the Robertorium

poster design: What kind of world do we want after the Coronavirus crisis?

I’ve designed a poster to get people thinking about the future as we emerge from months of crisis and lock-down. This is my way of striking while the iron is hot. I see many things wrong with the world, most of them stemming from our culture, which, of course, forms a feedback loop with individual behaviour and policy. Right now is a crucial moment, where social isolation, lack of opportunities, and harsh microeconomic realities are affecting people who don’t usually struggle with these. Everyone wants this crisis to end, but my dearest hope right now is that everyone will also see this moment the way I do: as a once-in-a-lifetime chance to fix what’s wrong with our world.

But political polarisation makes it hard to articulate a broadly appealing vision for the future. It’s hard for me to believe sometimes, but we’re at a point where “living wage” is a dirty word for some people. Any kind of agreement on good policies has to begin with agreement on cultural values, I think. We’re at a unique moment where people just might be primed to find common ground in core cultural values, if they are prompted the right way.

Practically, this means that I’ve taken care to use language that evokes our shared anxieties during this crisis while avoiding politically polarising language. I hope to avoid tripping people’s reflexive political reactions and strike a chord with an earnest appeal to some attitudes I hope most of us can agree need to change.

a poster that reads: “After the coronavirus crisis what kind of world do we want? Socially distant or warmth among strangers? Every man for himself or nobody left behind? Essentials taken for granted or honest work respected? Frantic growth at all costs or healthy balance of priorities? This is a rare opportunity. Choose wisely!

Here’s the PDF. You can order this as a sticker here. (I don’t get any commission if you order stickers here. This is just a sticker printing site that I use.)

By the way, the style may look familiar. I was inspired by prosaic 19th-century posters like these:

an old poster with a pointing finger dingbat that reads: “‘What is life or rest to me! so long as I hold a commission direct from God almighty to act against slavery!’ John Brown.

an old poster that reads: “The saloons cannot run without boys. Have you one to spare?

an old poster with a portrait of a young woman that reads: “Lips that touch liquor shall never touch mine!

an old poster with a portrait of a middle-aged woman that reads: “Lecture! Abigail Scott Duniway, the veteran equal suffrage leader of the Pacific Northwest will lecture to-night bringing glad tidings, at ___. Admission free. Everybody invited.

an old poster with an ornate border that reads: “Chairs! The subscriber has now, and will constantly keep on hand, a variety of chairs, among which are cane seats of every description; cane and stool seat rockers; office chairs; children’s chairs. Also the best article of home-made split bottoms, all cheap for cash. Call at A. C. Vogler’s Furniture Establishment, on Main Street, next door to J. E. & S. T. Mickey’s Tin, Sheet-Iron and Stove Depot. A. C. Vogler. Salem, N. C., Sept. 9, 1859.

an old, ornate poster with hand-lettered feminine script that reads: “Adjustable Duplex corset. The best corset in the world. Perfect in shape, and the most comfortable and durable corset known. Double bone, double steel, double seams. Warranted not to rip. Ask for it! See that the word ‘Duplex’ is stamped on every corset. Made only by the Bortree M’f’g Co. Jackson, Mich. Office & salesroom 15 and 17 Mercer St. New York.

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