This sign is a work of activism and outreach for advocacy, meant to run as a full-page piece in a major newspaper, speaking to lawmakers, parents, and philanthropists. After reading this article last week, I was incensed. My mother was a single mom. We lived in a rural town, hours away from museums, theaters, orchestras, universities and cultural hubs. Her hectic schedule and budget didn't allow for much travel/vacations. PBS was my window to the world of arts and cultures when I was young; the same window that fueled my passions and professions, the same window my own children love. Growing up, we received free lunch vouchers at the school where she taught, but we not only contributed through taxes but also towards funding drives every year to support PBS/CPB.
I heard the echo of appealing to a political base when I read this article, but is it fair to ask a single mother or a coal minor to overlook $1.35 tax/year and instead have to pay $100+/month for cable TV and/or online subscriptions in order to supplement the exposure their children receive through PBS to meaningful performances and histories, when they may not have the ability, proximity, or schedule to take their children to performances and museums. I asked, "Where are those who will stand up for the Arts, the Humanities, Early Childhood Development and Education, Innovative Science and Medical Breakthroughs? Where is our march and where do I sign up?" And so this sign grew.
The creation of this sign started in Adobe Photoshop, where I layered and collaged the images I had collected online into the window panes, masking and tailoring each image to fit the scale and perspective, altering opacity, fill, and color, and carefully placing each image so as to maintain clarity of important content within each image while also working around the central child figure. The images were chosen to represent PBS’s roll in teaching aspects of early childhood development that often go beyond numbers and letter to appreciation of difference, making friends, dealing with big feelings, and connecting with the arts and cultures. The primary stock image of the child at the window was chosen to act as the primary visual driver - his/her action meaning more than seeing his/her face as this is meant to be every child and we then become complicit/involved in his/her gaze. The window is framed by an encroaching curtain, also accounted for in image manipulation, to represent the shuttering of federal programming funds for PBS.
This composite image, upon completion was exported into Adobe InDesign for compositional layout. At the top of the image, a black band sets the stage, striking a serious tone that moves us away from playful child-centric narratives to speak directly to crisis - “Will you shutter their window to the world?". The leading is kept tight but even to craft one single message out of three separate lines of text. “Will you shutter the” is set in Avenir (38pt, -10 kern); it is an understated but none too faint san-serif that works well for request headlines. “Window to” is then set in Antonia (57pt, -10 kern), an authoritative not-too-techie forthright san-serif that was modified by me to be wider and less tall, giving these words in the headline a mode of perspective rather than a radical call to action. Used as a subscript in Avenir just below, “the” marries up to “world” so as not to detract from the scope of the word “world” and what that world provides in this context. “World” is set in all caps Helvetica Bold (90pt, -10 kern); bright white, it is open and declarative. The placement of these 3 tiers in the headline is meant to lead the viewer through feelings of soul-searching rather than accusations. For readability, the "W" in the second tier falls directly below the diagonal of the “y” in “you” and ends under the final “r” in “their”, signaling cohesion as well as a transition in thought within a continuing sentiment expressed. In the third tier, the ascending “h” in “the” falls just below the diagonal trajectory of the “w” above. The “W” in “WORLD” also is positioned just below the “n” and “w” fall lines coming from above. Such grid-like precision decisions may seem insignificant, but, for the designer, these small choices equal balance and flow that is almost imperceptible but purposeful to viewers as they scan.
The 2pt call-out lines above and below the central image are done in Big Bird yellow, extracted directly from the feathers on the image in the right-hand pane. The central image anchors the composition, visually and narratively. The child is set off center, not only to mimic the word “WORLD” but also to draw equal attention to the collaged images in the panes and to play off of the rhetorical trope of closing curtains (the final act). Below the anchoring graphic, the space is left active white to give the viewer a resting spot after impact. Within this resting spot, which is kept uncluttered/clean, body copy and a large logo are placed. The PBS logo is set in a position wherein the viewer’s eye will travel from “WORLD” to boy to logo in a matter of milliseconds to compose contextual knowledge for the sign’s argument. The body copy, set in Garamond (a traditional corporate font - 12pt, 13 leading, right justified) expresses briefly but powerfully the grounds/call to action for saving PBS, who should save it, and how to take action to support the efforts. The whole composition is broken into uneven thirds, with each section speaking in tandem with the other sections to create cohesion of the message without too much “centered” visual balance that would detract from flow. The textual elements combined with the graphic elements are simple and yet each aspect speaks together with the next to create a powerful rhetorical sentiment and drive on the part of the viewer.