Food for Thought
Lessons from Wisconsin
Port Huron Turns 50
Outraged Over Atrocities
Edward S. Herman
The Arab Spring
Libya, Africa, and AFRICOM
May Day 2012
Taking on Methyl Iodide
EDUCATING WITH MUSIC
Books, Rhymes, Life
The Obama Syndrome
Do No Harm
Ten Economic Crises
Victory for Colombian Students
A Drone World
Advertisements You'll Never See Again
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An interview with the Design Action Colliective
Design Action Collective is a worker-owned co-op based in
Many young artists are so happy to be getting paid for their creative talents that the actual purpose, the wider social function of their own creativity, is an afterthought, if it ever even enters their thinking at all.
Of course, people should be able to do what they love for a living, but who goes to art school to pursue a passion for corporate branding? I suspect that there are legions of aspiring young artists pursuing a life in the arts precisely because it offers something other than income: creative fulfillment, transcendent experience, cultural expression, self-discovery, or the search for existential meaning. The notion that one could pursue these decidedly immaterial forms of value and make a living is still, for many, a utopian daydream within the current social order.
It’s easy to accuse them of a failure of imagination, and certainly there is an element of this at work, particularly among those with access to creative resources. What’s more difficult is to imagine, and then create, a social order that actively cultivates people’s creative potential and expands the boundaries of their imagination—a society that doesn’t smother the artistic impulse with the “dull compulsion of the economic.” Members of the Design Action Collective offer their insights into the intersection of movements and the arts.
HARRIS: How did Design Action Collective (DAC) come about?
DAC: DAC is a graphic design studio in
Thus, Design Action was born. Inkworks’ two designers left and were replaced by two dedicated prepress operators. Initially operating as a two-person shop working out of a living room in
We still work very closely with Inkworks and each shop is now an independent worker-owned business. We serve many of the same organizations, and Design Action has been able to expand its services in the areas of web and multimedia, as well as design for other types of printing such as T-shirts and banners. We can also now support organizations with full-ad campaigns, messaging, and strategic communications tools of increasing importance to the social change efforts. Without advocating for image over substance, Design Action believes that the social justice movement does not lack good solutions, theories or even solid working models of how a better world is possible. Yet, the other side spends billions of dollars every year bombarding people with the message that there is no alternative to the current system. So, it is important for progressives to find a way to articulate their vision—and the visual communications piece of that effort is what Design Action seeks to tackle.
At the same time, Inkworks has been able to place a stronger emphasis on the technical side of its prepress and printing—modernizing its presses and launching an online print-ordering system. So the split has been a win-win for both shops. As a collective, Design Action modeled most of its initial policies on Inkworks. We have a democratic decision-making structure, and equal hourly pay. The collective candidacy period is nine months, but there is no buy-in.
Design Action is incorporated as a California Cooperative following the model of Rainbow Grocery, the Arizmendi Cooperatives, and others. Members are active in a number of different social movements, and the shop is a member of the Network of Bay Area Worker Cooperatives, The U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives, and our union, Communication Workers of America, AFL-CIO. Being part of a union allows us to have a voice in the labor movement, and ensures that we continue to adhere to union standards as our co-op grows. For all of us, Design Action is how we earn our living and we have prioritized things like health care and vacation pay to ensure a sustainable work life.
A majority of Design Action members are people of color, with native speakers of Indonesian, Spanish, Hindi, and Tagalog on staff. We strive for diversity in our collective as we bring in new members.
Tell about your organizational structure, values, and principles? What distinguishes you from traditional design studios? Is DAC a design studio or activist collective?
Most business decisions are made by a two-thirds majority vote in a weekly collective meeting. However, certain larger decisions that affect the shop as a whole (such as hiring and firing) are made by consensus. Day-to-day project and client-related decisions are made individually. We also have weekly production meetings where we distribute work and update each other on upcoming projects. All members share responsibilities for project management, design, production, and administrative tasks. There are no divisions in job roles. We have a bookkeeper who comes in once a week, but we all have to keep up to date on our accounts, payroll, and invoicing.
Unlike other design studios, we all came to this work through a dedication to social justice and our shop’s democratic structure models those values. Many of us have experience working as community organizers and in nonprofit organizations, so we understand the needs of the movement well.
As part of the movement for peace and justice, Design Action supports all efforts to bring about progressive social change by providing high quality graphic design and visual communications services to progressive organizations. With this in mind, our “Points of Political Unity” give direction to our work.
