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With Extinction Rebellion, Paula Scher & more Design Manchester is smarter (and angrier) than ever

With the ashes of our political stability still burning on we look at the resourceful, the nimble and the canny who can lift or shapeshift an idea and inspire us to move forwards (wherever forwards maybe!) In 2019 we’re a year smarter, a year angrier in some respects but always motivated to celebrate design in all of its forms, so our theme will reflect the word SMART and everything that encapsulates” notes Design Manchester 2019.

In line with this year’s theme, DM assembled “some of the world's smartest creatives and a truly diverse bunch, from bridge builders to laser makers all ready to inspire no matter what your background is… creative or just curious. There will be talks, discussions, exhibitions aplenty across the multiple spaces meaning you're not glued to your seat but in reality who would want to miss these speakers.”

From one of the most influential graphic designers in the world and the “master conjurer of the instantly familiar” Paula Scher (Pentagram New York) to Neil Hubbard (Heathernick Studio), Cosey Fanni Tutti, Daljit Singh, Hansje Van Hale , Pfadfinderei, Harris Elliott and Extinction Rebellion’s Clive Russel & Charlie Waterhouse the creatives are about to reveal their secrets, philosophies and approach to design.

“In a world that appears increasingly to be acting dumb, in the face of global political upheaval and the climate crisis in the news daily, it is well past time for designers to get SMART, think SMART and ACT SMART” Design Manchester’s artistic director Malcolm Garrett RDI said of this year’s schedule.

“In 2019 we’re a year smarter, a year angrier in some respects but always motivated to celebrate design in all of its forms, so our theme will reflect the word SMART and everything that encapsulates”

Graphic designers Charlie Waterhouse and Clive Russell have worked with Extinction Rebellion, the international movement of climate activists that was launched in the UK by Roger Hallam and Gail Bradbrook, among others, building a strong visual identity for climate activism.

With simple and bold messages XR’s visuals are as powerful as they should. “The symbol is the product of an anonymous artist who goes by the name ESP. Its circle represents the planet, and the ‘X’ within it appears like an hourglass signaling the ever-decreasing time left to halt devastating climate change” writes the New Statesman.

Graphic designers Charlie Waterhouse and Clive Russell are no strangers to artivism. “The duo, who head design agency This Ain’t Rock and Roll, are veteran artist-activists. They previously worked with the campaign group Stop Killing Londoners, which campaigned to halt the capital’s rising pollution levels, and the Brixton Pound, a local currency introduced to support independent businesses in the South London constituency” reports the NS of the creative duo who take inspiration from the portfolio of Atelier Populaire (Popular Workshop) which was established in Paris during the riots of May 1968 from artists and students who occupied the École des Beaux-Arts to provide a visual language that remains iconic and inspiring to many.

All images via Formes Vives

For Atelier Populaire posters were “weapons in the service of the struggle [that] are an inseparable part of it” and XR’s creatives follow this path.

“From my point of view as a designer, every single green movement up until now has been rubbish – it’s been dreadfully designed, it’s appealing to its own internal audience, not looking outward,” Russell says. “It was really important to make sure that we got across the idea that we’re a non-violent movement, but that doesn’t mean we’re not actually angry –  we are really angry,’’ he adds.

“You may well have noticed, there’s a new gang in town. Apologies if they made you late for an important meeting, but we hope you liked what you saw. The Extinction Rebellion is a dynamic new force in environmental activism – with a no-nonsense approach to getting the word out” writes This Ain't Rock N' Roll.  

“Much has been written about them in the past weeks, and they have certainly caused a stir in a space that has as many players as it does opinions. Our job is to accommodate both – while maintaining focus on the organisation’s very simple demands. If we’re to get anywhere with climate change and the current extinction crisis there’s going to have to be fundamental changes at personal, governmental and international levels.”

“Extinction Rebellion has formed as a direct result of society’s inability to grasp this, and the powers that be’s refusal to do anything meaningful about it. The movement’s audacious taking of five of central London’s key bridges on November 17th was just the start. As Rebellions are declared around the world, public awareness of the severity of the crisis we face will grow, as will the army of activists willing to do something about it” add Waterhouse and Russell.

“You may well have noticed, there’s a new gang in town. Apologies if they made you late for an important meeting, but we hope you liked what you saw”

Explore more reasons to attend this year’s Design Manchester venue here