First American Art Magazine

First American Art Magazine – Exploring Native Graphic Design: Activism and Design + Papyrus: The Power of Bad Fonts

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The latest issue of First American Art Magazine is out, and my column Exploring Native Design is centered around design in an activist context in this issue. The article is a basic overview, giving brief examples of several instances of indigenous people using design as a form of activism. Mentioned in article: AIM/Steve Blake, Louis Karoniaktajeh Hall/Warrior Flag, the Occupy movement/Dignidad Rebelde, Idle No More, Klee Benally, Save Wiyabi, Political T-shirt designs – Demockratees and OxDx, and Gregg Deal’s take on the Gap “Manifest Destiny” tee.

Also in this issue is an well-needed article by Roy Boney Jr. (Cherokee) – Papyrus: The Power of Bad Fonts. For those who don’t know, fonts such as Papyrus and Comic Sans are big no’s for professional designers (or anyone, really!). In an often humorous fashion, Roy astutely discusses the importance of typography’s messages, and analyzes and critiques the baffling usage of the Papyrus font among Natives, ending with the imperative, “Make your choice anything but Papyrus.” Roy notes that he could fill his “article with egregious sample images I come across quite regularly, but I want to keep my friends, even the ones who use Papyrus, so this column should be viewed as a public service announcement about bad design.”

Here’s a good quote about why Natives should take care in using Papyrus:
“But harm, comes from the symbolism of Papyrus being tied to ideas such as nature and ancientness. It paints us as noble mystic savages while forcing us to continually live as relics of the past. These are the same ideas used throughout history to subvert us as people in attempts to destroy our cultures, languages, and land bases. It belittles our standing as vibrant, 21st-century-people with strong cultures. The fact that we have embraced an action such as graphic design speaks volumes about the true nature of how we exist in a contemporary context. Our choice to create communicative materials such as posters, fliers, t-shirts, newsletters, stickers, and websites means that we must be aware of the design elements of our content.”

Good stuff! If the article becomes available online, I’ll be sure to share it here.

Order your copy of the magazine here: Issue No. 1, Fall 2013. There’s some particularly excellent artist features in this issue, plus lots of other good articles.

By Neebinnaukzhik

I am a Native (Chippewas of Rama First Nation) graphic designer and artist. I graduated with an Honors Bachelor of Fine Arts from Oregon State University in Applied Visual Arts (Graphic Design). I am passionate about the intersections among design and Native cultures from the Americas.

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