We make a sincere effort to support other political designers and cooperative shops by referring projects to one another instead of undercutting each other through competitive bidding. Design Action Collective exists at the intersection of activism and communications work. Many of us have community organizing projects we are involved with outside of Design Action. Whenever possible, those projects are connected back to the shop.
Talk about your selection process. Do you turn down work? What’s your internal process for planning, developing, and finishing a project?
Design Action members do our best to stay connected with people we love working with and we reach out to new folks we want to collaborate with. We give workshops and presentations at conferences like the U.S. Social Forums, the Allied Media Conference, South by Southwest Interactive, as well as national and regional worker-co-op conferences. Most of our clients seek us out because of our politics and our reputation of doing dedicated design work for the social justice movement. We all share in the roles of “intake”—answering the phones and responding to email inquiries and we trust each other to decide what projects are a good fit both from a political perspective and with regards to our services. Sometimes we’ll get a job inquiry that require specialized skills and we can propose a process that involves bringing in an outside consultant.
We rarely turn down work. The factors we must consider are (a) does this project fit with our political points of unity? (b) does this project fit within our services and can we bring in other consultants? (c) does this organization have a budget that will cover our design costs or are we willing do donate time?
Our internal process for sharing work involves weekly production meetings and department meetings. We share our projects according to skill and interest and do our best to make sure the workload is distributed evenly among all Design Action members. Sometimes we work individually and sometimes we work in teams depending on the scope of the project. When time and budget allows, we’ll gather the whole shop together for developing concepts and messaging strategies that will be implemented in web and print materials for a given campaign.
Did you start out exclusively designing for activist and social justice groups or did you have to build up to that point? What allows you to design for groups and projects that are often notoriously underfunded?
Design Action began with a clear mission to design for social justice and activist groups. Our founding members recognized the communication needs and were dedicated to helping build a broad and effective progressive movement. Design Action operates on a sliding scale and we strive to match our design process with organizational resources. This means we must be creative in how we manage the scope of projects. We are grateful to have a diverse range of clients with various levels of funding resources so we can afford to serve grassroots community groups while also working on national and international campaigns for large NGOs.
Many collectives, co-op’s, and alternative projects of all kinds thrive through mutual aid, the sharing of workspaces and resources, collaboration, relying on community and so forth. What’s been your experience?
In Design Action’s early years, we shared office space with a direct action training organization called the Ruckus Society. Ruckus not only enabled us to have office space in downtown
We also see Design Action as a “sister shop” to Inkworks Press. We continue to refer projects to each other. Design Action is part of the Network of Bay Area Worker Coops and the U.S. Federation of Worker Coops. So we are connected to many other worker-owned cooperatives where we have been able to learn from each other and discuss ways to successfully run co-op businesses.
What advice would you give to aspiring artists and designers who want to take design in a more radical, engaging direction, to liberate their art from the values of Madison Avenue and the economic logic of capitalism?
Many students do not realize one can make a living doing this work. We are often encouraged to find corporate jobs and then do pro bono work on the side. It is Design Action’s hope that aspiring designers and web developers will realize that there is a huge community of people who have dedicated their careers to social justice work and are still able to support themselves and their families. We have given presentations at high schools and colleges and started internship and apprenticeship programs so students have an opportunity to learn with us.
In 2004, Design Action helped organize the Designs on Democracy conference in
When this work is approached with an attitude of creative problem solving and we are motivated by issues we care about, then without trying to compete with each other, we can help each other achieve a lot.
MOSS is intended to be an incubator for movement culture in all its forms. What role can designers and other artists play in the resurgent culture of rebellion that is emerging here and around the world?
Design Action members have all come to this work from different backgrounds. So even in our nine-person shop, we are constantly learning from each other. We recognize that the stories of our diverse histories and cultures are often co-opted or told for us. And we seek to help people tell their own stories. Graphic design and other media can help bring a unified voice and help us identify with diverse struggles for social justice. We believe that this kind of cultural work should be accountable to the campaigns lead by the most impacted people, which is why Design Action is always collaborating with organizers and community leaders. We have a responsibility to help undermine oppressive narratives and articulate visions for the future.
Collin Harris is a freelance writer and activist based in Portland,
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: email@example.com; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; email@example.com; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; email@example.com; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; email@example.com http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; email@example.com; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.