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State of the State of the Protest

As our colleagues outside of New York City have probably heard, there’s talk of protests during the upcoming Republican National Convention; to be held in Madison Square Garden. One of the larger groups, United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) has been trying for months to get a permit to demonstrate in Central Park. The City contended first that such a large crowd would damage the grass. When asked why large corporate-sponsored concerts didn’t ruin the lawn, they countered with concerns for safety: emergency-vehicle access and the like. For a few days it looked like the designated protest area was going to be the West Side Highway. But after the complaints of potential protesters and concerns about exposure to the sun, supply of water, etc; UFPJ backed out of the deal and redoubled their efforts to march in the Park.

Currently, their plans are to meet at 10:00 am, August 29 at Seventh Avenue and 14th Street, march up Seventh, past Madison Square Garden, and rally afterward in Central Park.

As part of the counter-offensive, Mayor Michael Bloomberg held a press conference to introduce a new initiative: a Peaceful Political Activists visitor program. All a budding anarchist has to do is wear a charming button featuring what the New York Times calls a “fetching” Statue of Liberty:

PeacefulProtestbutton.jpg

With this button, a Peaceful Activists can save five dollars on admission to the Museum of Sex, discounted theater tickets to Naked Boys Singing or Tony and Tina’s Wedding, 10 percent off meals at Applebee’s, or a free mug with admission to the Gotham Comedy Club. Thus spaketh the mayor: “It’s no fun to protest on an empty stomach. So you might want to try a restaurant… Or you might want to go shopping, maybe for another pair of sneakers for the march.” On Keith Olbermann’s show, satirist Barry Crimmins noted the irony of bribing peace protesters to have a peaceful protest. “Why not bribe the Republicans instead?”

So, being a designer, I was curious. Who got the job to make the button? A little searching brought me to this PDF file on the nycvisit.com website.

If one zooms in on the lower right-hand corner, the words Pushpin Group appear. Yes, the same company that was co-founded with Milton Glaser (he’s no longer a partner). The exact same Milton Glaser who is calling for a silent protest: Light Up The Sky.

Interesting…

One wonders at how like-minded people end up in different positions. One wonders where designing such a graphic program fits into Milton’s Road to Hell.

P.S. Consider steps #5 and #10.

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ENTRY DETAILS
ARCHIVE ID 2052 FILED UNDER Critique
PUBLISHED ON Aug.19.2004 BY m. kingsley
WITH COMMENTS
Comments
Kevin Lo’s comment is:

Mark, why do your posts of late tend to raise such furor in me, especially waking up to them on the other side of the ocean? Thanks for getting me up and thinking early. And the coffee's not even brewed yet.

I actually don't have anything particularly productive to say at this point(disappointement, though not much surprise, at push pin aside), but I wonder, if one were to wear the pin, could that act as protection against arrest??? "Look I'm Peaceful!" Wouldn't it be funny to see a bunch of black clad anarchists wearing those pins front and center!

When we were in Quebec City during the anti-FTAA demos, ne pas plier and catcus network designed a series of bandanas/masks as protection against teargas attacks. What was great about them is that on one side they had the image of a gagged mouth behind a chainlink fence, BUT on the other, they had the wide, beaming smile of our design department's secretary.... Walss of riot cops were faced with walls of "smiling" demonstrators. I certainly hope there isn't that level of conflict at the demos in NYC, but to counter fear with hope and absurdity is a great thing.

On Aug.19.2004 at 05:17 AM
Andrew Twigg’s comment is:

I'm not certain which appals me more: the horrible rendering of the Statue of Liberty combined with the "ray-of-sunshine-bubble-gum-cheery-lame-ass-i'm-an-idiot-protest" design, or the fact that pushpin would even involve themselves in something like this...

I'm also trying to consider if pushpin designed this poorly to undermine Bloomberg's cause. Possible? Sure. Likely? I doubt it. After all, most people witnessing any sort of protester wearing this wouldn't "get it" as anything more than "Welcome to New York!" As the addage goes, "no publicity is bad publicity." Or is that "all publicity is good publicity?"

No, wait, it's something more like "back to the drawing board!"

On Aug.19.2004 at 08:44 AM
ben’s comment is:

politics no

thats the button i'm designing but by doing so i'm nullifying the following statement:

design and politics don't mix

On Aug.19.2004 at 08:59 AM
darrel’s comment is:

Wow. Even NYC has the blight that is Tony and Tina’s Wedding? Now THAT is something worth protesting.

On Aug.19.2004 at 09:10 AM
Rob ’s comment is:

Somehow the design screams 'South Park' to me and I have great difficulty taking it seriously. The goofy interpretation of the Statue of Liberty is if anything, insulting, and the overall design is just lame. If I was a "peaceful political activist," I'd be embarrased to even wear that pin.

And it so sounds like the button is a device to get people to go anywhere but their intended protest site (ie, the Museum of Sex, heck would the Museum of History be appropro?). This just seems really silly and is anyone in the Big Apple taking it seriously, besides of course, the Mayor?

As far as Pushpin is concerned, I guess they are in an anything for money state of mind, not sure where they lie on the political spectrum. Certainly that's the only thing of value in this design....someone got paid for doing a sucky job.

On Aug.19.2004 at 09:14 AM
marian’s comment is:

Well, one might assume that the size of Pushpin's credit might match their pride in the project. I have to hand it to you, Mark, for sleuthing that out.

In their potential defense, I'm trying to imagine what it would be like to be approached with a project like this. On the surface, it could seem like a good thing to advocate peaceful protest. The devil here is in the details of intent ... which I suppose they must have been aware of. Then, micromanaged to the last degree and ... hmmm, there's what you get. Yikes.

but ...

"Welcome"?

Sorry, my head is reeling. The patronizing concept, the button, the discounts, Pushpin ... it's really blowing some circuits.

On Aug.19.2004 at 09:32 AM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

There are certainly some specifics of the case at hand that are not clear so let me pose a hypothetical* situation for you all:

1) You are a communications expert.

