Commissioned to design a poster for the Chicago Design Museum’s Great Ideas of Humanity: Out of the Container exhibition, the curators provided a quote from Henri Bergson for me to respond to: “The present contains nothing more than the past and what is found in the effect was already in the cause.”
Bergson’s quote had me think of the solidifying nature of design — how design solidifies fictions into tangible reality. Harvard Law Professor Roberto Unger refers to this as Formative Context. Understanding this notion invites us to explore the necessity, appropriateness, and the causal relationship of any designed artifact.
The poster for Bergson’s quote has been designed in response to the United States current need to de-escalate tension between the Police and the Public. However, we’ve gone from squad cars with names like Crown Victoria to models now aggressively titled as INTERCEPTOR. Perhaps we should consider the effect of America’s aggressive aesthetics of authority and its role in escalated tensions.
While working with an archive of photos collected on a Chicago Police project, I noticed a grouping that stood out as incredibly problematic. This group contains images (above) of Ford’s aggressively art-directed and designed marketing graphics, which are used to entice police forces to purchase Ford Interceptors.
Using Illustrator’s image trace function, I maintained the images’ content while quickly translating them into a bande dessinée, the Franco-Belgian comics style synonymous with comic book aesthetics. Simplifying the photos allows the viewer of these images to focus less on the colors and backgrounds, thereby highlighting what ends up reading as an overly aggressive subject matter.
Perhaps we are designing our police to be more aggressive? Ford rebranded their Crown Victoria as the Interceptor, in 2012, to cater to the Police market as they wish to be seen. ”2012 was the first year that we changed from the Crown Victoria to the Police Interceptor. We wanted a bold, aggressive style,” said one Ohio officer, after their department's vehicle won a graphics competition, sponsored by the law enforcement publication company Hendon Media Group.
It seems we, as a society, are even awarding this aggressiveness.