Posters, Disasters, and Plans

Lately I’ve been digging back into the topic of my 2021 paper for the Design History Society annual conference: posters designed as a response to the Fukushima, Japan nuclear and environmental disaster of March 2011. Here are a few highlights from that study:

  • Themes within reader commentary included cultural concerns, making/selling, designer recognition, future histories, expression, and design for social good
  • Multilogues unfolded across multiple forums on the same topic over time
  • Fictional conversations designed through graphic intervention

Link to the published paper (open access)

The research I did at that time, however, wasn’t exhaustive and the study continues!

It shakes me to consider the extent to which posters are a response to a crisis. Do posters really do anything? is a common criticism, but what else can we do? wrote the readers, just as often. The dilemma between choosing to do something or remaining still isn’t easily dismissed. After all, if action creates change, then a poster or t-shirt is just fine… right?

The 2011 event wasn’t the only example of this — there exists also reader responses to Hurricane Katrina (2005) and other disasters.

I’m shifting the focus of this blog to reflect a different phase of this project. Last week, I gave a research-in-progress talk to a group of doctoral students in my College of Communication and Information (I really enjoyed it!), and this coincided with reworking my research+writing plans. The thing is, The Designers Respond was sort of a secondary project for four years and it’s now come front and center. It’s exploding in multiple directions and from what I understand, it is not possible (in November 2022) to clone myself. And so, I choose one path at a time, and for this it’s Design + Disaster. Research first then writing, says the left side of my brain and yet I know all too well that my right side’s messy convoluted research-writing-research-writing will take over. For the next five weeks, though, I’ve got specific goals for each day’s research+writing session and headway to make.