2) Your client, a large city, comes to you with a problem. They are about to host a major event and have justifiable fear of violent protest. As a responsible entity they are preparing for violence with a variety of security measures. They also fear, however, that the security will cause non-violent protesters to believe that the city is hostile to them. This is not the case.

3) What do you do? How do you propose that your client communicate its stance?

*Please note that this is a hypothetical situation and I am making no claims about NYC or the RNC. I’m just trying to see what the design and communication problem is.

On Aug.19.2004 at 10:11 AM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

A completely separate issue from my previous post: Where does printing a nifty bandana and convincing people that wearing it will provide significant protection from a lung full of CS gas fall on the design responsibility road to hell?

On Aug.19.2004 at 10:18 AM
M Kingsley’s comment is:

Marian and Gunnar Swanson bring up very good points. But, the Devil is in the details and, in this case, probably the Bloomberg administration. The whole thing stinks of co-option.

Over the course of his career, Seymour Chwast has created truly great and inspirational work which addresses social justice. For example:

So for me, this one piece doesn't ruin Pushpin's history — but it does make me pissed at Mayor Mike and his underlings.

I also wonder why they even went to Pushpin in the first place. It's not like they're the hippest thing around with their finger on the pulse of today's yoot.

One wonders... one wonders...

On Aug.19.2004 at 10:43 AM
M Kingsley’s comment is:

Darrel — I hate to tell you this, but Tony and Tina's Wedding comes from New York.

On Aug.19.2004 at 10:56 AM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

Devil is in the details and, in this case, probably the Bloomberg administration

Forget the satanic details and just get us to the angelic broad strokes. What should New York (or my hypothetical city/client) do?

On Aug.19.2004 at 11:00 AM
Christopher’s comment is:

It is an interesting problem. Like Gunnar's hypothetical, it sounds like it would be tempting to try to do something to promote peaceful protest, even if you had to align yourself with a 'client' or 'patron' you normally wouldn't be associated with.

As part of an informal collective formed from a graduate class, I tackled the 'responsibility inherent in our right to freedom of assembly', in a series of posters (8 of us total). We had designs on getting them explosed during the G8 summit held a couple months ago.

Eventually the city of Savannah (the location of the summit protestors) was interested in supporting the printing and posting of these posters. I was concerned because I thought having the city support the project underminded the credibility of the message to the activists that would be gathered there. But we thought that getting such large exposure of the message was worth it. (ironically, my poster was singled out by the mayor for rejection because it showed a brick on it - even though the message was that of 'responsibility').

Although I would've liked the message of my poster exposed (the NY Times, CNN, NBC were among those that did stories about the posters), I was sort of relieved to not have it printed and associated with the city (most the coverage associated the Savannah Police Department as the group supporting the printing and posting - often with a police official standing with some of the posters).

And I eventually got my exposue as 500 each of the groups posters were printed and posted by an organization for the DNC in Boston last month.

But it's made me think about how to get a message out there, and in doing so, where do you compromise on who to associate with if it advances your message (or hurts your message)? I know I couldn't afford to print these posters myself.

I know the organizer of our group has approached and been talking with Mayor Bloomberg's office about using these posters. Something I instinctively would not want to do - again, because of credibility (but you also make individual compromises when you agree to a group structure). Yet based on the location and potential turnout, the RNC is probably more important than Savannah G8 or DNC as far as getting the message out.

On Aug.19.2004 at 11:02 AM
Knob’s comment is:

How do you know Pushpin was paid for this job? And any idiot should be able to guess where Pushpin's politics are.

On Aug.19.2004 at 11:25 AM
M Kingsley’s comment is:

Gunnar — this is not a problem that can be solved with a 10% discount at Applebee's.

What should have happened is:

1. the Republicans shouldn't have gone for the cheap symbolism of a grand photo-op in New York City — so close to the anniversary of September 11. What were they thinking?

2. a permit should have been issued for a Central Park protest. If the RNC gets the symbolism of September 11, the symbolism (if any) of Central Park is an easy trade-off.

3. the Bloomberg administration should have been working on this problem for months. This initiative was rolled out eleven days before the convention. It's a last-minute Band-Aid.

For those of you who don't live in the city, you've probably missed the thuggish behavior of the Secret Service everytime Bush or Cheney come to town. You've probably missed several months of Police Department drills where dozens of vehicles come screaming down the streets and quickly line up in formation — then before you know it, a hundred or so officers — some in riot gear — are suddenly there. You've probably missed the security guards that have for a month or so have been placed in front of future RNC party sites like Chelsea Piers (my gym — owned by Roland Betts, a friend of George II).

And you've probably not burst into a post-traumatic crying jig when Tom Ridge announced that last terror warning.

The Bloomberg administration has been planing for this, just not in the right way.

The problem cannot be fixed with an eleventh-hour button, no matter how cute. The convention location was announced last year and there were huge anti-war protests across the country before we bombed Iraq. It's not like the information wasn't there.

Once again, the client waits until the last minute.

On Aug.19.2004 at 11:26 AM
steven Heller’s comment is:

The button in question derived from a more pro-active protest poster that was ultimately co-opted. This has happened in the past and will doubtless happen in the future. Just think about how John Lennon's "Revolution" was used for a Honda and later a Nike commercial. Good ideas are often abused.

Anyone who has followed the twisted negotiations between the city and United for Peace & Justice and Code Pink on where to have anti-GOP protests would already know that this is tricky and sticky, made even more so by Mayor Bloomberg's ill-conceived denial of permits to allow protesters a rallying site in Central Park, and to keep demonstrations ghettoized on the West Side Highway. While protests can be a logistical nightmare, restricting protesters has inflamed the situation.

Nonetheless, there are many fervent activists who would like avoid confrontation, gas, and violence in the NYC streets. Many of them live in NYC and don't want to see a battleground. Recreating the Chicago '68 riot is not a viable goal.

