Interview with the Autonomous Design Group

How did your group get started?

We formed in November 2019, out of conversations between friends and organisers who had been informally producing a lot of design work for social movements we were involved in. These conversations were based around the need for a collective or organisation that could help us develop, critique and practice our artistic skills, and open up these skills forutilisation by the wider movement. Out of these conversations ADG launched at the end of October 2019, with a small number of us part of the collective, and since then a number of others who share our politics and aesthetic style have joined (although we still remain relatively small in number, with less than a dozen people in the collective). However, it is important to note that we are still very much a group in formation, learning how to organise such a collective and building our structures as we go along and learn more.

What were some of the agitprop inspirations that inspired your members, and why?

Firstly, the politics and practice of the Atelier Populaire, in Paris 1968, had a huge impact on our collective; without them we would almost certainly not exist, especially as most of the graphics collectives that inspire us came out of that moment. Groups like Red Womens Workshop and Camden Poster Workshop took what the French designers were doing (bright colours, flyposting) and adapted it for the feminist and housing (squatting) movements of the UK and Ireland in the 1970s. We’re also inspired by Emory Douglas, the main designer of the Black Panther Party newspaper which at its peak had a circulation of 140,000, with designs that remain iconic today.

What kind of activist groups do you work with? Why and how do they get in touch?

Groups from the workers’, anti-capitalist and anti-authoritarian left often get in touch through our website, email or social media asking for us design help – whether that’s social media graphics or a poster to advertise their cause. So we end up working with tenants’ unions, grassroots trade unions and think tanks. Thanks to the internet we have an international audience and groups contact us from all over.

What was a design project ADG did that made an impact?

Our most recent big project is the “Landlords need us” poster, which so far has sold 400copies which has allowed us to distribute 2,000 copies for free to those who want to put them up in the streets. It’s been good to see cities across the uk covered in them, even reaching as far as Barcelona. In Ireland, we did a version for the Community Action Tenants Union.

What is your view on art and propaganda in the revolutionary struggle?

We view art and propaganda as central to the revolutionary struggle. Art is not a nice, fluffy,fun add on for after we’ve done “the real work”, it is a hugely important part of it.

Could you tell us about your design process (individual members and/or collectively)? What political and artistic resources can you draw on, whether creating slogans or visuals?

 This varies throughout the group, but broadly speaking – when we get a commission or have an idea we usually create a moodboard of references around that idea, what already exists, any loose ideas etc. Then we do a few drafts which we either discuss within ADG or with the group we’re working for. We’re lucky to have a strong internal structure which helps us critique each other in a comradely way, so we can all learn from each other. After that it’s a matter of fine tuning, getting the colours and font right with a color generator (see for instance) and trying out different fonts ( is a good reference point). We also have an archive of political graphics and inspiration which we draw on, and our own work of course, which we use to check whether a piece is finished in the right style etc. We usually do a few iterations, whether working for ourselves or for a client. 

Do you leave the dissemination of your artwork up to separate activist groups, or do you do so yourselves? What effective propaganda dissemination methods have you seen? 

The dissemination of our artwork is left up to activist groups or individuals who contact us for pieces to put up in the streets. In terms of methods, having open-source and editable designs has always been fundamental to our project. We want people to be able to print out our designs, or edit them for their specific context. In our work we are not producing a product or commodity, we’re producing a tool for struggle which anyone can use. In future, we hope to be able to work with leftwing bookshops and social centres worldwide as a place to distribute our work to a wider audience. 

Any future projects for ADG or predictions for revolutionary artwork you’d like to discuss? How are they? Are there any other topics you’d like to discuss? 

We hope that by doing the work we do we can show that anyone can make anti-capitalist art without the only colours being red and black. We hope that other revolutionaries can learn to use bright colours and striking typography to present our ideas in an understandable and approachable way.

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