Visual communication campaign on human rights in commemoration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 60th anniversary.
I believe that art can serve to create awareness and open a dialogue about topics that people wouldn’t talk about otherwise.
–Sharon Levy, Product Design student
In continuing partnership with the United Nations Department of Public Information(UN DPI), Designmatters and the Department of Illustration led a transdisciplinary studio in Summer 2008 on the topic of human rights to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The resulting work formed the poster exhibition, “Images for Human Rights: Student Voices,” which was first displayed as part of the annual UN DPI/Non-Governmental Organization conference at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) headquarters in Paris from September 3-5, 2008, and has since been shown at the Pasadena Central Library, the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, and the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills, Michigan.
Students were challenged to interpret and represent the Universal Declaration of Human Rights through images and text while keeping in mind internationalism and accessibility in their messaging.
Before they began their research, students were given background and guidance on the project by Art Center photography alumna and UN liaison, Gala Narezo. Having worked as an artist and consultant for the UN, Gala provided a foundation for understanding the significance of the Declaration and the role a designer can play in communicating these important rights. Gala advised and guided the students’ work throughout the length of the studio. A guest lecture and midterm visit by Professor Alison Dundes Renteln, who specializes in international law and human rights at USC’s Department of Political Science, gave another valuable perspective and provided additional information and resources on the topic of human rights. Also guiding their work was an online critique hosted by Design 21, a social design network. Through key support from Illustration Department Director Amy Masgai, the students were able to share their work through Design 21, and receive important feedback from one of their advisory board members, Jacques Lange, a design consultant to the Nelson Mandela Foundation, Centre for Human Rights, Centre for the Study of AIDS, and the UNDP.
Informed by the studio guests and their own research, students worked in multi-disciplinary teams to create a series of posters that gave personal interpretations of at least one of the articles in the Declaration. All the final poster designs underwent rigorous review by faculty and department chairs–in conjunction with the curatorial direction of Illustration Chair Ann Field–and in the end, only 25 were selected for participation in the exhibition at UNESCO. Together, the posters aim to inspire a vibrant dialogue on the universal theme of human rights through visual messaging. In addition to existing in poster form, postcard-sized versions have also been developed.
Through generous sponsorship by the France Los Angeles Exchange Foundation, “Images for Human Rights: Student Voices” became a public education exhibition shown at UNESCO headquarters in Paris as part of the annual UN DPI/NGO conference. The 2008 conference, which convened NGOs from around the world to address priority issues on the UN agenda, was entitled, “Reaffirming Human Rights: the Universal Declaration at 60.” Following the premiere in Paris, the project was also on display from December 1-31, 2008 at the Pasadena Central Library in conjunction with the Mayor’s citywide celebration of International Human Rights Day. From November 2009 through March 2010, “Images for Human Rights: Student Voices” was a featured exhibition at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. In April 2009, Ani Gevorgian’s “Equality is Freedom” posterwas licensed to the National Collegiate Conference Association and the National Model United Nations, as the graphic identity for their youth conference in New York City. Click here to read Ani’s guest blog, “Change Through Art”.
In 2011, “Images for Human Rights: Student Voices” became a permanent installation of the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills, Michigan.