Chwast's original design was done for Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities, Ben Cohen's political action group that has for years been fighting increasing pentagon spending (in favor of greater education allocations). This group was urging the city to open up Central Park to organized, peaceful protests.

As part of the negotiations the NYC Visitor's bureau got involved. Probably not a good choice, but rather than give up on the ongoing negotiations, those involved decided to cooperate. It was better to work within parameters than devolve into untenable positions. Bottom line, this promotion scheme was hatched to ward off potential turmoil. Bad idea perhaps, but good motives.

Yes, hell is paved with good intentions, but Chwast, who Kingsley notes has long been in the trenches, not only with his posters, graphics, but untold other pro bono work for social causes, agreed to make the best of a bad situation.

Hindsight has a way of becoming authoratative. Its not.

I'm not sure how Glaser's light project and Chwast's button and Push Pin Studios in general became targets of this critique, but there is confusion here.

Glaser has also been on the front-lines of rational opposition, using his talents and intelligence to further viable ideas. The Light project, like the NOW Whistle project, and all the various poster projects are alternatives to blood in the streets. That people are strategizing ways to make redress heard and NOT trigger violence that will backfire, is laudible and necessary.

The button and the plan behind it may be pissing in the wind, but I challenge anyone to find the perfect solution to this critical situation that was created because the GOP wants to make hey of our national tragedy - 9/11.

I think it is valid to question the motives represented by the button, but I strongly disagree that attacking Chwast, Glaser, Push Pin, etc. has any merit whatsoever. The real problem here is the Mayor's willingness to close the city to protest.

On Aug.19.2004 at 11:32 AM
marian’s comment is:

Chwast's original design was done for Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities

I don't understand. What design is that? Something completely different, or something with a Statue of Liberty holding a sign with different words? Sorry, this does not compute.

I do agree with Mark that it sounds like the whole thing has been ill-conceived and left to the last minute. The Concept is severely flawed, and we all know what happens when you start with a bad concept ...

Christopher makes some interesting comments re how the origin of graphics change the intent or perceived intent of said graphics. The communication can't exist in isolation: the From and To is a vital part of the received message. A protest group can issue a message to its members and be heard; the very same message issued by a government is more likely to be blocked out, or worse interpreted cynically or in opposite terms.

Obviously, the most important thing is for governments or Authoritative Bodies to talk to protestors/their opponents and try to reach a common ground of messaging. Then that message has to come From the protest organizers To the protestors in order to be respected and heard. In that context only can small things like buttons, t-shirts and posters help.

I think.

On Aug.19.2004 at 12:21 PM
Steve Mock’s comment is:

Veering a little off topic...

Noticed a dropoff in political protest Word Its.

You guys put the hammer down? (Not that there's anything wrong with that. As Gil Scott-Heron said to the heckler: "'Cuz I got the goddamn microphone!")

On Aug.19.2004 at 12:29 PM
M Kingsley’s comment is:

Steve —

I don't know how you're interpreting this as a critique of Glaser's Light Up the Sky. I mentioned it as a way to underscore the gap of intentions with the object of my critique: the button. Not Chwast, per se, the button.

As I wrote in the post "One wonders at how like-minded people end up in different positions."

In the past few years, I've kept our name off of album packages that were so co-opted, so micro-managed, so mediocre that I couldn't stand having them come back to haunt me. God knows, there's enough out there from my development years that causes embarrassment, and I would hope that as I get older, I've learned when not to claim graphic authorship.

And yet, Pushpin's name remained on the poster...

I pray it's an oversight.

You've shed light on the co-option that I knew was there. Not having the advantage of such background information, all I have is the internet, television and the newspaper. I also know what I feel when I see Seymour's button at a Bloomberg press conference, and I know how I feel when I read Milton's proposal: differently.

Your challenge for anyone to find a perfect graphic solution could have been met by a firm in a better position (a.k.a. younger — sorry Seymour) to address this audience, with an earlier start. Unfortunately, lines were drawn too early... and in this case, too late.

On Aug.19.2004 at 12:34 PM
Michael H.’s comment is:

I'm thinking this topic might be too big for me, but I did have a question...

Do some of the letters for the phrase "PEACEFUL POLITICAL ACTIVISTS" seem to... I don't know, look backwards if you look at it for too long? Like it was a Russian war time poster or something.

And here's another one.

I did particularly like this, Christopher.

On Aug.19.2004 at 12:44 PM
Armin’s comment is:

> Noticed a dropoff in political protest Word Its. / You guys put the hammer down?

I, for one, am happy to see less of Bush's mug. And wiggle hasn't aroused many political views. So, nope, no gauntlet.

On Aug.19.2004 at 01:09 PM
Josh’s comment is:

I must be missing the point here. What is the problem? The political atmosphere in this country is hostel these days. I can see bad things happening at any kind of large protest no matter how organized or secure. I see that button as a way to establish awareness and hopefully keep things from getting too out of hand. Despite coming from the mayor, I don’t see how this button shows a contradiction in Pushpin’s political position. This seems nonpartisan to me. It seems more like a public service to help stop violence before it happens. Also, adding the coupons and such to help boost the local economy doesn’t hurt either. It may not be much help, but I can’t see it as doing any harm either.

On Aug.19.2004 at 01:22 PM
Andrew Twigg’s comment is:

It was better to work within parameters than devolve into untenable positions.

Actually, it seems more to me that everyone involved ended up in an untenable position.

Mr. Heller, I don't know what to make of your comments, I almost read it as defense for the whole thing, but maybe I'm misunderstanding. Nonetheless, at this point, I don't think the situation - or any of its participants - needs defense. I think most of us would settle for an explanation, which is not the same thing. The way it turned out just doesn't make sense.

Something about this that bothers me: when does a designer or firm back out of something like this? Was that an option? To me, the end result doesn't justify the means... nor does the result, in this particular case, seem justifiable at all. And, partisan or not, I still return to the first thing I asked myself: why was this executed so poorly?

