The power of protest art: DIY creations inspired by Donald Trump

Emojis, peaches and flaming globes – we attended the latest London rally opposed to President Trump’s UK state visit and spoke to protesters about the placards they had created.

The world is full of divided opinion right now. The new US president’s extreme laws and views towards immigrants, women and minorities in general have triggered an uprising of conflicted opinions as people worldwide are either expressing outrage or, frighteningly, encouragement.

Terms such as “fake news” and “alternative facts” have also been born, as the public sees both a new form of hoax reporting, and disingenuous “news” sources appearing. Meanwhile politicians such as Donald Trump are publicly citing events that never happened. Only last week, Trump suggested that a non-existent terror attack had taken place in Sweden, which he had allegedly extrapolated from a Fox News report.

All this has caused apathy to fall and activism to rise, both from those who oppose what is going on in the world, and those in favour of it.

But with these divisive opinions, also comes solidarity. Over the last few months, hundreds of thousands of people have come together in protests worldwide, expressing their opposition to right-wing politics through chanting, marching – and placard art.

People are using creativity as a form of expression, employing their imaginations and taking inspiration from existing imagery and phrases to create both serious and hard-hitting protest posters that require skills such as painting, drawing and word-play.

I was on the ground at the latest London anti-Trump protest, which took place on 20 February and saw tens of thousands attendees rally in opposition to Trump making a state visit to the UK. People held up hand-made, colourful placards, banners and posters, which saw non-professional designers take to designing. I picked out some from the crowd and chatted to the people behind them.

This ironic creation from 36-year-old communications programme director Hannah Staunton pokes fun at the growing concept of “fake news”, which is being disseminated both by the president himself and by online media sources which are either legitimate and getting their facts wrong, or being tongue-in-cheek.

Staunton’s poster references two terror events spoken about by the Trump administration which never happened: a massacre on a Bowling Green in Kentucky, the US, and a terror attack in Sweden. “One of the biggest problems I’ve got with the current wave of populism is that truth and facts are just getting completely lost,” says Staunton. “If we can’t agree what facts are, we’re never going to be able to have sensible conversations about really major issues.”

She created her poster by tracing an illustration of a Swedish chef she found online with pencil. She then went over it in black pen, drawing out the all-caps typography and doing the shading free-hand in fine-liners.

Her main reason for designing her own poster was to make clear the point about Trump’s administration that had her most riled up. “It’s good to think about what kind of message you want to send,” she says. “We’re all here for slightly different reasons, so it’s nice to show solidarity but at the same time, show our differences.”

Taking a more pun-influenced, humorous stance, was 35-year-old software engineer Luke Carter. Carter has played on the word “impeachment”, a law in the US which allows charges to be brought towards somebody in government for alleged crimes, quite forthrightly pasting Donald Trump’s face onto the surface of a peach.

Carter has used a pretty grass roots method to design his creation, staying away from designer-friendly Adobe Photoshop. Instead, he used a website that merges images together to create the peach-face, and Paint – yes, Paint – to design the typeface. His justification for the artwork is pretty self-explanatory. “Well, I think Trump should be impeached…and I think he should be in-peached,” he says. “I thought a humorous sign would have more impact.”

When asked why he was attending the march, he simply says, “I’m against all this stuff” – probably a succinct summary of many people’s current feelings.

This minimal, firey ball of rage was painted by 22-year-old economics university student Jordan Ramsey. His creation shows the power a simple, abstract image can have in drawing associations – and also demonstrates how recognisable Trump’s face has come to be. Ramsey says he was looking to create a “low-cost” design that was “pretty simple and efficient”, and started by looking at emojis.

“I soon realised quite how easily I could turn the angry emoji into Donald Trump,” he says. “It looks a bit like a South Park caricature.” He created his placard using red, black and yellow acrylic paints, a couple of paintbrushes, some corrugated plastic he found at uni and “a stick I broke off something at home”.

His friends’ posters also demonstrated strength in simplicity, with one small, plastic sign that simply read “ARGH” in black marker. Basic signs like this show the breadth of people who are now turning to art and design in any form to make a statement and express an individual voice. “You want to carry your own piece really, as simple as it is,” says Ramsey.

At the other end of the spectrum, this artistic masterpiece was designed by 29-year-old musician and web developer Noemie Ducimetiere. It depicts Trump riding a burning planet, and references the president’s laisse-faire attitude towards environmental issues and global warming.

“The planet is burning along the equator, and here is a man who denies this has anything to do with our actions and our emissions,” Ducimetiere says. “He’s come into power at a time when we really can’t afford it – so I spent all night making this sign.”

She used several sources as inspiration, including a map of the world, tattoo designs to inform her fire imagery and “Trump’s beautiful face”, she says. It has been designed using wall paints, liquid latex and green fabric dye. While Ducimetiere isn’t an artist, she says she doodles as a hobby and felt it was important to express herself through her own art.

“These protests are opportunities for expression and that’s what people should be encouraged to do – not just use the blanket signs that are made by somebody else,” she says. “Of course, people come and represent in different ways – by mass, through words or through art. I think art is the most universal language.”

A selection of other hand-made posters spotted at the march:

Have you attended a protest recently? Tell us about your favourite placard designs in the comments section below.

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  • efs July 19, 2018 at 2:50 am

    Literally 0 power in protests that makes fun of a person’s appearance or ignorant statements that are driven by mainstream media without being researched fully. If you want protest, go look at the Punk movement, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill posters or PETA protest posters to name a few.

  • kida June 6, 2019 at 9:26 am

    Not really seeing any clear political arguments here utilising design… Its almost like these people dislike trump because mainstream media has told them they have to – evidenced by the fact literally nothing is being said or communicated other than cheap shots based on Trumps appearance and ‘the wall’ – a boarder that was already in place – be it flimsily – BEFORE Trump.

    But yet this is kind of protest is given so much coverage which only fuels the fire by making others feel the need to conform in this age of ‘Trump Derangement Syndrome’.

    I thought good design strived for clear and effective communication?

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