pat myself on my back.

I'd have to say that Obama is getting the most design support of any candidate ever


That is exactly the kind of twaddle I'm talking about! Thanks to Mr Drenttel for throwing this link up in the Observed column. Check out the P.O.2 posters, and scroll jut past half-way to the "Liberal" poster. That is a perfect example of what happens when designers are left to make political statements.

Has Mr Perry-Zucker managed to secure printing for his posters? Or is it going to be digital posters, just like Offensive Poster? At least no trees will be killed.

I completely understand what you mean Designer (on 08.25.08 at 12:30) and appreciate the fine line that we are trying to walk. We are still searching for a printer and are, at the same time, looking for alternative methods of distribution (that are more environmentally friendly). The only problem with a non-print solution (online as an obvious alternative) is that it becomes much more difficult to escape the design community and deal directly with a larger audience. (If Design for Obama were to exist solely in and for the design community then it's power would be extremely limited as it would be little more than design porn.)

We're working hard on this and are open to any and all ideas. ([email protected])
Aaron Perry-Zucker

I love how designersforobama.org is looking! Really great! Congrats to all involved.

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