This whole thing started the summer leading up to the 2008 election, one week before the beginning of my senior year at RISD. I was most likely sitting on the floor in the TV nook of my friend’s apartment that I was subletting, drinking my fourth root beer of the day, watching Law & Order reruns, and reading Design Observer, a popular design community blog. Design Observer posed two simple questions to its readers: Would you like to own designersforobama.org? What would you do with it?
I had been working with the campaign for over a year as the graphic designer for Students for Obama, the student outreach program of Obama for America. The work, while necessary, wasn’t very stimulating or complex, and consisted of designing collateral for student groups in every state. I had been determined to do something more for the campaign that used design in a better way, but I didn‘t have any idea how to do this until Design Observer actually posed the question.
The Obama campaign found incredible success in using the Internet as a means of organically growing a grassroots army, the energy of which swept Obama into the White House. If we wanted to do the same for the design community (in the broadest sense possible) then it seemed logical to use the same tools. I was sure that a venue for displaying posters and providing free and easy means for regular people to print out large-scale, tiled posters could galvanize creative communities and spread a lot of high-quality campaign posters made by and for the campaign.
With the help of my good friend and accomplice, Adam Meyer, who also just graduated from RISD, Design for Obama was designed, built, and launched within a week. We sent a brief press release to a number of design, social media, and political blogs that linked back to our gallery. The word spread fast, and soon it was all I could do to keep up with the dozens of posters that would come in every day, each of which had to be sized and sorted correctly. I was astounded: The level of quality of the posters ranged but overall was surprisingly high, and the people who were submitting were more diverse than I could have dreamed; every person had a story and a point-of-view, and this came through in their work.
We continued to build steam and reached the high point of appearing in a New York Times syndicated article by the famous design author, Steven Heller. The next thing I knew, I was sitting in class when I got a call from Spike Lee. We spoke for 20 minutes and he told me that Design for Obama was an excellent project and that the second he saw it he knew it had to be published. With his help and the efforts of the good people at TASCHEN, we have done just that. Please enjoy this book of posters/historical document capturing the energy, excitement, and hope we experienced as we all worked to elect Barack Obama.
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