Occupy! Design! Communication!

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Yesterday was amazing. Protests took place all over the country to mark the two month anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street protest. This also coincided with this week’s violent ouster of Occupy demonstrators around the country as city officials tried to systemically quiet their citizens. It was perfect fuel for the Occupy movement.

After trying to work AND watch theother99 report live on Ustream, I was lucky enough to duck out of work and join the march from Union Square to Foley Square near City Hall in New York City.

While the Occupy movement is being disregarded as unfocused and chaotic and newspapers choose to focus only on the violent events (and not the thousands of peaceful protesters that had a good time yesterday) it seems design (especially communication design) is starting to take on a big role. Strangely it’s not ALL facebook and twitter (though these are huge players in this game) but many other aspects of digital and non-digital communication are being invented or recycled.

Below are some of the design and communication aspects of the movement that I’ll be following closely. As the giant projections on New York City’s skyscrapers proclaimed last night, This is the Beginning of the Beginning. Much more to come!


From the generic “fist” on the occupy website, to the Guy Fawks mask that has been creeping people out for years of protests, the occupy movement has a huge history to draw from. But some of the most interesting symbols are being created now. Last night’s projections on the Verizon building solidified the phrase “MIC CHECK” into all of our heads. A beautiful, modern (if not a little 1990’s-Beastie-Boys-sounding) way to announce yourself as 30,000 people in solidarity. Unfortunately designers are missing the point, a logo is not needed and will not be created by a single person (no matter how great a designer they are), it will have to grow organically as the movement’s message does.


If you haven’t witnessed a Human microphone and the variety of signs and symbols that are used when protesters must hold large scale meetings but are denied rights to amplification (microphones, PA, whatever) you must. It’s a painful process and will make your next conference call seem like a day at the park, but it’s working and it’s necessary.


The Guardian currently has an interesting animation about what the American distribution of wealth really looks like, but its long, and well, I didn’t finish it, sorry. I know, its a complicated issue, but the message needs some designers, writers, economists to really start to make it easy.

The Library

One of the most interesting aspects of Zuccotti park (beyond the sleeping arrangements, group meals, and general atmosphere) was the library. A make shift library to help spread ideas, start conversation it was also a strong symbol as the park was forcibly cleared by police. Images of NYPD throwing away books are powerful fuel for the movement.


Jesse Reed reports on N+1’s Occupy newspaper who’s back cover has been recurring at all protests. Quickly made and expertly designed it stands out and free to download as a PDF.


The most ubiquitous part of any protest to be sure, but as the Smithsonian and New York Historical Socirty race to collect artifacts, its a wonder what signs and messages will live on. But just as beautiful as handmade and even professionally produced signs (see Michael Silverberg’s images of the latest Occupy Wall Street Journal) are the unions who bring their own. Last night the UAW had a big presence with their round sign and strong logo.

But while I want to follow all of these aspects, I love to see the word “Occupy” change meaning so suddenly. Last night at a local coffee shop, a handmade sign read “Occupy these two pumpkin muffins free! We made to many!”

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