Using an essay by William Morris, Useful Work vs Useless Toil, we worked with 2nd year Graphic Design students at Camberwell School of Art, challenging how we think about design in relation to twenty-first century ideas around work, collectivity and social purpose.
We asked: How can design serve politics? Can it function outside of capitalism? How can we turn useless toil (for others) into useful work (for ourselves and each other)?
The project included a research trip to MayDayRooms, a talk by economics expert William Kherbek, design briefs to visualise the finance industry, make a post-brexit welcome pack and research the history of Left Wing design in the UK and internationally, from Walter Crane through Socialist Realism to DIY influences of the 1970’s and the slick centre-Left identity of New Labour.
The project culminated in Nation 283, a new country in the centre of Peckham, London. The students conceptualised ideas around collaboration, work and the current political climate (Prime minister Theresa May called a snap election in the middle of the project), named and designed the identity for Nation 283, exhibited their design work and organised a series of talks, events and workshops including William Kherbek, banner making with Anti-University and a placard workshop with Rosalie Schweiker.