On Aug.19.2004 at 01:30 PM
M Kingsley’s comment is:

Josh — there are a couple problems.

First is the co-option of the political sensibilities of Seymour Chwast and Pushpin by the Bloomberg administration — caused by their lack of foresight and sensitivity — into a patronizing and insulting gesture. They want to make sure that peace protesters gather peacefully. Peace protesters... who want peace.

Second, everyone and their brother is getting the hell out of Dodge. I'm being forced out of the city because the convention that wasn't going to be a problem is causing seven bus lines to be diverted through my neighborhood, a couple avenues near us to be closed down and the potential for thousands of people to be in the streets.

I'm located a ten-minute walk (at New Yorker pace) from the Convention. Many of our clients are in midtown and quite a few employees commute into the city through Penn Station — which is also a big subway stop and right underneath the Convention. The Metropolitan Transit Authority is planning on closing all access to the subway except one staircase and there will be two layers of security in the immediate neighborhood. All employees will be required to have two pieces of identification and all persons with business in the area will need to show ID, plus a letter from the person they're visiting.

The Bloomberg administration has been claiming all along that this will not affect business. Given that it looks like Boston's economy made only a tenth of their projections during the Democratic Convention, and given that many businesses in the immediate area (hotels, restaurants, etc.) are already saying that bookings are down; it looks like business will not be as usual.

The Bloomberg administration's response is a too-little/too-late kludged attempt to address both the desire for peaceful protests AND to placate local business. There is a degree of hope here, but in this context there is also a bigger degree of cynicism.

No, there's probably little harm done in Pushpin's button. But if you can take the credit (albeit a teeny, tiny credit), then you can take a scornful eye.

On Mayor Mike, I call Shenanigans!

On Aug.19.2004 at 01:54 PM
Andrew Twigg’s comment is:

It may not be much help, but I can’t see it as doing any harm either.

If it won't help (I mean no sarcasm by this: whatever it means to "help"), what's the point at all?

On Aug.19.2004 at 02:11 PM
marian’s comment is:

Hmmm. But isn't the problem more about an attempted proscribed form of protest? An attempt to say, "You may protest, but here's how you should do it: by wearing these buttons [which effectively say "Welcome! I mean you no harm!" and is therefor not a protest], go out for dinner, then take in some theatre."

i.e. Don't voice anything, stay out of our way, keep your head down.

It begs the question, When is a protest not a protest, but is, in fact, aquiescence and acceptance?

And here's where I think Mark sees the dichotomy between this button and the history of Pushpin. The agenda turns the button into a manipulative tool to help subvert the protestors it pretends to support.

On Aug.19.2004 at 02:54 PM
debbie millman’s comment is:

What about getting Seymour's side of the story? Anybody contacting him?

On Aug.19.2004 at 03:23 PM
Andrew Twigg’s comment is:

The agenda turns the button into a manipulative tool to help subvert the protestors it pretends to support.

Except I don't think it will actually do anything to sway the people who want to protest. Maybe it will appeal to people who want to protest, but are apprehensive or don't know where to start. Or maybe it will become a joke.

Now I'll shut it for a bit and let others talk.

On Aug.19.2004 at 03:23 PM
Kevin Lo’s comment is:

Gunnar, trust me, the bandanas (soaked in vinegar) did help. But they also worked on a symbolic level as gas masks and bandanas had been banned.

On Aug.19.2004 at 03:45 PM
Greg’s comment is:

My personal opinion is that these were micromanaged into crap because it will be next to impossible to take seriously the protests of people all wearing cartoons on their lapels. Seriously. The friggin' thing looks like the work of Hanna-Barbera.

A sidebar - Michael H., those poster links are great!

On Aug.19.2004 at 03:46 PM
Josh’s comment is:

M. Kingsley — Thanks for the respectful reply.

I have to disagree about the button being patronizing and insulting. If taken in the context of protestors on the street picking one up, they will have no idea about how this image came about. It won’t be taken as an insult but as a way to project their peaceful stance in a climate of hostility. (You not only have to worry about the possibility of political parties clashing, but also the possibility of terrorist attacks.) This button may create an awareness that might curb a potential fight that could escalate into something worse.

For the other complaints about your inconveniences from the convention: They have nothing to do with the button or your unfair critique of Pushpin. I think you’re letting your distaste for Bloomberg get in the way of your opinion of Pushpin.

I do agree with you on the subject of the pin being too little too late, but it isn’t nearly horrible enough to fit in with Milton’s “Road to Hell.”

Greg — Do you have an idea why a cartoon image would be used on the button? I think it makes perfect sense.

On Aug.19.2004 at 05:11 PM
M Kingsley’s comment is:

Josh — My comments about the effects of the Convention on my life are only intended to help illustrate what I suspect many people's feelings are, and to help call into question the City's claims that it will be business as usual.

And protestors have to go, in advance, to the NYC Visit bureau at 810 Seventh Avenue to get their buttons.

On Aug.19.2004 at 05:17 PM
Bradley’s comment is:

This button is unfortunate but in the long run its relatively meaningless, and I wonder if Bloomberg's perspective on protesting is as backwards as one might assume from a first impression.

Initially I found this insulting, but then when I got past the goofy design , and got over the overt commercialization associated with this, it did seem like there might be something positive to work with here.

The button looks stupid and amateur. It's not cool and I wouldn't wear it based on its appearance alone--but I'm a bitchy snob half the time anyway and I'd bet a year's salary that in 5-10 years this thing will catch a decent pricetag on eBay. If not sooner than that.

We can look at this in a couple of ways, and perhaps its best to avoid the extremes: either that Bloomberg is a manipulative schmuck who hates resistance of any sort but doesn't want to say it outright (and in a day where Dick the Prick Cheney can tell someone to "go fuck yourself" because they disagree, I doubt that anyone would censor themselves), or that he's trying to encourage people to speak their minds by giving them discounts for various things. Neither one of these is the case.

