Ministry of Truth and Typography // Critical Poster Design

My project is self-initiated. My client is the unconscious viewer walking on the street, the inhabitant of the city, and the society being exposed to visual communication and posters in the urban landscape. They are participants in writing the content and being exposed to my work.

I offer an alternative for the viewer to see in comparison to the common poster that sells, invites or builds awareness. My goal is not to sell, invite to an event or build awareness of something but to mirror the news produced in the society back to the society. My work falls into the discipline of critical design.

I started to reproduce texts from the print media in Namibia in 2013 into typographic posters. What interests me in this process is how a poster, a piece of paper, can create a very emotional attack in a viewer, but also how people talk either about the design or the content. How many times do You see a viewer discussing a poster on the streets? Or are they a mere background of the urban landscape?

Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby say that critical design “provides a critique of the prevailing situation through designs that embody alternative social, cultural, technical and economic values”. (Dunne & Raby, 2001, 58)

I hand stamp the posters and sign them, like a proper ministry would. This poster states the following: “African Leaders Are Mute, Even as Their People Die at Sea” and the whole news text can be found at: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/29/world/africa/african-leaders-are-mute-even-as-their-people-die-at-sea.html?_r=0

All work of mine can be found at: http://ministryoftruthandtypography.blogspot.be

Discussion Ministry of Truth and Typography // Critical Poster Design

  • Michael Kaethler

    Beautiful graphic design. I am wondering what other forms of graphic dissent is present in Namibia? Is there a visual vernacular to protest moments in the country? And if so, have you thought of looking at using their aesthetics for building up new ’emotional attacks’ to the unaware pedestrian (diversifying your portfolio)?

    30.11.2015 — 18:14Yes(0)No(0)Reply

    • Pablo Calderón Salazar

      Michael, in my opinion, the approach you propose poses as much potential as it does risks. “Using their aesthetics” might make it easier to ‘fit in’, but it can also be perceived as a new way of [design] colonialism.

      01.12.2015 — 13:08Yes(0)No(0)Reply

      • Niina Turtola

        Hi Pablo, Michael poses a very intriguing question here. I do not want to ‘fit in’ BUT I might use this as a method of intervention. Of course we can problematize who is ‘them’ and why would it be perceived as a new way of ‘colonialism’. Is there a difference in if I used the local vernacular in Namibia of eg. in Belgium? Of course, I do not live in Belgium and I am an outsider there, whereas in Namibia I am domicile. Design should not be affected, in my opinion, by the history of colonialism. Design and art can exist to question in each country. Cultural sensitivity which might even take a role of nationalism should be separated from theory of design and arts.

        02.12.2015 — 13:19Yes(0)No(0)Reply

        • Pablo Calderón Salazar

          There are some super interesting points in what you say Niina:

          “Is there a difference in if I used the local vernacular in Namibia of eg. in Belgium? Of course, I do not live in Belgium and I am an outsider there, whereas in Namibia I am domicile”. I live in Belgium, but I consider I am far from being an ‘insider’. Certainly I am neither a complete outsider, but perhaps an in-between position? How can we use this in our advantage?

          “Design should not be affected, in my opinion, by the history of colonialism”. How about if design should (positively) affect colonialism? But, to not get out of focus, a clearing: when I mean a type of “design colonialism” I don’t refer to “colonialism” as a historical and anthropological term applied to design, but as a characteristic of certain design practices to ‘colonize’ others (in this case, vernacular practices). [See page 3 of the first booklet of my Master thesis: https://www.academia.edu/12880280/It_is_what_it_is_The_Other_Market%5D

          “Design and art can exist to question in each country. Cultural sensitivity, which might even take a role of nationalism, should be separated from theory of design and arts”. Now should it? Wouldn’t we be then decontextualizing design? I rather think we need to have a wide awareness of these ‘cultural sensitivities’ and why do they exist so, if you are challenging them, at least you don’t seem capricious.

          Food for thought!

          02.12.2015 — 14:20Yes(0)No(0)Reply

    • Niina Turtola

      Thanks Michael for the interesting questions. There is more and more street arts (graffiti, stencil and such) that comment eg. the elitist way of life here, but in the field of graphic design specifically it is mostly in the category of affirmative design (design to produce income) and critical aspects are not visible. — The local visual vernacular is not questioning by nature. — At the moment I need to find the ‘next phase’ for my production and I have thought of using the local visual language i see here in posters, but it might be impossible for me to actually produce this type of designs, as it is very computer, hi-tech and hifi oriented and does not have the aesthetics i would generally see as interesting or intriguing. — I set some rules for my work in 2013 which include low-key methods in the middle of photoshopped reality created by most. It would be very interesting however. I might test to create a critical content poster that looks like the majority of the posters here. — Results might be shockingly interesting. ; )

      02.12.2015 — 13:05Yes(0)No(0)Reply

    • Niina Turtola

      Graffiti. Very interesting visually and clearly a hot topic for the artist. I have photographed them and I might consider this approach at some point. At the moment I am not producing new posters as I have to write about what I have done so far. ; )

      14.01.2016 — 08:48Yes(0)No(0)Reply

  • Niina Turtola

    Martens had a goal in working around the issues of poverty, my work is artistically oriented and critical towards poster production and born from personal everyday life in Namibia, but I also make posters eg. in Finland.

    What is interesting is the question: Can one speak about art and design linked to African context without reference to colonialism (any kind of such)?

    03.12.2015 — 09:04Yes(0)No(0)Reply

    • Pablo Calderón Salazar

      That is indeed a very interesting question Nina. But I think the answer is a blunt “YES, one can”. Then, in my opinion, the more interesting questions would be, “should one?”.

      About Renzo Martens, and him having a goal in working with the issues of poverty, I completely disagree, as he is an artists and frames his projects as such. Indeed it has a different focus, but not in it’s (artistic) approach.

      04.12.2015 — 11:37Yes(0)No(0)Reply

      • Niina Turtola

        In my practice, I actually wish to talk more about design and their production than post-colonialism, colonialism, and I am challenging the fact that when it comes to Africa (sub-Saharan Africa, Namibia) design colonialism and just colonialism (for the non-designers) are the first topics of discussion. Through my work I focus on the production of everyday life and status-quo, but in the same vain, my work is artistic and critical design, not social design. — About Martens. “He starts an emancipatory campaign to help them profit from it,” this is a copied text from your MA work. If he frames it as art but deals as an actor with the people to help them profit, is it not working directly with the goal of influencing the status of poverty. I have not seen the movie. I am only thinking in writing.

        04.12.2015 — 13:16Yes(0)No(0)Reply