Strolling along at the back of last weekend's peace march, stepping through the debris left in its wake, I absent-mindedly recalled Matt's observation about the professionals who have to construct Colin Powell's Powerpoint, and their design choices. I'd often wondered about what goes through the minds of news illustrators, whilst working on explanatory infographics for 9/11, say. But then I've done morally objectionable work myself: building websites which make Genesis look good; airbrushing out a Spice Girl's cellulite.
Anyway, to contrast this glossy design around the phony war, I thought I'd capture some of the home-grown user-centred design decisions made by the marchers last week.
There's been plenty of photos of the marchers, and of the sea of posters.
- Many of the placards were manufactured; The Mirror's seemed to be in abundance (as the British tabloid most visibly anti-war). The prefabs seem to be most easily discarded though, and in a sense are the least interesting.
- Elsewhere, people clung on to their own handiwork, the familiar blocked san-serif tapestry type on bedsheets aloft. Jeffrey Keedy has no doubt got typefaces made out of this 'Popular Protest Gothic'. Edward Fella probably has a book out on it.
- The 'barred-bomb' motif was most popular icon, whether felt-tipped or painted.
- By now, seemingly infinite variations on 'the Bush joke' have been propagated around the Net, but here's where I saw it first.
- Veteran proponents of vernacular folk-art were present, alongside the slightly more organised contemporary 'underground' vibe.
- Defining one's geography and culture seemed important (as ever in this city) e.g. this placard (outside the site where an anaesthetic was first administered in England - don't think there's an irony there).
- Moreoever, could this sign be in any other country? I don't think so. "This sort of thing" indeed.
- English eccentricity too - here, into the frankly surreal (along the crease it says "we love see saws").
- Ultimately, the complex, overlapping fragments of city life gathered along the kerb - the styrofoam of global service industry megacorps alongside Socialist Workers - a scrapbook forming behind the march, unwittingly echoing the Situationist tactic of détournement - though that's pretty much all it had in common with May '68.
This march felt different to the recent anti-globalisation rallies too - and it wasn't just this obvious dissonance of commerce along the way. There was something slightly surreal about the march, arranged as it was alongside London's shopping streets. One could do a bit of shopping, have a bit of a march, bit more shopping, march, shop, march, shop. What this says about contemporary politics I'm not sure. Maybe it's a good thing that the march was so accessible that Saturday afternoon; perhaps politics can be postively realigned alongside leisure activities, as a tacit recognition of the commodification of all culture. Yet how sad that that political expression en masse seemed - to me - to be tainted in some way due to making protest so accessible. Then again, would a degree of inconvenience have made the protest more real? Maybe it was just good to let people buy a tube of Clarins to protect against the biting easterly (only kidding).
Perhaps I shouldn't have been skirting round the edges of the march, camera dangling towards the ground and the discarded tools of protest. I could've gone on, grabbing images of home-made banners, kids propped in the air, the crowd denouncing the war with polite good-nature. But I ran out of SmartMedia, and y'know what? Tottenham Court Road was at least a block away. All of which says more about me, really ...