Essentially, committing to social justice and social change work through graphic design. We focus on projects that emphasize collaboration and community building, cultural production, activist research, and political mobilization. This goes all the way from front-line protest work, like the design of our latest series of anti-racist posters and placards, to more educational and informational projects such as, Life on Hold, an interactive documentary on Syrian refugees in Lebanon that we collaborated on with KNGFU for Al Jazeera. We also work really hard to give visibility to under-represented groups within our cultural and media landscape.
I don’t like the term ‘activist’ very much, but I suppose it’s often how I’ve been labelled as a designer, I think it’s really important to be connected to the grassroots movements I work with. Sometimes, we help to organize and mobilize for protests and demonstrations. With the violent rise of the racist far-right here and elsewhere, we’ve been focusing a lot on anti-racist design and organizing. The murder of six Muslim men in mosque in Québec was a tragic and shocking call to action, coupled with the frequent rallies being organized by these hate groups. We feel they need to be confronted.
Design anthropologist Dori Tunstall said, “Design translates values into tangible experiences”. Which then raises the question what are our values? For me it’s about bringing ‘good’ values into the world and the communities I work with. I want to make things with these values embedded within them, to pass them to people, share them, use them.
Design history is often conflated with commercialism and advertising, but there is an alternative history to tell. Both histories are linked to the printing press, but it’s emancipatory role, as a tool for the democratization of knowledge, is undermined by the focus on it as a commercial technology.
It’s cheesy but — talk to your neighbours. I’m not dogmatic and wouldn’t tell people they have to do anything, but I do wish people were at least more aware of the systemic oppression in this society.
If we can deconstruct this narrative and use the skills we have try to help people where they are at, I think it’s important. I’m a designer, so with the skills I have, I can try to lend visibility to underrepresented issues that are affecting my various communities. And of course, other people have other skills to share.
Conflicted. Gentrification is a big part of that, and of course in some ways, I’ve participated in it. Mile-End has a special character because of the mix of cultures — Greek, Hasidic, Italian and young artists … It’s a free space in ways, but with its growing popularity, with all the startups and design studios, we are seeing things becoming less accessible to people that have been living here for a while. We’ve also lost a lot of underground spaces to experiment.
People trying to set up business here should at the very least try to be accessible to the community. On a very basic level, we’re talking about prices. We should still be able to get a cheap sandwich somewhere.
It has shifted and changed with gentrification, but it’s still a gathering space for a lot of my friends. I think Social Club is the centre of the world.
As a community, we should support the businesses that have been here for a long time. I think of Tammy and her flower shop. How the community came together to help her out. Every time I pass by, she helps me practise Chinese. I remember when the fire affected her shop. People rallied around her to raise money to get the store back in operation. It’s such a lovely story and it’s because she’s been here for so long, people know her, she’s always been so kind and generous. That’s how a community stays strong.
When I first got here 10 years ago I remember my mom was helping me move and we stopped by the Roti place on St-Laurent (Jardin du Cari) and I remember my mom telling the owner to make sure that I never starve. He kept up his end of the bargain. I like this neighbourhood because of the people. Jay at Social Club or Billy at Monastiraki are the people I say hi to and catch up with. It gives me a sense of this is where I call home.
Yeah, Billy Mavreas! He runs Monastiraki which is an art gallery slash studio slash knick-knack store on St-Laurent by St-Viateur. I wish he would run for mayor of Mile-End! He’s got great wisdom, and has been such a central figure of the neighbourhood for so long. When I feel down I’ll swing by the store to chat with him about personal problems, relationships, work, politics, all sorts of stuff and he always listens and helps.
Mile End Mission. The events RuePublique organises. Social Club and Barros Luco. Navarino until it closed down, RIP. Articule, an artist-run centre that hosts amazing discussions, exhibits and workshops (where I currently sit on the board). New businesses and development are normal, change is going to happen, but it can happen respectfully. To the large corporations coming here, I would say simply: Don’t f*cking move here! … They won’t listen to me … (laughs) … A neighbourhood is more than a place to do business. People have their lives here.
I’m obsessed with typography. The Mile End Type project joins my love of type and signage with my love for the neighbourhood I live in. Documenting the typographic character of a neighbourhood is a nice way to capture its spirit. With gentrification you see a lot of the old signage disappear, so the project is also an archive for posterity and a subtle statement against gentrification that aims to preserve the cultural history of this space. I have quite a few favourite signs. The giant ghost sign on the warehouse by the overpass. I love that. The giant textiles sign at the corner of Bernard and St-Laurent. They all have their unique character.
Social Club. Champs des possibles. Articule. Monastiraki. Drawn and Quarterly.