Design Action and Inkworks Press launched The Serve the People Poster Project in 2009. Our goal was to donate the design and printing as a way to support organizing around a current issue. It was an opportunity for Design Action to work on a timely campaign in coordination with organizers. We took applications from many awesome organizations and finally decided on the application submitted by St. Peter’s Housing Committee and Just Cause Oakland.
Both St. Peter’s Housing Committee and Just Cause were grassroots organizations with long histories of economic and racial justice organizing in San Francisco and Oakland. They had proposed a bilingual English/Spanish poster responding to the economic crisis with an anti-displacement framework—targeting the banks, celebrating working class resistance and the historic unity of Black and Latino communities. The plan was to use the poster in service of their community resistance campaign and distribute it through their organizing work of door to door outreach, and at neighborhood, tenant, and membership meetings in the hardest hit communities.
This was also a unique opportunity to work on a new campaign as these two long time activist organizations were merging to create Cause Justa : Just Cause. We worked closely with both members of both groups to figure out answers to key design questions.
- What is the story we are trying to tell?
- Who is the audience?
- What is the style and tone?
We started this process while St. Peter’s and Just Cause were in a total state of transition—staff positions, office location, identity of the newly merged organization were all up in the air). After a couple meetings with members of both groups, we decided to put a hold on the poster design until some critical questions could be answered. At Design Action, we had certain instincts about what kinds of visual tactics might work for this poster given our experience working on other campaigns about housing rights. But it was important that St. Peter’s and Just Cause had the space and time to figure out what was really going to be a strategic message at this time given their merger and the base of people they were now engaging together.
The decision was made to focus on the strength of united communities, but to still have language targeting the banks. The final bilingual message was “Housing for the People ¡Que paguen los bancos ladrones! Foreclosure is theft! ¡La Vivienda es del Pueblo!”
We started thinking about different ways to illustrate these themes and looked at other posters and graphics for inspiration. We drew on the tone of a militant resistance from different movements from around the world as well as struggles lead by people of color in the United States.
We tried abstract, photo illustrative, and iconic graphic imagery.
Just Cause and St. Peter’s selected this iconic concept. It is a celebration of people taking care of each other and protecting their communities.
However, several changes were necessary to make this concept work for their campaign.
- The skin is white, and doesn’t show black and brown unity
- The abstract houses at the bottom weren’t representative of Oakland and San Francisco communities.
- The rendering of the hands looked too much like arm wrestling
We made these changes and then tried different color pallets and textures.
The Final Poster
Based on the feedback we got from St. Peter’s and Just Cause, we arrived on this final design.
While completing this poster, we were simultaneously working on the logo and identity for Causa Justa :: Just Cause — the new organization formed from the merger of St. Peter’s Housing Committee and Just Cause Oakland. The posters were distributed to members to display in their windows. After the poster hit the streets, Design Action rolled out the new logo and website for Causa Justa :: Just Cause. The work we did on the poster helped inform the development of the logo as well.