This recently appeared as the Afterword in Visions of Peace & Justice: political posters from Inkworks Press, Volume 2.
This second volume of exemplary posters printed at Inkworks Press closes an important chapter in movement media history. The first book covered the years 1974 to 2007; this supplement brings us up to 2015. A lot has happened in the world during those years.
Some qualities of these posters are invisible to the reader, but reflect hugely on the changes in print media that have taken place. Most posters made until the early 1990s were created by graphic artists “the old fashioned way” – they were drawn with ink on paper, the typography and headlines were sent out to a professional and pasted up, and the photographic elements were sized and shot – in short, a complex and tedious process. Behind the scenes, skilled workers at print shops like Inkworks would receive all the parts, put them together, and hope that the pre-press proof was correct. All that before ink ever hit paper.
But the digital revolution utterly transformed that. By the mid-1990s designers, with affordable computers and scanners, could create art with their own typography, their own photos, their own proofed documents, ready to reproduce. The costs of color reproduction dropped. Some of the revolutionary prophecies that the personal computer could democratize communication were true.
But one prediction was wrong – that the digital age would make posters obsolete. After all, why bother with a static graphic when you can just as easily make a free colorful video and share it with the world? Wrong. Activists still need posters. Ink on paper not only survived, it thrived.
What we see here is the glorious fruit of the Bay Area’s huge pool of graphic talent, the deep history of social justice work, and the presence of skilled and sympathetic reproduction facilities such as Inkworks Press.
Inkworks was an integral part of a rich progressive publishing ecosystem. It served nobly and well, fueled by a dedicated collective. Another link in the long tradition of printing to make a difference has been closed, and surely others will open.
Behold these paper bullets. Behold the thunder of the press.
-Lincoln Cushing, Inkworks collective member 1981-2001