2014: Building Websites, Building Our Office, Building Movements


2014 was a year of growth for Design Action Collective. We continued to develop our skills and services, we moved into a new space we constructed ourselves, and deepened our connections with other media makers and social justice organizations.

47 New Websites

We are proud to have collaborated with well over 40 organizations to design and build complex and beautiful websites to serve movement needs. We expanded our capacity to design responsive sites for mobile devices, improved our ability to scale sites to meet needs of high traffic sites, and developed new skills for developing interactive maps and content filtering systems.


This fall Design Action Collective designed and built FergusonOctober.com to serve as an online organizing hub for a weekend of resistanace demanding justice for Mike Brown, a Black youth who was shot and killed by a white police officer. The killing and subsequent lack of respect for Black life shown by the overwhelmingly white police department, sparked protests nationwide demanding the arrest of the officer.

Seeing the importance of this historic moment, Design Action Collective deployed our team and donated a website for the #FergusonOctober mass mobilization, where thousands of people traveled to Ferguson and St Louis for a series of marches, mass meetings, and more than a dozen civil disobedience actions. The website served as an organizing platform and clearing-house of information for the actions and received hundreds of thousands of visits over the course of the month.

Following the highly successful #FergusonOctober we worked with organizers on the ground to transition the website from FergusonOctober.com to FergusonAction.com in order for the site to become a hub for actions nationally focused around police violence and the growing #BlackLivesMatter movement.

Since October the website has served as a vital tool in coordinating this national struggle. Design Action Collective is proud to have been able to throw down in support of this amazing growing movement and donate our services to the cause.

A New Hand Crafted Office

Design Action Collective members spent nights and weekends laying floors and building walls creating our new office space.

We transformed an unfinished basement-like space into a bright, open office with meeting rooms and a giant white-board wall.

Because we did all the work ourselves, we were able to customize the space perfectly for our needs (including the occasional dance party).

Deepening Our Movement Connections

Our new office is not only a place where we design posters and build websites. We are making this space available for organizations to use for organizational retreats, strategic planning meetings, and mailing parties. In 2014, our meeting rooms were used by many organizations, including Justice Now, SFWAR, the Ruckus Society, LeftRoots, and many more. We also hosted workshops for local high school students about political poster design.

Out and About and in the Media

This year, you may have met some Design Action Collective members presenting at the Allied Media Conference in Detroit, the Money for Our Movements conference in Baltimore, or the U.S. Federation of Worker Coops Conference in Chicago. You also may have heard us on the Writing to Make a Difference webinar, seen us on Al Jazeera’s AJ+, or read our article in the Grassroots Fundraising Journal

Sabiha represents Design Action Collective on Al Jazeera

Sabiha represents Design Action Collective on Al Jazeera

Donating Services to the Movement

This year we were able support a number of important movement initiatives — such as the #BlackLivesMatter movement, the Our Power Campaign climate justice mobilizations in Richmond and New York, the Block the Boat actions for justice in Palestine, and the fight against water shutoffs in Detroit — through donating design work.


Rebel Legacy

Design Action’s work was also featured in the show Rebel Legacy: Activist Art from South Asian California. The show connects the century-long history of South Asian American activism with contemporary social movements, linking local and global struggles for equity and social justice.

Worker Cooperatives on the Rise

We have been glad to see growing support for worker coops in Oakland in the face of the so called “sharing economy.” As a worker coop, we promote a solidarity economy.

Design Action Collective member Sabiha Basrai was interviewed for an article in Oakland Local on worker coops.

In November, as people came to Oakland for the Nonprofit Developers Summit, members from tech and media worker-owned cooperatives from around the country — including Electric Embers, Radical Designs, Open Flows, Palante, Glocal, and Mirabot — gathered at the Design Action Collective office for a day of discussion around strategies for democratic management and supporting progressive movements.


Tech Coop day at Design Action’s office

Design Action Collective also joined other small businesses in Oakland to endorse Measure FF which successfully raised the minimum wage in our city.


Design Action endorses Measure FF to raise the minimum wage.

It was a big year for A is for Activist

Collective member Innosanto Nagara’s children’s book is currently in its 8th printing, and still topping the children’s book best sellers list. A de Activista, the Spanish adaptation came out, written by the great Martha Gonzalez (from the grammy award winning band Quetzal). The book is now also in Swedish, under the title A som i Aktivist. Tom Morello, of Rage Against the Machine, was kind enough to record a reading of the book, and it’s awesome!  And we’ll let you in on a secret: a follow-up book is coming next Fall!

