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The poster art of Occupy Wall Street

Consider how many creative people stand in support of Occupy Wall Street, and it’s no wonder this movement is generating some incredible art.

Here are 10 Occupy Wall Street poster designs I think are super cool, followed by some personal observations about how the visual language of Occupy has evolved.

Can you see the new world through the tear gas
Poster by Molly Crabapple

Zuccotti: Tip of the iceberg
Poster by Dave Loewenstein

Occupy! Bear eating bull
Poster by Roger Peet

Occupy Wall Street, The beginning is near
Poster by Alexandra Clotfelter

Eat the rich before they eat you
Poster by Cristy C. Road

Occupy everything
Poster by Edd Baldry

This is not about banks. This is a permanent crisis.
Poster by image-shift / berlin

We will tear down Wall Street greed
Poster by Nicole Schulman

The world vs. the 1%: Capitalism is the crisis
Poster by Favianna Rodriguez

Poster by Nobodycorp

* * * *

How it started

Art and design was a big part of Occupy Wall Street from the start. Adbusters, which is credited with starting the idea of Occupy Wall Street this summer, introduced a call to occupy Lower Manhattan with this graphic:

(I remember seeing this graphic on the Adbusters website, but it seems to be gone now. This version is from ArtInfo).

From there, the look of the movement became a little more homespun. In the first days of Occupy Wall Street, protesters at Zuccotti Park in New York City drew signs with marker on pieces of cardboard, often from discarded pizza boxes. Passersby who were curious what people were so angry about needed only stop for a minute and read the signs.

September 19, 2011

September 21

October 10

Gradually, the display grew bigger and the signs became one of the fixtures of the park. The protest spread globally, and artists in cities everywhere were beginning to contribute art.

Several websites spring up to chronicle the visual language of Occupy, including Occuprint (where the posters on this page were found), Occupy Design, and Occupy Together. The poster page of Occupy Together grew so overwhelmed that editors posted a notice saying they could no longer accept submissions.

Last week, Occupiers in New York were handing out copies of the 4th edition of the Occupied Wall Street Journal. (See previous posts about this free newspaper.) In a delightful surprise, this issue features almost no articles, and instead is a graphically brilliant five-section poster folio.

Occupied Wall Street Journal Issue 4

This newspaper hit streets just as Occupiers were marching though the city for the November 17 Day of Action, reacting to the NYPD evicting the Zuccotti/Liberty Square Encampment. As the movement tries to find traction beyond fighting to camp in parks, it will need to think bigger. Graphic design, sloganeering, and shrewd use of mass media will become critical to winning supporters.

* * * *

The poster language emerging from the Occupy Wall Street combines a lot of threads of the past into something new. The art is a product of Internet graphic design culture, which in turn borrows heavily from the modernism and minimalism. It’s Saul Bass channeled through Adobe Illustrator. Also add dash of comic book art, a strong influence of rock-and-roll screen prints, and some knowingly ironic use of Cold War and World War II propaganda iconography. The art and the language is earnest and bold; so far this isn’t a movement that pokes fun at itself.

To me, the most powerful poster I’ve seen is the one above by Alexandra Clotfelter, showing the symbolic Wall Street bull ensnared in ropes, with the seemingly contradictory message “The beginning is near.” It seems to say: Only by taming a broken, raging, out-of-control system can we begin to put something in place that actually works. It’s an angry image, but the copy channels the anger into purposeful optimism. At this point, the best thing art can do to help the Occupy Wall Street movement is to inject a sense of hope.

* * * *

Credits: All poster images used with permission of the artists, except the Nobodycorp poster, which is reproduced under a Creative Commons license. You can find high-quality PDFs of these posters at Occuprint. All photos © Daryl Lang.

— By Daryl Lang. Filed under Politics, Signage


  1. Gordon Glick says:

    The enthusiasm, along with the serious message, reminds me of some of the posters that came from the Anarchist left in Spain 1936. The poster art from the 1960s qnd 1970s, with the exception of the Black Panther newspaper, SDS and IWW stuff, were mostly influenced by the peace movement, and psychedelia. These images are from the bottom-up, and hit hard.

  2. Stephen says:

    I was one of the “pre-organizers” for Occupy Phoenix starting outreach. Early on, our local fliers and poster art submissions were all “white text on black background” that burned through ink cartridges incredibly fast and had some odd custom sizes and dimensions.

    I found Raina Dayne on Facebook after seeing her design work on the Occupy Together website. I asked and she put together 3 different posters/fliers for Occupy Phoenix from some slogans and basic ideas I had. She was a great help as I’m an accountant by trade with no real graphic design skills or tools.

    I believe she was one of the people who went on to organize Occupy Design.

    It was really amazing how people in this movement were pulling together to help out people they didn’t know.

  3. Jeff Wallin says:

    I had never seen these before. The first 3 hit me like uppercuts to the jaw, and for the first time since Occupy began I actuallybegan to feel as though I might have missed out on a movement of my time…but its only the begining, isn’t it. The problem is age-old and doesn’t budge easily. Social vs System.

    Thank you for posting 🙂

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