I think it works out something like this--the convention is town, the GOP erred by choosing this location, but that's done now so no amount of bitching, whining, or intelligently composed complaining is going to change that. Deal with it. Its in NYC. Bloomberg, who having made his fortune off of something resembling news, still actually watches it and realized that people protest and protests usually bring with them some form of inconvenience, either for residents or commerce or commuters or whatever. This is no exception. When protests happen, things get dicey and your every move is watched...this isn't the greatest solution (the commercialization is kind of skin-crawl-inducing), but its an attempt at saying that it's okay to protest. Would you rather get this reaction, or something a tad more violent and Ashcroft-like?

At worst this is opportunistic--but then again, this is capitalism and sometimes people do things like give buttons that open you up to discounts on things you wouldn't normally associate with protesting. Yes, its weird, yes the design is banal and blah, but...God, cynicism really sucks after awhile. There are GOOD things to focus on here (well, I guess not if you LIVE in NYC, that sounds like a nightmare).

On Aug.19.2004 at 05:29 PM
Scott Stowell’s comment is:

I think I may be alone in wondering this, but what exactly is the problem?

Let me start with some background information.

1. I am about as far left as you can be. I haven't voted for a major-party candidate in 16 years. The Democrats are usually way too right-wing for me (especially with all the militaristic business) and the Republicans aren't even on the same planet as me. However, this time I'm voting for and supporting Kerry, for obviously strategic and/or desperate reasons.

2. I believe that the kind of street theater we'll see around the RNC is increasingly irrelevant. Will a swing voter in Ohio or Florida see the news and think "gee, there are people in the street chanting with signs and giant puppets. I'll vote for John Kerry?" Probably not. But that's just me. Everyone has the right to unrestricted free speech, no matter what.

3. As a New Yorker, I have no interest in any extra violence happening, regardless of the intentions. We don't need people fighting in the streets when there are bigger things to worry about. Plus, if the protests turn violent, that means guaranteed extra votes for the Republicans, and as far as I can tell that's what the protesters don't want, correct?

4. I'm not a fan of the design of the button itself. It seems tired and old-fashioned, like a ripoff of Seymour and Pushpin's work, not the real thing. Maybe that's a result of it having been adapted from another project, maybe not. But that's actually not the issue either--there are plenty of icons like this that aren't my thing.

So what's wrong with this whole idea?

Thousands of people are coming to New York to express themselves. Why not give them some free theatre tickets or a coupon for Applebee's? I may not like all of the things offered or the establishments participating, but who cares? Isn't it nice to have the City officially welcome and support the protesters, while encouraging them to protest peacefully?

Is there something I'm not getting?

On Aug.19.2004 at 05:46 PM
Kevin Lo’s comment is:

How does this pin actually encourage protesters to be peaceful?

honest question.

On Aug.19.2004 at 06:28 PM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

How does this pin actually encourage protesters to be peaceful?

I’m not sure the pin idea is silly. Many people want to make a statement without associating themselves with actions they don't approve of. The statement “I am against what the folks who are in Madison Square Garden are doing but I'm for people acting in a civilized manner so don't lump me with people wearing masks and looking for things to wreck” is a powerful political statement (and one that is much more likely to have a positive effect than puppet and brick throwing is.)

The direct and specific answer to the question is that people in crowds tend to do things that people individually often would not. A visible showing of disapproval of violence by the crowd could very well diffuse some violent tendencies. Awareness of nonviolence as an issue could also help in this regard.

On Aug.19.2004 at 07:17 PM
Michael H.’s comment is:

> I think I may be alone in wondering this, but what exactly is the problem?

Okay, the pin just looks silly. I'm sorry, but it does.

I'm not singling you out, Scott, just addressing the individuals who don't get the frustration and using your question to address them.

Now, what I'm reading into is that the mayor doesn't want the protestors to actually protest. He's not giving them a decent place to do it, and with the coupons he's actually encouraging the protestors to get off the street (stop protesting) and go shopping. That's a pretty obvious "Sit down and shut up" if I've ever seen it.

And then the studio that designs and provides said pins, is a studio whose co-founder has been vocal in the past about accepting such jobs. Granted Glaser is gone, but the legacy is not.

This is just my observation.

On Aug.19.2004 at 09:46 PM
Michaela H.’s comment is:

For Michael H.-

"And then the studio that designs and provides said pins, is a studio whose co-founder has been vocal in the past about accepting such jobs. Granted Glaser is gone, but the legacy is not."

I think it's been stated several times so far that the studio has nothing to do with the distribution of the pins. And as for "Glaser is gone"... he's been gone for almost 30 years. I'll assume you're not familiar with Chwast's work or career. The "legacy" reference is confused.

On Aug.19.2004 at 11:53 PM
Michael H.’s comment is:

For Michaela H. (cool name, by the way):

> I think it's been stated several times so far that the studio has nothing to do with the distribution of the pins.

I don't buy that as an excuse one bit. As a designer, you always have an idea or some knowledge of how your design is going to be implimented, at the very least, if not a complete idea. Designers have to know this before they even begin the project.

I'll assume you're not familiar with Chwast's work or career.

No, my knowledge of Mr. Chwast's career is shallow at best. But, with all due respect, my remark of his design is probably best reflected by Mr. Heller's explanation of the history of the pin itself:

Chwast's original design was done for Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities...

The pin, to me, looks silly because it's been taken out of context from it's original purpose. You just can't repurpose design like that. I'm sure it wasn't Chwast's intent to do this, but surely he had to be aware of this before he released the final artwork.

> And as for "Glaser is gone"... he's been gone for almost 30 years. And: The "legacy" reference is confused.

I know how long he's been gone, but even after all that time one can not mention "Pushpin Group" without also mentioning "Co-founded by Milton Glaser" in the same sentence. Hence the legacy.

But who am I kidding with all of this? Chwast has been designing even before I was born. I don't throw out my opinion as if it were bellowed with the authoritativeness of Charlton Heston's voice. This is all just my humble two cents.