Staff transitions

We welcomed Kwesi Ferebee to Design Action this year. Kwesi studied fine art at Howard University in Washington, DC and graphic design at Savannah College of Art & Design in Atlanta, GA. While in Atlanta, he freelanced as a designer for different progressive and queer organizations. He is committed to the social justice movement and is passionate about Black Liberation, trans rights, as well as food and environmental justice. Kwesi is also a painter and mixed-media artist and uses his art to invite people into the practice of “loving blackness”.

We were sad to say goodbye to Daniel Owens as he headed to Pittsburgh this year, although Daniel remains working for Design Action Collective from afar. Ria has also moved from the print department into the web department to contribute her excellent web development skills.

Posted in Case Studies, Events & Updates, News, News

Ferguson October

Design Action Collective is proud to have been able to support organizers on the ground in Ferguson and St Louis, Missouri in their work to demand justice for Mike Brown, a Black youth who was shot and killed by Darren Wilson, a white police officer, on August 9th. The killing and subsequent lack of respect for Black life shown by the overwhelmingly white police department, sparked protests nationwide demanding the arrest of Darren Wilson.

Understanding the importance of this historic moment, Design Action Collective deployed our team and donated a website for the #FergusonOctober mass mobilization, where thousands of people traveled to Ferguson and St Louis for a series of marches, mass meetings, and more then a dozen civil disobedience actions. The website served as an organizing platform and a clearing-house of information for the actions and received hundreds of thousands of visits over the course of the month.

Now that #FergusonOctober has come to a close, stay tuned for developments in the case over the coming weeks, as the verdict of a highly controversial grand jury will be announced indicating whether or not officer Darren Wilson will be criminally charged for the killing of Mike Brown.



Posted in Case Studies, Events & Updates, News, News

The 2014 Elections

This fall Design Action Collective supported a number of electoral campaigns in Oakland and San Francisco. Measure FF in Oakland would lift up the minimum wage to $12.25/hr. Prop G in San Francisco would reign in real-estate speculators from evicting people and driving up rental units. And Prop J in SF would increase the minimum wage to $15/hr.

During this election season we did design work for the Yes on G campaign as well as building the website for Families for an Affordable SF, an independent expenditure campaign of labor and community organizations who are campaigning for props G and J, as well as for David Campos for State Assembly.

For more information on the elections in the Bay Area check out SF Rising Action and Oakland Rising Action, two progressive electoral alliances working to build political power in working class communities of color.


Posted in Case Studies, Events & Updates, News, News

Rebal Legacy: Activist Art from South Asian California, October 2014–March 2015

Rebel Legacy artists. Photo by Mido Lee.

The San Francisco Bay Area has long been distinguished as a center of important radical organizing and art by communities of color. Kearny Street Workshop itself is the product of Asian Pacific American activists and artists coming together during the infamous San Francisco I-Hotel evictions of the 1970s.

South Asian Americans have been organizing across California for over a century, from the Ghadar Party, the West Coast Indian American anticolonial movement founded in 1913, and continuing through the post-9/11 period. Each wave of organizers has created art reflecting their movements, using a variety of media, including paintings, woodcuts, music, theater, and performance art.

In August 2013, the Berkeley South Asian Radical History Walking Tour curated Our Name is Rebel: Images of Berkeley’s South Asian Legacy, featuring art inspired by the stories told on the walking tour. Kearny Street Workshop is delighted to partner with the curators to bring the show to Oakland, expanding the scope to encompass contemporary work that builds on historical themes.

Rebel Legacy: Activist Art from South Asian California connects the century-long history of South Asian American activism with contemporary social movements, linking local and global struggles for equity and social justice. In their work, the seven featured California artists address themes of historical memory, cross-racial solidarities, feminist and LGBTQ organizing, anti-caste struggles, colorism, Islamophobia, and the U.S. war machine. Many of the pieces build on South Asian art styles, reflecting our communities’ hybrid and immigrant identities. Living in an age of unrestrained neoliberalism, post-racial delusions, climate change misinformation, and incessant surveillance and fear-mongering, it is of paramount importance to be clear — a century on, the struggle continues.

