Every year, the SDGQ (Society of Graphic Designers of Quebec) and professor Marc H. Choko host a poster competition for students enrolled in a graphic design program. A social issue is given as a theme. In 2018, it was Femmes et pouvoir d’agir (Women and the Power to Act), in collaboration with the community organization Relais-femmes. The poster had to illustrate the theme while advertising the exhibition of the finalists at the McCord Museum in Montreal.
The main challenge was to represent women, the struggles they face and the strength they possess, in a way that felt interesting and differed from what had been done. A thoughtful brainstorming of associated imagery helped to eliminate some of the clichés, and bring to light unexpected connections.
The result is graphic and powerful in its simplicity. Symbolism of image and colour unite to deliver the message without delay. The poster can be interpreted in several ways, all effective and consistent with the theme. First, it can be seen as a struggle: a woman’s arm, filled in with the iconic – or stereotypical? – pink, arm wrestling with an adversary. The other interpretation is that of a helping hand supporting a weaker figure, implying a joint effort from women to help one another regardless of their background and ethnicity. Finally, the shapes seem to join in a congratulatory gesture, implying collaboration and a positive outcome.
The handwritten type and spontaneous design of the visual, which seems effortless and made up of only a few strokes, is what makes the design both urgent and relatable. The two-colour print job and screen printed feel of the poster add to that effect.
The poster highlights women’s strength while pointing out their struggle. The design is immediate, while allowing some room for interpretation; it benefits from symbolism while avoiding clichés.