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.”

This project was a collaborative effort:
DESIGN & DIRECTION: Nick Adam
BANDES DESSINÉES STUDIES: Thesis Studio 1, RISD | PROFESSORS: Bethany Johns and James Goggin
POLICE PHOTOS: Ford, used under Fair Use for the purpose of education, research, and criticism 
CUSTOM TYPEFACE DESIGN: Uniform by Nick Adam
MUSEUM: Chicago Design Museum | EXHIBITION: Great Ideas of Humanity: Out of the Container 
CURATORS: Lauren Boegen and Matt Terdich
PAPER: Mohawk Superfine Smooth | PRINTING: Classic Color
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.

small selection of marketing images carefully designed by Ford to sell more Police cars
(notice how they have art-directed the subtext of these images)

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.

sample vignettes rendered in the style of bandes dessinées to demonstrate the visual likeness between the police and aggressive comics

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.

the final poster shown in Chicago Design Museum’s exhibition, Great Ideas of Humanity: Out of the Container

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.

(left) initial weltformat poster from RISD's Thesis Studio 1
(right) Great Ideas of Humanity exhibition poster

Credits
This project was a collaborative effort:
DESIGN & DIRECTION: Nick Adam
BANDES DESSINÉES STUDIES: Thesis Studio 1, RISD | PROFESSORS: Bethany Johns and James Goggin
POLICE PHOTOS: Ford, used under Fair Use for the purpose of education, research, and criticism 
CUSTOM TYPEFACE DESIGN: Uniform by Nick Adam
MUSEUM: Chicago Design Museum | EXHIBITION: Great Ideas of Humanity: Out of the Container 
CURATORS: Lauren Boegen and Matt Terdich
PAPER: Mohawk Superfine Smooth | PRINTING: Classic Color

Background
In 1952 Walter Paepcke, founder of Container Corporation of America, initiated an unprecedented advertising campaign entitled the Great Ideas of Western Man. The Great Ideas campaign engaged world-famous artists to interpret quotes from the great philosophers of western civilization. In 2018 the Chicago Design Museum reimagined this historic series as Great Ideas of Humanity. The new work highlights a broad spectrum of human thought and reminds us that, sometimes, looking to the past helps to comprehend the present.
Exhibition Portfolio
Bart Crosby on Augustine of Hippo | Bibliothèque on Alfred North Whitehead | Cody Hudson on Mary Shelley | David Sieren on Andy C., Grade 8 | Douglass Scott on Ralph Waldo Emerson | Eileen Tjan on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe | Gail Anderson on Marian Wright Edelman | Geoff Adler on Carl Sandburg | Hugh Dubberly on Paul Rand and John Dewey | Ivan Chermayeff on Oliver Wendell Holmes | James Goggin on Margaret Anderson | Jason Pickleman on Katharine Kuh | Jilly Simons on Gwendolyn Brooks | Joseph Michael Essex on Guinevere S., Grade 6 | Kimberly Terzis on Anne Sophie Swetchine | LaShun Tines on Frederick Douglass | Margot Harrington on Sojourner Truth | Matthew Hoffman on Susan B. Anthony | Matthew Terdich on Benjamin Franklin | Max Temkin on Bertolt Brecht | Mike Renaud on Victor Hugo | Nick Adam on Henri Bergson | One Design Co. on Henri Bergson | Paula Scher on Walter Benjamin | Pouya Ahmadi on Rumi | Reina Takahashi and Grace Suh on Gotthold Ephraim Lessing | Renata Graw on Hypatia | Russell Lord on Henry Ward Beecher | Ryohei Oba on Starhawk | Tanner Woodford on Edith Wharton | The Patternbase on Lucy Larcom | Veronica Corzo-Duchardt on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Yaro Banduro on Wumen Huikai | see the works here