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Bonnie Siegler’s ‘Signs of Resistance’

By Charles Purdy

Influential graphic designer Bonnie Siegler—founder of the multidisciplinary design studio Eight and a Half—is known for her design work for Saturday Night Live, the Criterion Collection, HBO, and many other clients. She has also worked on many projects in the area of politics: she did extensive design and fundraising work for both of Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns and Hillary Clinton’s most recent presidential campaign. And after Clinton lost to Donald Trump, Siegler started on a path toward her newest book: Signs of Resistance: A Visual History of Protest in America.

Siegler says, “After Trump was elected, I wanted to do something but wasn’t sure what to actually do. So for personal inspiration, I started doing research into what artists and designers had done in the past—then I got a call to speak at Adobe MAX. It was a real gift, because preparing the talk for MAX gave a focus to my research and let me indulge in my obsession with less guilt.”

Excerpted from Signs of Resistance by Bonnie Siegler (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2018. Photograph used by permission from Coline Jenkins / The Elizabeth Cady Stanton Trust.

Excerpted from Signs of Resistance by Bonnie Siegler (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2018. Photograph used by permission from ACT UP New York.

AMERICA’S HISTORY OF PROTEST—TOLD THROUGH DESIGN

That MAX presentation addressed how designers can use their skills and talents to help shape our world. Siegler explains, “Historically speaking, people have frequently rallied around images—for example, the War is not healthy for children and other living things poster, which was created by a group of women whose sons were fighting in Vietnam. People hung it in their homes…just that simple graphic image expressed something powerful that moved people in a way that news stories hadn’t.”

After her talk in Vegas, many attendees asked Siegler to share the presentation so they could show it to others. And that led her to believe that the topic might have appeal beyond the design community.

All images excerpted from Signs of Resistance by Bonnie Siegler (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2018. Credits from left to right: Photograph used by permission from Lennart Gäbel. Photograph used by permission from Seymour Chwast. Photograph used by permission from the Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

The oldest image in the book is from 1754, and the history (told through 240 images) continues right up to the end of 2017. Siegler says, “Signs of Resistance covers the American Revolution, the fight for women’s suffrage, Vietnam, the Civil Rights Movement, women’s equality, Black Lives Matter, Bush, and Trump. There’s also a chapter on a couple of enduring icons in American resistance…. I began with images that I knew and loved and that had inspired me throughout my life, and then I did a lot of research. I chose images for their power, their resonance, and the stories around them—how they changed hearts and minds and the impact they had.”

Part of a page spread excerpted from Signs of Resistance by Bonnie Siegler (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2018. Photograph used by permission from Bob Adelman

 

THE POWER OF DESIGN

In the introduction to Signs of Resistance, Siegler writes, “Working on this book, I went back and forth between rage and hope—rage because, to quote a favorite sign at the Women’s March, ‘I can’t believe we are still protesting this shit.’ And hope because looking at these images reminded me that there have been other dark, shameful chapters in American history, and yet somehow democracy survived. Because we did what we do best: We kept fighting.” 

Siegler hopes to offer an inspiring, optimistic, and visually galvanizing history lesson about the power people have when they take to the streets and stand up for what’s right. She says, “I hope people decide that they too should participate in our democracy by speaking out and helping others speak out.”

Signs of Resistance is currently available from Amazon.com and other sellers. 

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