Can Design Fuel a revolution?

February 03, 2017
Author - Che Stipanovich


The messaging for a movement is everything. Without the ability to easily convey an objective and recruit supporters, it’s easy to imagine a revolution withering on the vine, having never had the opportunity to produce fruit.

In our modern world, where messaging (or at least the ability to communicate one’s message) is as simple as pressing send, it seems counterintuitive that the simplest of symbols can still inspire with greater impact than the most carefully constructed stump-speech.

Armchair wordsmiths (and the President of a certain global superpower) may fiddle laboriously to draft the most Gettysburgian of addresses in 140 characters or less, but a sustained political or ideological movement has always required more than flaccidly written opposition on a social media platform. In the the B.Z. world (Before Zuckerberg), revolution or moments of real resistance needed a rallying point, a call to action, and sometimes to arms. That call was made and translated through imagery and iconography that could be understood across socio-economic, religious, language, and geographic barriers.

Revolutionaries, rebels, and agitators have known the power that design can have on a movement. Symbols, color, balance, and image can be combined to fuel the fires of propaganda and instill fear into a public; so much in fact that the banners from the darkest moments in our history are forever stamped into the psyche of the human experience, a photo-negative burn, never to be reused or repurposed again. Other visual beacons are designed to inspire and unite, stealing meaning from the continuing struggle of the people who will carry the flag in the face of oppression and overwhelming opposition.

In the digital-age, design is perhaps more important than ever, as a new need for strong visual messaging is required to cut through all the static and relentless chatter out there in our post-factual world.

The revolution may not be televised but it sure as hell better be “on-brand.”


1. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia
2. Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
3. Black Lives Matter
4. Palestine Liberation Organization
5. Bernie Sanders Presidential Campaign, 2016
6. First Flag of United States of America
7. Occupy Wall Street
8. National Farm Workers Association
9. Act-Up
10. Unification or Death (Black Hand) Serbia, 1911
11. Arditi del Puopolo, Italian Militant Anti-Fascist Group, 1921
12. Black Panther Party
13. La Résistance
14. Women’s March on Washington
15. Join or Die (political cartoon) Benjamin Franklin, 1754
16. A.I.M. American Indian Movement
17. Anonymous
18. Shinning Path (Communist Party of Peru) 1980
17. Bernie Sanders Presidential Campaign, 2016
19. Smiling Sun – Anti-Nuclear Movement
20. Irish Republican Army
21. Barack Obama Presidential Campaign, 2008
22. Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, Sri Lanka, 1976