Amman Desai
Khushboo Gulati
Poonam Whabi
Tanzila “Taz” Ahmed
Nisha Sembi
Nick Singh Randhawa
Design Action Collective

October 17, 2014-March 7, 2015
Gallery Hours: Mondays-Fridays, 9AM-5PM
Asian Resource Gallery
310 8th, btn. Webster & Harrison, Oakland

Curatorial Statement & Artist Bios: http://bit.ly/1DdOnYN

PANEL DISCUSSION Saturday, March 7, 2015, 3-5PM

Curators: Barnali Ghosh & Alex Wang

Special Thanks: Anirvan Chatterjee & Design Action Collective

Talk to us at #RebelLegacy

Presented by Kearny Street Workshop, Berkeley South Asian Radical History Walking Tour & East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation*

All photos by Mido Lee.

Ghadar movement

Audience at opening night.

Design Action posters on display at Rebel Legacy.

Posted in Events & Updates, News, News

Brandi Martell’s Story

Brandi Martell’s Story, A Case Study of Design and Accountability

brandi-story.002Photo by Tiffany Woods.

Brandi Martell, a 37 years old transgender woman was gunned down and killed a few blocks from our office in Oakland in April 2012.

Brandi worked as a peer counselor at the Tri-City Health Center’s TransVision program, a local direct service and advocacy organization for transgender/transsexual women. She mentored transgender youth and tragically, also helped organize Transgender Day of Remembrance, to honor transgender slaying victims.

DA founder and designer, Inno, had been following websites around trans* issues. Because of the sheer closeness of this tragedy, he felt compelled to design a poster to not only commemorate Brandi, but that could also be useful for action around transgender violence.

He wanted to create something that not only had meaning for the community, but could be useful for advocacy, action or education.

Design Action has a philosophy and approach to how we try to stay accountable to a community which we offer support to. We think of it as activism versus our own self-expression.

Here is the process which we undertake when offering designs to support a community:

  • Discovery – We make contact with the organization to get more of the story, find out who is affected, and see if there is organizing taking place. If it doesn’t feel like the right fit, then we look for other places that can fully utilize a design.
  • Art – What visual elements symbolize the person, the issue, or the emotion? How do they resonate with the audience?
  • Copy – What is the call? Is there more information that needs to be on the poster? What is the shelf life of the message?
  • Usage and Distribution - How will it get disseminated? How will this get produced?
  • Impact – Try to assess the effectiveness of the poster and document the uses.


Inno got in touch with Tiffany Woods who took the photo of Brandi circulating in the media, and who is Brandi’s former supervisor at Transvision.

He asked if they would have use for a poster if we created one. We want to make sure our work is useful and can be used for advocacy.

If he had just made a poster design and given it to them without being in consultation with the folks on the ground,  then there’s the chance that the messaging or image wouldn’t be as meaningful.

We have a responsibility to the community we are designing about, especially when working with invisible or misrepresented communities. Therefore it’s good practice to be in consultation with the people who are on the ground and experiencing these issues every day.


Inno started with the original photo and traced/illustrated it. He chose glittery/celestial patterns for texture and butterflies as a symbol for transformation. But it was important he asked Tiffany if it was appropriate, so as not to stereotype trans-women’s identities. Her friends did ask him to include Hello Kitty, which was a symbol that Tiffany was into.


Tiffany provided the copy to be used on the poster.

There was a discussion if there was a call to action, and deliberated about using the headline “Investigate Now” around her murder. Ultimately that was discarded for “Say No to Hate,” so that the poster would have a longer and more wide-spread “shelf-life” and become a rallying call across all trans* communities against violence.

Usage and Distribution

Inkworks Press, our sister shop and movement servicing press, donated the printing of the posters.There was a plan to be able to distribute the posters at the vigils, memorial, the Trans* March, and even at international events, like the World AIDS conference.





The beautiful image of Brandi has been repurposed for the invitation to her memorial. Since then, the community has used the poster as a tool to spread awareness of her murder and as a call against hate violence.


Posted in Case Studies

Money For Our Movements Designing for the Left Session

noborder_mfom14_designactionDownload DesignAction_MFOM_Presentation from Money for Our Movements 2014, presented on August 2 in Baltimore, MD.

