Design in Politics: Q & A with Jessica Walsh

The 2016 U.S. presidential campaign has been a doozy. No matter your political stance, we can all agree on that much. It’s expected that Monday night’s debate—the first between candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton—received some 100 million views, making it the most-watched presidential debate yet.

With such a large audience and so much at stake, candidates and their supporters have to get more innovative with their promotions. And the creative world seems to agree. Plenty of designers have stepped up this year to lend their favorite candidates a helping hand. Among them, design mega-firm Sagmeister & Walsh.

The team, with help from the creative minds of Timothy Goodman, Adam JK, HORT and more, has created the “Pins Won’t Save the World” project: a collection of 40 illustrated pins that “protest Trump, encourage people to vote for Hillary, and promote love, tolerance & kindness,” according to the press release.

Jessica Walsh on Design in Politics

We caught up with art director Jessica Walsh to learn more about the project and the importance of design in politics.

What role, if any, do you believe design plays in politics—especially in major elections?
Design is a communication tool [that] can elevate ideas and messages. Good design can make these messages spread faster and be more memorable. Overall, the role design plays in politics is small. That said, sometimes elections come down to a few votes, and anything we can all do collectively to use our voices might help. We feel that Donald Trump is completely unqualified and would be a disaster for our country, so we feel compelled to do whatever we can with the tools we have to try to encourage our likeminded liberal friends to remember to register and vote.

 

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How important are the designers themselves when it comes to politics? Should designers feel compelled to have a place in propagating the messages of their favorite political candidates?
No, I do not think designers should feel a duty to get involved in politics unless they want to. If designers do want to get involved, that’s wonderful. As designers we are in a unique position where we have the tools and talents to get our ideas, messages, and visuals into the world quickly and effectively. We personally felt strongly about using design to voice our beliefs during this election because we feel very strongly that Donald Trump is the most unqualified candidate in history, and that he would cause extreme disaster in our country (and the rest of the world) if he is elected.

 

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As we continue moving into a more visual age, design seems to be gaining popularity with the younger generations. What sort of influence do you think design can have on millennials’ involvement with politics and willingness to vote?
Through social media we all hold a power to move audiences. If we make a strong enough image or statement our work can spread to wide audiences through platforms like Instagram, just look at how Jean Jullien’s “Peace for Paris” image was spread around the world wide in a matter of hours.
Even though we made the illustrations into merchandise for people to buy and wear, we know that their use and life online is perhaps even more important than the physical pins. That’s why we created the @pinswontsavetheworld social media Instagram handle so that anyone could easily repost artwork to their own social channels and use the illustrations as a visual representation of their beliefs and/or as a conversation starter to be had with their followers.

 

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Should politicians start paying more attention to the visual aspects of their campaigns? Why/why not?
I think many politicians are paying attention. Hillary’s campaign design was very much considered, and of course the design of Obama’s campaign was well designed and strong. Trump’s logo is a disaster, but so is he, so I guess that’s just an accurate reflection.

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