The Art of Protest Part I – Protest Poster Art

“Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence.” ― Leonardo da Vinci.

How did great artists protest? What kind of posters / protest art did they create? Which posters have proved effective?

In my next two blog posts I hope to get answers to these questions.

A good poster –

  • Tells a story
  • Simplifies the message
  • Amplifies the message by using arresting images / colors and provocative language
  • Focuses the eye, by making eye contact, manipulating scale, and other graphic effects

If you want to learn more about posters graphic design, the best teacher out there is Ellen Lupton: her Skillshare course, or book.

Paula Scher 1994 poster for “Him” at The Public Theater

Above: Simplicity, arresting color scheme, eye contact. Brilliant. 

Most protest posters are either typographic:

Poster by Dome Collective

Above: From a series of protest posters that were made for free download and print – towards the Womens March in Washington (January 21st 2017).

Designed by Frank Dresmé


OR focus on one strong visual object:

Designed by Peter Vattanatham + Fiel Valdez
Designed by Lauren Albee

“Artists Amplify the Power of Protest Signs”

keith haring aids protest
Keith Haring at ACT Up City Hall Protest
Exhibit #31. John Penley Photographs and Papers, Tamiment Library, New York University. Photograph by John Penley. Via Flickr.
Don’t miss this excellent article with more posters made for current campaigns of Dear Ivanka#starsofallstripes.
katie holden poster
DIY poster by Katie Holten. Photo: Dillon Cohen

Artworks For Change

is an organization that curate artworks that address critical social and environmental issues.
They arrange traveling museum exhibitions “to harness the transformative power of art to promote awareness, provoke dialogue, and inspire action…”
About the tragic state of our oceans:

Gyre, Fred Tomaselli, 2014, 60″ x 84″, photo-collage, leaves, acrylic and resin on wood panel, © 2014, courtesy of James Cohan Gallery and the artist. 


Did you know that the Fashion Industry Is the World’s Second Most Polluting Industry?

Mort, Guerra de la Paz, 2010, found garments and shoes, fold-out bed, wood, dimensions variable, © 2010, courtesy of Chloe Gill, Holster Projects and the artists

“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world…would do this, it would change the earth.”
― William Faulkner



Part 2 will discuss: Picasso’s politics and protest art; How the CIA funded Iranian artists, and more.

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