Here are some points made during the session about designing your Fundraising Communications

Design is not just a pretty picture and a nice font. Often good design is not even seen. Design is also the structure that communicates information that keeps people engaged and wanting to know more. It leads them to taking a certain kind of action.

Good design is functional. It takes the user or reader on a path, so their experience is accessible and enjoyable.

Design is the foundation, like a house you don’t see the frame. But whether it’s a website, or a report, the content and the pretty things rest on that foundation, like the paint and the embellishments.

Always remind your audience – ie. your donors – what you do and why it’s important. Show the stories, so donors know that their donation is being put to good work, that their donation has made a difference, and how.

Use good compelling photos ideally of your membership in action, or the clientele of your agency (not a bunch of people sitting around a meeting table talking). The photos don’t have to be literal, they should be compelling, and depict the mood you are creating, and the success of your work.

Remember white space: not only does your text need room to breathe, but it allows for balance on the page. And most importantly it allows for legibility, for the eye to rest. Even if you have background images and textures, or design elements on the page, “white space” is about leaving space around your text and images so they are not all crammed together. Margins are important!

Typography — choice font usage to enhance legibility and usability. Part of the design itself, such as in headlines, pullquotes, or the word mark and tagline of a logo.

When thinking of what graphics to use, keep in mind your audience and create the tone and message of the design appropriate for that audience. It is possible to do this for donors and for your members, and keep the essence of who you are.

Distribution — where will this communication piece be seen? As a sharable online graphic? As a report which is printed? Design according to the medium, ie. few words and bold typography for a sharable graphic and uncluttered design. A report? then you can place more content.

If you have dense text then break it up with pullquotes, photos and captions so the reader can skim the report and still get the message. In this case, keep your margins wide and airy, and space between the lines (known as Leading).

High resolution vs. low resolution — if you are printing then you always need to use high resolution photos. So a 6” x 4” photo at 300 dpi  (dots per inch) = 1800px x 1200px. So size accordingly. If you get an image off the web, then make sure it’s under Creative Commons licensing and you can get a high rez image. You can use an online photo sizer tool called

Vector vs. Raster or Bitmap — a Vector image is a shape made up of a path using an illustration program. It can be expanded without losing information, so therefore it is the highest quality file you can have. A logo should always have a vector version. Rasterized or Bitmap images are made up of a grid of pixels and will lose information as you enlarge the image. These images are usually photographic or images that have been converted in a photo design and editing program.

Logos — read our book, Know Logo. Use your logo to expand a consistent visual identity across your communications pieces for recognition of your organization.

Online presence

Questions came up in the section of the workshop on analytics about how to track information about your organization’s online presence that are not associated with your website, like facebook and twitter.

There’s a great resource from Aspiration Tech about how to set up listening boards and listen for mentions of your organization on social media and elsewhere online. Check out their online seminar and other resources!

While you are there you can also check out their enewsletters for fundraiser webinar as well! Thanks Aspiration, we know you’re listening!

Tips for working with designers to keep costs down and process streamlined.

We also participated in the Visual Communications Tools and Tips session. A lot of great information was shared. Check out the slide deck from the presentation.

Posted in Case Studies

You are invited to our Office Warming Party!

Come join us August 29th from 5-8 PM to see our new digs, check out the hip wood-paneled wall, partake in snacks and libations, and chill out with us and each other!

RSVP here! Continue reading »

Posted in Events & Updates, News, News

On the Road to Detroit – Allied Media Conference 2014

We are excited to be heading to the AMC again this year, as well as being a co-sponsor of this year’s conference! This year Design Action members, Sabiha, Andrea, Sarah, Ivy and Nadia are presenting and participating in numerous workshops.

Come meet us here:
Muslims Making Media, Making Change
Thurs, June 19: Network Gatherings / 10:00AM – 5:00PM
Muslims Making Media, Making Change will focus on the media tools we are using in our communities to challenge violence with the hope of inspiring each other, building solidarity, and spearheading future collaborations. Mainstream media often reduces the diverse voices of Muslims. We are are made to be monolithic, silenced, relegated to the margins. Our own communities as well can make us feel isolated, judged, or policed. This gathering will be an opportunity for anyone that self identifies as Muslim through the spectrum of familial, spiritual, political, cultural, or ancestral connections.

