Lessons in the Language of the Suffrage Movement
Women’s Right to Vote
Passed by Congress June 4, 1919. Ratified August 18, 1920
The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment.
The suffrage movement of the mid-nineteenth century, recognized today as the first wave of “feminism,” continues to influence and inspire the ongoing struggle for women’s rights. Many of the methods and strategies of our early pioneers serve not only as inspiration, but, as a model for effective communication that is still relevant today.
“Man was given an eye for an ear.”
— Marshall McLuhan, The Medium is the Massage
The pioneers of the suffrage understood the power of the visual message. Their use of color, branded collateral, such as badges, banners, ribbons, and the promotion of their political messages, through the traditional means of posters and postcards, drew attention and created a precedent for protesting copied around the world by other political movements, including today.
These pioneering women used simple language and ‘conversations’ in an attempt to educate people about the injustices of the legal system. These messages were often hand generated in a vernacular manner. The poster, in particular, proved informative, accessible, and an effective medium for the dramatization of a specific point of view.
This collection serves as a brief visual research of language and methods of communication of the suffrage. Through a formal and conceptual investigation of hierarchy and composition using the timely messages of the suffrage, students will explore the process and historical method of poster making, the letterpress printing process.
Students will explore the vocabulary of the Women’s Voting Rights Movement through a series of typographic letterpressed permutations. Students will identify and explore themes that are different, as well as those that have remained the same for any disenfranchised individuals in the United States.
Each student is to choose one of the quotes provided in the presentation or find a relevant quote of the time. This will serve as the content for the typographic studies. Depending on the students’ concept for the poster, additional research and text may be required.
PHASE 1: Typographic Interpretations
Design a poster representing one of the historic statements of the suffrage. Your poster can remind people of the amendment’s original purpose and importance and/or raise awareness about a particular issue related to the amendment. There are plenty of high profile issues in the news now that directly relate this amendment. Your audience is college students.
“ All typefaces serve fundamentally the same purpose: to communicate. The purpose behind the communication –
for example, to inform, to entertain, or to persuade – is expressed, in part, by the typeface chosen. As the
communication objectives change, so might the typeface.” – Willi Kunz
Typographic Process and Checklist
1 review content – reading/understanding.
2 search for inherent structure/patterns/rhythms within the text.
3 develop preliminary plans for hierarchical structures.
4 sketches – create quick but meaningful “road maps” of your thoughts.
5 develop concepts of “center and support” configurations.
6 construct preliminary, secondary & tertiary alignments.
7 form constellations that house sub-thoughts within the text (grouping info.).
8 consider/reconsider overall composition while thinking about “activating the edge.”
9 play against the viewer’s expectations.
10 legibility (clarity and efficiency in reading) vs. readability (pleasure and interest in reading)– Willi Kunz
PHASE 2: Type & Image Interpretations
+ Integrate text + image using the four methods described in the book Type, Image, Message by Skolos + Wedell
+ Recognize the design opportunities that come with using type as an image
Type, Image, Message by Skolos + Wedell
Separation, Fusion, Fragmentation & Inversion
Separation – when the type & image operate independently. Reinforce messages. Type spaces & image spaces.
Fusion – when the type and image blend to form a unit. Type & image connected by perspective—blend 2 plus things that aren’t usually associated. Conceptually connected. Political or poetic statement. Metaphor
Fragmentation – when the type & image disturb or disrupt each other. Torn, divided, uneven, disparate. Scale, color, complication. Unpredictable, random, animated, energized message.
Inversion – form of fusion when type & image trade places & the type takes on pictorial properties or the image takes on type qualities. Harmonious. Type as photo, or hyper-realistic. Letters as frames for images.
• Two 14 by 17 inch letterpressed posters. One typographic solution. One type and image solution.
• Printed in 2- 3 color
• Quote selected must be included (but does not need to be the primary read)
Assistant Professor | Art Department | Pace University-NYC
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