A photo of two people sitting on wooden chairs, facing each other as they make sketches on sheets of paper resting on their laps. The person to the left of the scene is drawing with their back turned to the camera, as the person on the right is leaning toward them, attentively looking at what they draw. More people appear on the background of the photo, pairs of individuals who are also drawing and exchanging ideas about their sketches.

Collaborative aspirational iconography

with

The Vision Archive

Our movements need more images! Social justice organizers have a wide visual vocabulary of protest — raised fists, barbed wire, marchers holding placards — but should we not also depict the world we are building in addition to the forces we’re resisting? How can we communicate concepts we hold dear; concepts like beloved community, allyship, and consent?

The Vision Archive, a project initiated by And Also Too, brings together designers, artists, advocates, and community organizers to co-create images for the world we want to build. Visionarchive.io is like a “Github for visionary social justice images,” allowing users to upload images so other users can download and remix them and upload their new creations.

Vision Archive
Vision Archive workshop in Toronto at Mayworks
History

The Vision Archive was conceived in 2014. As designers working within social movements, we were concerned by some of the trends we were noticing in movement imagery. On the one hand, clipart of raised fists and barbed wire had become visual shorthand for community organizing. On the other hand, some organizations were leaning towards more a more “professional” i.e. bland aesthetic in the hopes of seeming more credible to funders. We worried that these aesthetic directions did not do justice to the visionary work that organizers do.

Knowing that what we see shapes what we believe is possible, we felt a need to shift the visual culture of social movements. What if social movement imagery were visionary in addition to being critical? And what if it were created by organizers and community members to reflect the world they are working towards?

In May 2014, Una Lee led the first “design justice jam” and through a series of participatory activities facilitated 24 activists and artists in the creation of the first set of visionary icons. This was followed by a workshop a year later, for Mayworks 2015. Later that summer, Una teamed up with designer/scholar Gracen Brilmyer, front end developer Jeff Debutte, and backend developer Alex Leitch to build visionarchive.io to house the icons.

Nine black and white abstract icons created as part of the Vision Archive. Each icon is a visual representation of social movement imagery co-created by designers, artists, advocates and community organizers for a world they want to see.
Nine black and white abstract icons created as part of the Vision Archive. Each icon is a visual representation of social movement imagery co-created by designers, artists, advocates and community organizers for a world they want to see.
Photo: Five sheets of paper sitting on a table. One of the sheets is an exercise sheet to generate different types of icons. The other four are filled with pencil sketches and notes for new designs.
Photo: Several people sitting around tables with white tops. The people are sketching on pieces of paper and discussing what they are drawing.
Photo: Several people sitting around wood tables, sketching on pieces of paper and discussing what they are drawing. Two facilitators are standing to the left and right, leaning over the tables to talk to participants. On the tables are printouts of icons and typefaces.
Workshops to Date

Toronto, Bento Miso, May 2014
Toronto, Mayworks, May 2015
Brewster, NY, Creative Solutions Symposium, August 2015
Berkeley, School of Information, UC Berkeley, March 2016
Toronto, Centre for Social Innovation, Regent Park, June 2016

See the site at visionarchive.io