BBCx365 – A poster a day for 365 days

Published:  May 17, 2011
Charlie Rose
BBCx365 – A poster a day for 365 days

How would you bridge the sizable knowledge gap between global current events and the domestic-focused US public? Johnny Selman, Virginian graphic designer, has decided to take his project 20 BBC headline posters in 20 days to the next level – BBCx365.

In a media world saturated with photographs and editorial cartoons, Selmann is producing pertinent and stirring images with a purpose. He takes his considerable background in poster design and sits down two hours per day to capture what is happening in the world. with a play on motif, colour and type. The tools of Selmann’s trade are usually used to sell you sneakers and socks, but here he is attempting to use his skills to change the daily habits and culture of his countrymen, by raising awareness and presenting important news issues in tasty, visual bites.

Design is often used as a tool to change community attitudes but the vehicle, execution or concept is ineffective or underdone. Ideo is one organisation that develops design systems to improve the standard of living of developing countries. Many designers have great intentions, but with the industry in which they work is often orientated toward developed societies and with little traction for projects directed to lasting change. For mine, Selman tackles a high but conquerable mountain, his chosen medium and admirable goal are wonderfully complementary. His project is well-defined and executed with great poise.

Looking at significant issues from a credible news source from the perspective of concept, form and craft gives Selmann’s work a clever simplicity that stands in contrast to much of the narrative and metaphorical editorial cartoons in daily news outlets. Editorial cartoonists such as prominent Australian artists Mark Knight, Bill Leak and Michael Leunig, use their wit and talent to poke fun at the issue of the day with a tame political agenda that plays with characters or dialogue. A notable and brilliant example is Leunig’s controversial opposition to Israeli government policy between April 2004 and July 2006.

Selmann’s work is witty in another way. His focus isn’t usually on the players at hand but the concepts and their reflection upon his society. The work is a subtle reflection of his personal ideals. Selmann expresses himself with the same centrism as the BBC but at times the dramatic nature of his work implies a passion about the injustices of  policies and events. The visual style is unmistakably, and please excuse this, ‘designy’. Restricting himself to ten colours, no photography or gradient, type family Gotham, and basic core minimalist design principals, Selmann’s project conveys stories from the mainstream media with an arresting graphic form both quickly digestible and effective as commentary. ‘Barack Obama Pledges to Help U.S Tornadoes Recovery’ (below) is a smart depiction of the headline at hand. Selman sums up the issues and social connotations in one eye-catching piece. Where the core values shift are in more emotive pieces such as ‘Nigera election violence left more than 500 dead’ (below).


Barack Obama pledges to help US tornadoes recovery


Nigeria election violence ‘left more than 500 dead’

‘Transocean gives bonuses after Gulf of Mexico B.P spill’ ( below) and ‘Obama lays wreath at Ground Zero’ (above). Selman creates visceral imagery that evokes a left leaning emotional response. In the Transocean piece, the way the oil smears reflects the damage done by Big Corporate America.

The role of the internet in this project cannot be underestimated. Nearly 6-in-10 Americans younger than 30 have said they get most of their national and international news online (source Absorbing information in short grabs on smart-phones or between windows while juggling multiple tasks at work demands smarter and more effective visuals. With bloggers, online commentators and specialised media outlets tripping over themselves in competition for the public’s attention, is designing the news the next step forward? Clear grabby visual hooks that sum up issues are appealing to a time starved audience. Selman sees himself as something of a white knight, taking posters into the i-age, posterising world issues to stimulate an unsuspecting public.

Why didn’t I think of this first?

Transocean gives bonuses after Gulf of Mexico BP spill

Thumbnail image: Obama lays wreath at ground zero; Bronx Zoo picks name for escaped Egyptian cobra.

All images copyright Johnny Selman.

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