Summer 2003

Protest banners

Hand-made signs from an anti-war demo

The graphic designer’s decisions about form, colour, subject and so on, are faced by anyone rendering a protest message. The results are often everything that professional design aspires to be: immediate, witty, moving, punchy, funny, thought-provoking.

The anti-war demonstration that saw more than a million marchers take to the streets of London on 15 February 2003 (the largest in UK history, and one of many similar huge demos worldwide) was the setting for an outburst of protest against the impending attack upon Iraq by the US-led coalition.

Among the clutter of chanting signs, these home-made banners often eclipsed the mass-produced placards published by political groups and newspapers. Whether prepared weeks in advance or improvised on the day – and in spite of many diverse, sometimes contradictory messages – they all said one thing together: I’m standing up – now count me.

And although the bombs still fell, millions around the world had renounced their willingness to remain unheard and invisible.