Visualizing the Story
Sat, June 21, 9 AM: 3-hour workshop.
As cultural workers in campaigns for social justice how do we design effective visual messages while staying accountable to communities at the frontline of social injustice? In this session we will share methods of collaborative design that can generate compelling and politically relevant media. We will hone skills for creative problem solving in the process of developing a message and translating it visually. Participants will develop a message and visual concept for their own campaign or creative project.

Surveillance Self-Defense Skillshare
Sat, June 21, 2 PM
In the face of rampant surveillance by powerful forces, how can we protect ourselves while communicating online? This session will start off with a panel discussion and then move into hands-on breakout groups to skillshare in different areas: “Encrypt the Hood” w/ Jabari Zakiya; “What’s Your Type” w/ Mark Burdett/Andrea Salazar; “PGP Encryption Hands-on Jumpstart” w/ Jack Aponte

Worker Co-ops Work Well
Sun, June 22, 3 PM
How do we sustain ourselves in this work in a way that reflects our values? Members from several worker-owned cooperatives will share personal stories of the challenges and lessons learned being part of democratic workplaces. Join discussion groups on issues such as financial planning, meeting facilitation, and policy development. Bring your questions and ideas and leave with resources and tools for developing successful worker-owned cooperatives.

Creative Resistance and Direct Action
Sun, June 22, 10 AM, with The Ruckus Society
Creative, bold visuals and performances make a great center piece for every direct action and unify your group, amplify your message, inspire people to have a personal interaction with your work, and provide a visual story through symbols that clarify the issue. Through popular education exercises and tactical exploration, we will explore how to use art as a campaign and organizing strategy, and how to plan creative actions that make change irresistible.

Posted in Events & Updates, News, News, Uncategorized Tagged , |

We will be closed April 25-28.

Design Action is moving down the street so we will be closed April 25-28 as we move our office to:
1730 Franklin Street, Suite 103
Oakland, CA 94612

Stay tuned for open house information!

Posted in Events & Updates, News, News

The Importance of Design for Your Copy Writing Weds. Presentation

1. Before and After – from plain text to a designed piece

2. This layout shows many design elements that a writer can consider when writing. What pieces of information are important for the skimmer to take away from the piece? The use of pullquotes, text boxes and data visualization helps to break up the text and enhance the important information in the report.


3. A concept or metaphor goes a long way and really intersects the written content with the visual imagery and typography, design and layout choices for the piece.

4. A large infographic piece created for online reading. The writer and designer had to work closely together to realize the concept and metaphors used, as well as making sure that the key data elements are elucidated.

5. A short illustration which highlights some key points of information, that was shared on social media.

6. Consider where the audience will be reading the content. In this case, this poster was on a BART (commuter) train, where the audience is captive and looking for something to read. So more text could be incorporated into this poster.

7. Who is the audience? These pages are from a heavily designed report which was geared to students to take action around computer and high tech recycling.

8. The audience for this report is concerned about policy change, so the design is clean and serious, and clearly communicates the content, while still using some elegant design elements to humanize the design.

9. How do we consider a piece, such as this newsletter from a POWER, a grassroots economic justice organization, that needs to speak to a diverse audience, made up of youth, elders, English and Spanish speakers, working class and low-income people, as well as funders and donors, without losing the essence of the organization’s mission? The use of color, bold headings, text blocks, and photography, as well as equally balanced layouts in both languages, speak to a wide range of stakeholders.

10. Some tensions between writers and designers: the use of white space. This example shows what happens when the writer wants to fill up all the space with text. It looks a bit daunting.

11. White space, or negative space, is a just as crucial a design consideration as what is placed on the page. It gives balance to the piece, increases legibility and enhances the reader’s experience.

12. Even though writers and designers have this tension about when to cut copy, there are ways to be able to incorporate more text into a piece. Some design gets compromised, but through the use of design tools such as color, typography, and design elements, these are still visually pleasing pieces.

13. This one-pager is heavy on text, but with some strategic design elements and use of custom icons, the piece is a visually exciting tool for the campaign.

14. A small trifold brochure using some basic design tools: use of color is not overloaded but kept to the color photographs and strategically used throughout the piece. A good use of leading, the space between the lines, breaks up the text while also drawing it out on the inside left panel. Bullet points and quotes also make this a digestable piece for the reader to understand what the project is doing.

Some links I have found useful:





Posted in Uncategorized