On Aug.20.2004 at 12:44 AM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

I was trying to understand what the positions really are here so I summarized everyone’s arguments. Let me know if I’ve misunderstood. My comments or questions in itals. Temporal discontinuities shown as ##.

Kevin Lo: It’s for the wrong side of the violence question. ## [Defends bandanas as tear gas defense.] ## Wonders how button encourages peaceful conduct.

Andrew Twigg: Design lame. Unstated problem with “something like this.” Care to define parameters of “like this”? ## Wonders when a design firm should back out of a project. Wonders why design lame. ## What’s the point? ## Perhaps encourage some who are reticent to protest; perhaps become a joke.

Ben: [Objects to discussion with ironic twist.] ?

Darrel: [Objection to bad theater.]

Rob: Design lame. Thinks it is a trick to keep protesters from their 24/7 objection duties. [Speculation about motives, politics, and money.]

Marian: Patronizing use of “welcome.” [Discussion about mission creep.] ## Thinks Steve Heller’s explanation (below) is unclear. Message needs to come from protest group to members. Is that literal? Only members of specific organizations? ## Objects to bounds to protest. Protest that doesn’t threaten is not protest.

Gunnar: General question about how others would communicate opposition to violence but not to protest. ## [snotty comments about bandanas.] ## Restates general question. ## Peer pressure theory of peace in a mob.

M. Kingsley: Stinks of co-optation. [Speculation about Bloomberg as svengali.] General defense of Chwast’s career but thinks Pushpin isn’t hip. ## [Accepts New York’s culpability in bad theater.] ## Button too little too late. ## Says Steve Heller’s (see below) questions about conflating buttons and presumptive personal failings of people long in the trenches imply criticism that was not made. No? Advocates taking name off projects that have become co-opted. Thinks Chwast is too old to address audience. ## Objects to “co-option of the political sensibilities of Seymour Chwast and Pushpin by the Bloomberg administration” [as well as security measures, and general inconvenience.] Button does no harm but deserves scorn. States “On Mayor Mike, I call Shenanigans!” Sorry. What does that mean? [Buttons sequestered in West Village.]

Christopher: Accepts the notion of promoting peaceful protest to the point where it might overcome objection to undefined pariah clients. What sort of client wouldn’t you want to be associated with? Interesting story about mixed feelings in a previous anti-violence poster series and Savannah Police objecting to the signifier of a brick even though the poster advocates building rather than throwing. General worries about co-optation.

Knob: General speculation in defense of Pushpin’s politics.

Steve Heller: Very brief history of button. Objection to Bloomberg’s protest ghetto plan but defense of efforts for peaceful action. Questions conflating buttons and presumptive personal failings of people long in the trenches.

Steve Mock: [Notes less political nature of Word Its.]

Michael H: [Sees dyslexic similarities with Cyrillic type.] ## Looks silly. Assumes peaceful protest means no protest. ## Designers responsible for the use of their design.

Armin: [Claims no Word Its censorship.]

Josh: Sees no problem with advocating nonviolence. ## Not patronizing or insulting. Considers off-point complaints off point. Objects to overblown rhetoric. Defends cartoon imagery.

Debbie Millman: Pushpin contacted? Yes.

Greg: Assumes micromanagement is the problem. Can’t take cartoons seriously.

Bradley: Cynicism sucks.

Scott Stowell: What’ wrong?

Michaela H: Objects to confused and inaccurate condemnations of Pushpin.

On Aug.20.2004 at 10:52 AM
Andrew Twigg’s comment is:

Gunnar

To clarify, "something like this" was referring to what seems to be a poorly executed graphic element in a poorly coordinated, off-the-mark program. Meaning: I am both shocked and appaled (shocked and awed?) that Pushpin, with its reputation and historical design significance, would be invoved in what seems to be such a poorly-thought-out and badly-executed program.

Also, to clarify - I don't think the button is going to motivate reticent people to protest. Rather, I feel like this is leading people who would never protest to believe they're protesting; for me it falls under a similar category as the "faux punk" t-shirts you see adorning Ashlee Simpson or Avril Lavigne, Pink, and Lisa Marie Presley.This isn't protest, at most it's making some kind of statement. After all, what Bloomberg wants isn't protest. He wants complacency.

On Aug.20.2004 at 01:14 PM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

Andrew,

this is leading people who would never protest to believe they're protesting. . . This isn't protest, at most it's making some kind of statement.

Despite having made it through the ’60s, a couple of Moratorium marches, being escorted out of high school in handcuffs, a bunch of other anti-Vietnam War marches, the Cambodia strike, Yippie Day at Disneyland, Halloween in Berkeley where people painted their faces blue and hung around Ho Chi Minh Park doing Battle of Algiers cries for no apparent reason (or maybe it’s because of some of those thingsand related activities) I don’t understand your distinction. Can you tell me a bit more about “real” protesting vs. “some kind of a statement”?

On Aug.20.2004 at 01:49 PM
Andrew Twigg’s comment is:

Gunnar

Essentially, I don't believe this button will cause the people Bloomberg is targeting to put down their protest signs and wear a button instead.

Overall the distinction is small, but protest generally is motivated by some kind of conviction and a belief to do something about it. I think that which elevates protest beyond "making some kind of statement" is:

- protest usually involves some kind of dissent, this button is sanctioned and therefore no dissent is involved

- protest involves a gesture of disapproval; wearing this button is no gesture of disapproval because the message of the button doesn't disapprove anything. It is saying "welcome, peaceful political activists, to new york." When I wear a button (whether it be anti-war, pro-choice, or welcoming peaceful political activists), it is not protest, it is me concisely sharing my opinion.

The bottom line, for me, is that there is some action involved in protest. I don't count wearing a button as such. Besides, what is the button itself protesting? Yes, I know what the answer is supposed to be: that it's protesting non-peaceful protest... but I don't buy it.

