Young people marching Saturday as part of nationwide anti-gun violence demonstrations deserve for their messages to be seen and heard, said Spencer Branham. Solid, impactful design will help, he added.
Members of AIGA KC, a professional organization for Kansas City graphic designers, are now accepting submissions ahead of Saturday’s March For Our Lives events, said Branham, president of the group and a lead organizer of its effort.
“We’d like to help turn the mantras, slogans and statements students and families hope to carry on posters into art. Our vision is simple: Marchers send us what they’d like to say and we’ll mobilize designers across the city to design and print them for pick up [at the Kansas City event],” the group said in a message on its website.
The March For Our Lives rally is set for noon Saturday at Theis Park, just south of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Performers and speakers, including Kansas City Mayor Sly James, are expected at the event. Saturday’s demonstrations across the country come in response to a mass shooting earlier this month at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 dead.
With about 525 members from Kansas City’s robust design community, AIGA KC thought it was the right time to get involved, said Branham, who also is an associate design director in the design department at Barkley in the Crossroads.
“Our No. 1 goal is for the young people and other marchers to have a tangible item,” he said. “So anybody who comes to this march or sees a post online has something they can print or pin up in their room, something they can put up in their locker or at their desks that reminds them to keep going.”
The group doesn’t want to dissuade demonstrators from crafting their own handmade signs, he said, emphasizing AIGA KC only hopes to help provide options for those without the time to design or who don’t necessarily know how to express themselves.
Some designs that already have been submitted are simple, but cutting, Branham said. Others reflect the anger of students who aren’t pulling any punches, he added.
“We hosted some students the other night, and we were talking through their feelings, what they would like to see happen — just to kind of get an understanding of what their day-to-day looks like in this kind of new realm,” he said. “They would rather be worrying about who to take the prom, than worrying about how to hide. It’s a very odd scenario for them.”
“No matter which side of the debate you exist on, I think they’re really just asking for conversation,” he added.
Himself a teenager when one of the first high-profile, modern-era school shootings rocked Columbine High School in 1999, Branham acknowledged struggling with knowing how to help amid a seemingly endless string of gun violence incidents.
“These school shootings happen over and over and over again, and many of us don’t really know what to do,” he said. “But the second these young people mobilized and said, ‘We’re going to do this,’ we saw this as an amazing opportunity to use our tools to help them stand out and look professional and be taken seriously.”
Branham hopes young people will continue sending in design ideas even after Saturday’s event, he said.