Inspired by Jesse Reed and Michael Bierut’s design of an official H monogram for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, we created an unauthorized campaign poster for Donald J. Trump. Whereas Hillary’s H pulls one’s eye to the letterform itself, the narrative implicit in our design requires the viewer’s gaze to oscillate between foreground and background; between typographic form and counter-form.
The form comprises four gold, rotating letter Ts which are emblematic of qualities projected by Donald Trump and largely accepted by his supporters: strength, success, wealth, and revolutionary (i.e. impolitic) speech. The counter-form suggests a conflicting narrative, however: namely, that Donald Trump’s disruptive and divisive rhetoric is creating metaphoric negative spaces in the fabric of American society. These spaces—fracture lines, really—snake through the design’s square silhouette to reveal a swastika. And while the swastika is historically a symbol of dynamism and cyclical renewal associated with the sun, in this context it simply evokes hate speech and nationalist demagoguery.
Let’s be clear: for some Americans, the attractive aspects of Donald Trump’s public persona can obscure his repellent views. The tension in our design between positive and negative space—between luxe gold foil letters and the matte black swastika—is meant to mirror this dualism, and it is a tension that makes some uncomfortable. “How do I know it’s anti-Trump?” one wary hipster asked when we offered him our poster in the Chrome store on Valencia Street in San Francisco’s Mission District.
We hung some of our posters along several blocks of the Mission District that Saturday afternoon. Did anyone notice? In his 1966 book I manifesti, Italian designer Attilio Rossi records that “The poster is an optic scandal. You don’t want to look at it yet you see it.” We know that our scandalous Trump posters were indeed seen; only hours later, even the tape that held them in place was gone.