On Aug.20.2004 at 02:30 PM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

Andrew,

Sorry. I never for a moment thought that anyone thought that someone would wear the button in question as their only act so “put down their protest signs and wear a button instead” is like saying “brush their teeth instead of speaking out against the war.”

protest usually involves some kind of dissent, this button is sanctioned and therefore no dissent is involved

Does that mean that if NYC approved (i.e., sanctioned) the use of Central Park then protesters could not enter the park without ceasing to be protesters?

On Aug.20.2004 at 02:45 PM
Christopher’s comment is:

Gunnar, good summary. Per the question you posed to me. I think if I had undertaken the poster as an individual, i would not have assocated myself with certain 'clients'. But when I agree to be part of a group, I know I should be willing to make some individual compromises.

And, as I mentioned, I was a bit relieved when my poster was rejected (although, go figure, I was pissed that they would reject it, at the same time).

So, for the most part, your summary is right. And this thread has helped me think about where I should hold my convictions in this issue. I'm not saying that I wouldn't do it differently again.

It might be analogous to whether someone would design an anti-smoking campaign if the client was the tabacco industry or Philip Morris (as part of their mandated PSA efforts). Hmmm, the cause is right, but does it even have any credibility coming from the industry that is forced to do it? Promoting peaceful protesters is a good cause, but is it credible if coming from a group that would just as soon suppress the protesters and are just trying to do whatever they can to control or manipulate behavior? (this is something I would ask of myself for my story as much as I would Pushpin)

As far as the Pushpin design, though I think the intention was in the right place, it seems a bit to didactic or pandering. It's something I would give to Kindergarteners - (Fish Price's My-First-Protest, be proud to be a peaceful protester!). But maybe they went in that direction on purpose since getting the message accross in a non-ironic way might not play. Maybe this will succeed exactly for its kitchy-ness. I dunno.

On Aug.20.2004 at 02:46 PM
Christopher Risdon’s comment is:

Oh, I also wanted to add...

The statement “I am against what the folks who are in Madison Square Garden are doing but I'm for people acting in a civilized manner so don't lump me with people wearing masks and looking for things to wreck” is a powerful political statement (and one that is much more likely to have a positive effect than puppet and brick throwing is.)

The direct and specific answer to the question is that people in crowds tend to do things that people individually often would not.

I think this is a great point (as was essentially the motivation for our posters in Savannah/Boston as well). Not to try to convince people that are bent on destruction not to destroy, but to (maybe, possibly) affect the people that might be influenced by the momentum of any escalating violence.

The pin isn't a means to protest, it's a way to indicate how you intend to protest. So, again, i think the intention was good, even if the button itself may not be successful.

On Aug.20.2004 at 02:51 PM
debbie millman’s comment is:

I think I may be alone in wondering this, but what exactly is the problem?

Nope, Scott, you are not alone. It's a pin! It is silly and kitchy and ostensibly Pushpin had little to do with it. Perhaps whoever actually did it credited Pushpin to be polite and respectful.

Pushpin, as a company, has done extraordinary work, (both with and without Milton) in its long and illustrious history. If the design of the pin changes anyone's opinion of the work that has come out of that studio, then let it. That is simply that persons loss. If anyone can judge ANY artist, athlete, musician (or person) on one piece or performance, then let them live that kind of narrow-minded life. Just think about Mr. Hamm's richocheting position in the Olympic standings on Wednesday night, if you need a good example of even the best in the world not being perfect every moment of every day.

Anything that can help what will likely be flairing temples and hostile politiking during the RNC (or anytime) is welcome, as far as I am concerned. I also live in the city--I live 2 blocks from Madison Square Garden (where the convention is being held) and work within a stone's throw of the Garden, as well. I think it is fair to say that I will be in the thick of things 24/7. So if a silly little pin is an early indicator that whoever is wearing it might be thinking, "hey, I might think your politics are abhorent, but let's not end up bloody as a result" is fine by me.

And if nothing else, you can wear the pin to Applebees and know that you are contributing a nice piece of flair.

On Aug.20.2004 at 02:54 PM
Nary’s comment is:

hey, since it says "Peaceful political activists welcome" or "Welcome, peaceful political activists", maybe the riot police should be wearing those buttons, just to let everyone know that "Hey, if don't get rowdy, I won't beat you with my stick."? you know, since the cartoony thing is supposed to come across as friendly, maybe it'll take the edge off of riot gear and such. maybe the mayor was pushing the pin onto the wrong people...

On Aug.20.2004 at 03:01 PM
Scott Stowell’s comment is:

Essentially, I don't believe this button will cause the people Bloomberg is targeting to put down their protest signs and wear a button instead.

Neither do I. Neither does Bloomberg. This program is embracing and encouraging protesters, not trying to stop them. All it's trying to stop is violence and mayhem. Again, what's wrong with that?

On Aug.20.2004 at 03:34 PM
Steve Mock’s comment is:

Again, what's wrong with that?

Absolutely nuthin'. I took a stroll around that website and it all looks pretty positive to me. Nobody's trying to shut anybody down.

Being as this post is filed under critique, I think the only problem here (and it's really, really small) is that goofy pin and how it just doesn't look cool. No big deal.

On Aug.20.2004 at 04:03 PM
marian’s comment is:

Gunnar, I was going to respond specifically, but I started laughing so hard I fell off my chair! I'm talking hysterically funny! My sides hurt! My face hurts! Thanks—that was just too damned excellent.

Uh ... what Andrew Twigg wrote last. That was pretty much my take on it, too.

Oh man ... Can you do that for all our threads? I'm gonna read it again.

On Aug.20.2004 at 04:49 PM
M Kingsley’s comment is:

Scott Stowell —

I was pleasantly surprised to see your posts. Last night, in a private email, I mentioned Open as one of the studios that would have been appropriate for the task — if the City or even Ben Cohen's Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities had approached you earlier than a month before the convention. Studios like yours or (what used to be) Bureau have the kind of client list and project history which would go a long way towards creating a meaningful dialogue with potential protesters. The Credibility Gap would have been smaller.

