Monday, November 3, 2008

Foreign Policy - 2008

A couple of weeks ago, I discovered an organization called Design for Social Impact, a design firm that specializes in progressive social causes, and frequently employs a WPA-inspired illustration style for their work, which of course intrigued me greatly. I was even more thrilled to see that they operate right in my own backyard, Philadelphia!

After talking to them about my work, they told me about their plans for a big celebration--this year is the 75th anniversary of the WPA, and one of the ways they were celebrating was with a call to local artists to submit their own WPA-styled posters, about whatever cause they would like. Of the posters submitted, some would be selected to be screen-printed (like the 1930s originals were) and given out for free, in various locations throughout the city.

I didn't hear about the contest until just three days before the deadline, but I really wanted to do something for this. I spent all of Sunday and Monday trying to come up with an idea, with the deadline baring down on me. Nothing.

I went to bed Monday night, and laid in bed trying to come up with either a visual or a tag line, something to build a poster around.

The DFSI had told me that I could do a poster on any subject, but they were looking for one based on any of the three themes not yet covered by other artists--one of them being War & Defense. So I concentrated on that.

Finally, something started to click--I liked the idea of moving away from the idea that all America has to offer is war. I imagined something involving bombs, but that seemed too downbeat, especially since the WPA posters were almost uniformly positive.

Then a phrase popped into my head--"Foreign Policy Can Be More Than Bombs." Yes!

At that point, I couldn't lay there anymore, so I got out of bed (around 2am) and started to work. I imagined an old-timey symbol of America--Uncle Sam--offering a kind hand to someone else, and within a couple of hours, I had what you see above.

Since it was going to be screen-printed, the DFSI asked to keep all posters to two colors (and white), so going with the old red, white, and blue was a no-brainer. I sent it in to them the next morning, and I was thrilled to find they loved it, and it was picked as one of the posters to be screen-printed and distributed.

That event was on Saturday, October 25th, and indeed, my poster was one of the ones offered up free of charge to people. It was a real thrill seeing my work done up like that, and a real honor that the DFSI liked what I did.

People like the DFSI are keeping the spirit of the Works Progress Administration alive and well, and I was glad to be a tiny part of it.


Sean Tiffany said...

Robbo, did you get any of these posters to take home for yourself? And, if so, how can I get one?

rob! said...


i will be getting some copies, relatively soon. once i get them, i'll ship one out to you!

Sean Tiffany said...

Thank You! At some point I need to take photos of my foyer, where people walk into my house and the first thing they see is a wall of Rob Kelly posters. This will make a nice addition.