An illustrative image from the Time is Running Out: Strike for Climate! project

Time is Running Out: Strike for Climate!

Creating letterpressed posters for the 2019 Global Climate Strike and beyond.

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  • When

  • Roles

    Art Direction, Graphic Design, and Letterpress Printing

  • Collaborators

    Jon Leland, Cassie Marketos, and Dan Gardiner Morris

Opportunity

My former colleague and sometimes collaborator Jon Leland, VP of Insights at Kickstarter, messaged me a few weeks before the Global Climate Strike with the original idea.

A message from Jon asking if I'm free to chat
The message that kicked things off.

We suspected a Kickstarter campaign with appealing posters for the Climate Strike could galvanise more people into attending the strike or considering the urgency of climate action. Given our intimate knowledge of the Kickstarter platform, we felt we could successfully fund the production of posters with a low environmental cost.

Roles and collaborators

Jon managed the project and eventually the logistics and finances for producing the posters. Cassie Marketos, former VP of Community Strategy at Kickstarter, worked with Jon to set the tone of the project and tell its story to backers. We all pitched in for the letterpress printing process at The Arm, where Dan Gardiner Morris was invaluable in setting us up.

Shaping the posters

We had two factors working against us: the Climate Strike would be taking place is under a month, and I was in the middle of a two week cross-country trip. The Kickstarter project had to be launched within days in order to fulfil poster printing and delivery.

The Kickstarter project needed graphics indicative of what the posters might look like, but their appearance would depend on our chosen printing process. I therefore spent the early part of the design process deciding on a printing process which could then inform the remaining design process.

Given the environmental nature of the project, we wanted to work with a local (New York area) printer. We hoped for recycled card stock and a less-intensive printing method. I contacted Dan at The Arm, a print shop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn that specialises in Risograph and letterpress printing. Thankfully, Dan was willing to give us estimates and express design constraints within the first hours of contact. These design constraints informed the indicative poster mockups for the imminent Kickstarter campaign graphics.

A paper sketch alongside some digital renderings
Some of the hasty, unglamorous poster format sketches and digital renders to give Dan at The Arm for colour and type direction.

Making the posters

The analog nature of letterpress meant that the rest of the design process would take place on-site at The Arm. We chose appropriate wooden type, paint colours, and ordered recycled paper stock.

A drawer full of wooden type Three people aligning type on a piece of paper A person's hand arranging type on a piece of paper
The four of us deciding on typography and paint details. The repeated We will be... format on three of the four posters would end up saving us a lot of time in a soon-to-be tight printing process, as we would only needs to change the last line's wooden type.

Another deciding factor for letterpress was the vibrancy and tactility of the print. Although Risograph could have achieved similar or even more vivid colours, letterpress matched the analog context in which the posters would be situated. Final colours and their arrangements were determined by how appropriately they matched the poster messaging and how well they expressed the urgency of climate action.

Aside from the delivery challenge (which is described below), the remaining tasks within the design process were fairly mechanical. Dan helped set up the plates and Vandercook letterpresses. Cassie, Jon, and I alternated printing the poster backgrounds gradients and foreground text.

Inside The Arm as we knocked out the posters.
Dan printing background colours on paper A printed poster coming out of the letterpress A printed poster coming out of the letterpress
First: Dan setting up the first run of paint on the Vandercook. Second: A 'Time is Running Out` poster. Third: A 'We Will Be Hungry' poster.

Challenges faced

An unusually slow delivery of paper stock forced us to print in two runs; the first using the small amount of paper on-hand and the second closer to the Climate Strike when the delivery would ultimately drive.

Changes made

Updating the Kickstarter campaign to encourage local, New York, pickup made both economic and environmental sense. It also saved us from missing the deadline for our unusually slow paper delivery. The backers who chose pick-up freed up the first-run for postage to non-New Yorkers; for whom posters had to be sent immediately to make the Climate Strike on September 21.

Another helping factor was our simplified poster layout. Constraining ourselves to four large lines of text followed by a consistent Strike for Climate footer (across all four posters) helped minimise labour in the quite-manual printing process. We could simply swap one (for most posters) or some lines out and replace them for the following run.

A hand arranging type on a plate, in preparation for printing Dan holding up two test prints Danny proudly holding up a completed print
A series of test plates and prints using our self-imposed constraints.

We finished the printing process with just enough time to spare for non-New York delivery, and then local delivery, and pick-up.

Jon scoring envelopes to properly fit posters Jon packing an envelope with posters
Jon sending posters to non-New York backers, just in time to make the Climate Strike.

The Climate Strike

Excess funds from the Kickstarter project allowed us to print more posters to hand out on the day.

Myles handing out a poster Myles handing out a poster
Myles and Tyler giving us a hand distributing posters. The posters went within minutes.

We also had some friends send photos through of posters they saw in the wild.

Four kids sitting on garbage bins and holding Climate Strike posters Girl at Climate Strike with 'Time is Running Out' poster behind her
First: Some kids with our posters. Photo by Krys Maniecki. Second: Another poster spotted in the wild. Photo by Heather Craig.

Photo credits

Photo of girl and poster copyright Heather Craig, Survival Media Agency. Found on 350.org’s ‘Best of Climate Strike’ gallery.

Photo of four kids holding posters by Krys Maniecki.

Links