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As the final step of their 12 Kinds of Kindness project, yesterday morning—Another Super Tuesday! The Ideas of March!—Timothy Goodman, Jessica Walsh and a host of helpers walled off Trump Tower in New York City. We asked Goodman and Walsh to tell us about the project.
Where/when did the idea take shape?Step 12 began last month when we decided to involve our graphic design students at the School of The Visual Arts. We gave our class an assignment to pick a global issue that deals with relevant topics—such as racial or gender inequalities, ethnic identity, gun violence, or Donald Trump—and to think about unique ideas to bring these topics to life using a larger platform that could stir up conversation. One student, Isabelle Griffioen, came up with the idea of building a brick wall around Chipotle as a response to Donald Trump’s divisive plan of building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border to keep out illegal immigrants. While we didn’t feel that was an appropriate solution, we did however feel it could be very strong to build a “wall” of signs around the Trump Tower that spelled out a positive and powerful message. Isabelle decided not to explore the idea we offered in class, but we felt passionate enough about the idea to explore and move forward with it ourselves. We want to thank her for inspiring this idea.
How hard was it to execute?It just took a lot of planning and figuring out. We had to go up there several times to scout the area. We had to make mockups and figure out the size of the front of the building, and what would be the best size to make the boards and figure out where everyone would stand. We had to buy the boards and print the letters. We made several flyers and postcards. Our lawyer helped us with getting documentation to uphold our First Amendment rights, and waivers for all the volunteers to sign. We had to find many volunteers and organize how we’d all get up there, rent a UHaul truck for the boards. It really was an undertaking from beginning to end.
What was the reaction of people on-site?It was amazing to see so many people respond so positively to it. Truck drivers and cabbies honking their horns, and countless people taking pictures and hanging out around the area. Many, many cops were up there making sure we didn’t do anything [out of line] (all the cops were very nice and lovely, actually!). Some Trump supporters got a bit confrontational, but nothing too big of a deal. It was awesome to see many people tagging it on Instagram at #buildkindnessnotwalls and at #12kindsofkindness.
How long were you able to keep the signs up?We were up there for three hours. We are going to do this a couple more times at Trump’s buildings in NYC, and we’re looking at doing it at one of his rallies potentially.
Postcard handout for the event
What do you feel design’s role is—or should be—in protest/politics?While we do feel graphic designers can have unique abilities to make statements and/or tell stories in ways that haven’t been done before, we don’t feel there should be some responsibility for this. Graphic designers can play a role in anything they like. That said, designers, like our good friend Lindsay Ballant, can write great pieces like this one. We’re personally interested in creating robust projects that sometimes uses our personal lives and our passions, and sometimes can be political. That’s what both 12 Kinds of Kindness and 40 Days of Dating are an example of.
How would you respond to critics who say this crosses the line for a graphic designer, or that designers should stay away from personal messaging, personal explorations, etc., in their work?We don’t really think of this as a graphic design project. These projects are trying to connect with people (designers and, really, non-designers) by using our tools as designers. This was a protest. 40DoD and 12KoK are social experiments, blogs, self-initiative projects, with the interest of self-discovery. By sharing what’s personal or important to you, you can sometimes connect, and we think sharing work and connecting to people is one the biggest joys for anyone who makes something. Despite any “success” that comes along with it, it’s the dialogue we start with so many people.
How does this tie back into your larger 12 Kinds of Kindness project and reflect everything you’ve built with it so far?Step 12 was about diving deep into what we’ve learned and to try to do something much larger than ourselves. Because the entire project has been about our relationship to ourselves and our relationship to the external world around us, we wanted to do something completely inclusive. We wanted to open up a platform about a relevant topic in order to hopefully start a dialogue.
How long did you spend planning the event?Weeks. We spent countless hours scouting, designing, planning this entire event along with the websites. We couldn’t have done any of it without the amazing people that helped us those couple weeks. Molly Brunk and Daniel Forero; our amazing web developer, Gisle Nes, who helped create the websites; and Eric Jacobsen for the Vote site: Kelly Silva, Lisa Chi, Alyssa Coscarelli, Ray Javden, Chloe Seroussi and Leah Schmidt. Fin
ally, the amazing volunteers who woke up super early to help hold these signs in front of Trump Tower for three hours.
Goodman in action. Photo: Ramon Trotman
What else did you create as an offshoot of this demonstration?Along with this kindness “wall,” we created a website full of interactive Donald Trump insults called Trumpsults! We also created a fun website where people can vote on what they’ll do if Trump wins, called If Trump Wins.