>

Gunnar —

My comment about an alternate, younger firm was not intended to be age-ist. To me, Bloomberg et. al. would have had a better result had he gone (several months ago) to a firm that was not so representative of the "establishment", a firm (see above) with the kind of image that could be used to establish a better dialogue with potential protesters a la: Bureau, Jaeger diPaolo Kemp, Sagmeister, Open, etc. At least a firm that didn't look like the same demographic as Michael Bloomberg.

And in hindsight — and on another note, this could have been an amazing project for the AIGA. Approach the Mayor's office; run a charrette; develop a proposal; get paper, printing and airtime donations...

For your vocabulary list:

she�nan�i�gan n. Informal

A deceitful trick; an underhanded act.

Remarks intended to deceive; deceit. Often used in the plural.

>

For Bradley, Debbie, Stott and Steve Mock's feelings that this is much ado about nothing; I'll offer an olive branch of 'perhaps'. But...

Politics is a war of symbols, and the winner of that war gets to control lots and lots of money. The Republicans are so good at twisting symbols all up in themselves that we think the ACLU is a bad thing and that we have to pour French wine down the sink. Yes it's a stupid button. But that button represents more than a saved dollar or two. For all the time and bandwidth we waste deconstructing typefaces for logos; being told that discussing the politics of a button is a big "so what?" blows a few circuits of my own.

The current state of New York City, pre-Convention, is one where a person can't take things at face value. At the exact moment when Mayor Bloomberg was announcing the Peaceful Political Activists initiative, 15 police officers broke into a hotel room across the street to arrest four women who were hanging a banner that read "They Say Welcome, We Say Where? 8/29 Central Park?". They were charged with reckless endangerment and disorderly conduct.

So you see, City isn't really welcoming or supporting protesters. There still remains that small issue of where the post-march rally will be held.

On Aug.20.2004 at 05:41 PM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

M Kingsley,

My problem understanding “On Mayor Mike, I call Shenanigans!” wasn't a vocabulary problem; it was syntax. It wasn’t clear if it was an accusation or a call for shenanigation. I assume the former but if the latter, what would that mean?

On Aug.20.2004 at 06:48 PM
Kevin Lo’s comment is:

But that button represents more than a saved dollar or two. For all the time and bandwidth we waste deconstructing typefaces for logos; being told that discussing the politics of a button is a big "so what?" blows a few circuits of my own.

I agree wholeheartedledy with Mark. Discussing this button might not mean much in the larger scheme of things, but for us little graphic designers, it certainly raises the bar a bit, no? maybe even to the point of deluding ourselves that we can actually have an impact on the world... or should we just go back to K mart... aaaahhhh commerce...

The current state of New York City, pre-Convention, is one where a person can't take things at face value. At the exact moment when Mayor Bloomberg was announcing the Peaceful Political Activists initiative, 15 police officers broke into a hotel room across the street to arrest four women who were hanging a banner that read "They Say Welcome, We Say Where? 8/29 Central Park?". They were charged with reckless endangerment and disorderly conduct.

I think that about says it all.

And what this campaign does is divide those women (as violent - and therefore in need of arrest) and the more radical elements (which does not mean violent - though that is the intention of campaigns like these - attribute violence to the radicals) of the peace movement from the rest of it. It forces the issue of making the choice of whether to do as your told or to have your voice heard.

And Gunnar, yes I do defend A PERSON'S RIGHT to wear a bandana against tear gas. especially ones with smiling faces. I defend it for similar reasons to what I outlined above: Either you don't wear the bandana/put on the pin and stay away from a city filled with tear gas/go shopping and take in a show, OR you wear the bandana/don't wear the pin and try to demonstrate where you can be heard. I know it ain't exactly the same thing, but its emblematic of a simple divisive tactic.

You're either with us or against us.

On Aug.20.2004 at 07:09 PM
Andrew Twigg’s comment is:

Gunnar - for your question Does that mean that if NYC approved (i.e., sanctioned) the use of Central Park then protesters could not enter the park without ceasing to be protesters?:

I do believe there is a difference. The button is sanctioned in its entirety; the use of Central Park is sanctioned, but what exactly the protesters do is not. I know, we can split hairs and argue that anyone "protesting" in the context of "the law," whatever "the law" may be, isn't protesting. And in that light, one can also argue that the post effective protest is outside of the law... a point I could support in some cases. But bottom line is I feel there is a distinction.

Oh: United for Peace and Justice asked for Central Park, they didn't ask for a button.

On Aug.20.2004 at 07:10 PM
Feluxe Socksmell’s comment is:

several years ago Seymour released a package CD of royalty free images. most of us in the business found this incredibly couragous, especially for an established professional such a Chwast.

Royalty free is always the kiss of death

as you know. But maybe not?

The sad thing about the button- Seymour probably got about 200 dollars from a bunch of crabby old beaurocrats with no design budget.

Nice post Mark.

Thomas Fuchs and I will be in Thompkins Square Park tommorrow signing posters if anyone is around. Look for the "I dumbo NY?" stuff. Ciao.

On Aug.21.2004 at 12:38 AM
Alec Millard’s comment is:

Wow, that statue of liberty is sick! No wonder there was no credit on it. I wouldn't put my name on something like that. I am wondering about the mindsets of the people who decided that "With this button, a Peaceful Activists can save five dollars on admission to the Museum of Sex, discounted theater tickets to Naked Boys Singing" are they assuming that all of the protesters are perverts to boot? They are upset politically, not necessarily frustrated sexually. I am glad, however, that they get their discounts at Applebees, those riblets are pricey! I had a good laugh at Barry Crimmins comments when he "noted the irony of bribing peace protesters to have a peaceful protest."

On Oct.20.2004 at 12:25 PM
flor’s comment is:

bueno holis te admiro mucho y pue pucha tus canciones son piolas

On Nov.28.2006 at 04:52 PM