Graphic Design for Social Change – 10 Excellent Posters That Will Make You Think

Social issues seems to be overwhelming and hard to cope with. But there are people in the design industry (and not only) that have the courage and wit to address the issues in a visual way using their creativity, wit and concern.

If you have been in the design industry for some time you will be aware of the “Do good design” movement. Even at the university or the art school you probably have been assigned a project that will urge you to think about changing the world and do your own little contribution by creating a socially conscious artwork. Designers (graphic, web and product ones) have been involved in the social change for a long time whether it will be by creating an eco-friendly font, sustainable packaging or an issue-pointing project. Many designers believe that they are responsible for the environment and for the social relationships in the communities. I am not going to give you a lecture about the social responsibility in relation to the design. I believe that every person (not only a designer) has to decide this for themselves. I have done a social project a while ago and I spent reading a lot about this and I figured out that there are two types of designers – the ones that are using the whole social and eco responsibility to gain profit and the others that actually care about the environment, people and global problems. I am not a fool and I am not living with the illusion that I change the world but I really believe that visual expression of the issues can change perceptions and thinking although it will be a long and difficult process.
In this article, I want to show you 10 posters that show issues in visual way. Some of these can kick you in the stomach, others can just give you some food for thought. But the bottom line is that each and every one is responsible and we have a lifetime to make up for the damages others have done. It is your decision of how and when. You even can choose to do nothing. Honestly, it is up to you. But these posters are a true exhibition of thinking, wit, creativity and consciousness. Have a look and feel free to add your favourite poster in the comment form below


This poster was created by the Pentagram Design, London. The assignment was to create a poster for the human rights charity organization Witness which should highlight the burning of 3000 villages in Burma. Pentagram chose a different approach. Instead of showing the actual image of burning villages, they showed the burning on the word Burma. This simple poster idea became an icon which appeared in the protest news footage all over the world.

Global Warning

This poster is created for the Australian Graphic design Association (AGDA) by Garbett Design (Naughtyfish). Another simple idea of putting the word Future created from ice and showing the melting of it, metaphorically questioning the future of all of us.


It is a self-initiated project by Mark Gowing which wanted to design it to illustrate the issues related to sustainability and packaging. There is no secret that packaging is one of major design output in graphic design. Also, decomposing the plastic can take up to 500 years and in addition to that, recycling centers cannot recycle plastic caps. The poster shows a deconstruction of the word packages made from plastic caps and tops which have been found in the ground. The word “Packages” is broken into “PACK” and “AGES” with the idea to emphasize the duration of the plastic’s environmental impact.

Matchsticks Forest Poster

“One tree makes a million matchsticks, one matchstick burns a million trees.”
This poster was created as an entry for the Nagoya Design Do 2006 Competition which theme was “For Someone Else”. The author is Wesam Mazhar Haddad and he received the Gold Prize. The judges justified their decision by saying that the poster “conveys a strong message about people wasting resources through the reckless exploitation and destruction of nature by depicting a forest with matches that have become useless. Conscious of what graphics as a two-dimensional world can express, this series depicts a modern phenomenon with a profound message. This is an excellent piece of design vividly tying together philosophical thinking with an environmental issue confronting us.”

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Silent Cry / Women’s Rights

One of the most important and pressing issues in the international community nowadays is how to protect the rights of women and comply with gender equality. The principle of equality is one of the most important of the human rights and it is described as the “starting point of all liberties”. These nine scripted faces (from left to right) – — retribution, inheritance, custody of children, divorce, marriage, criminal court judge , citizenship, blood money, testimony – make an appeal for equality. This poster aims to underline the inequality of right between men and women.


This poster was created as personal project by Pascal Colrat. Pascal mixed typography and photography and worked with the letter “g” and the form of a fish hook to convey the message of how important is the problem of the drug addiction. He wanted to create a violent visual to express it.

Unity takes courage

This project is executed by Jarry Aurum Design & Photography for Grafika Digital Forum Indonesia. The theme is about the unity in diversity. As Indonesia is well-known country with diversity in population, religions and languages. The ideology of the country – Bhinneks Tunggal (unity in diversity) is also part in the formal education. The visual approach was chosen to be different from the common ideas and it really stands out in the exhibition held. The whole idea is edgy, shocking and photography medium proved to be the best solution to deliver a realistic feeling.

Keys to peace

Roger (Rajie) Cook created this poster to express his deep concern for the rights of the refugees who still carry the keys to the homes lost in 1948 and 1968 and for the tragic conditions in the Middle East. Rajie created the poster to articulate the circumstances and experiences he encounter during his service for ten years on the Task Force for the Middle East.

Malnutrition Child Mortality Poster

A deeply strong message is expressed in this poster. Malnutrition and child mortality are the worse of today’s global issues. IF Studio self-initiated this project in order to bring awareness and perspective to the world starvation statistics. The studio finds the starvation fact shocking and hard to believe. With this poster they wanted to visually present the information using infographic approach with presenting a common object: an empty, unused paper plate with a rolled fork and knife in the center. They repeated the paper plate twelve times to show the hungry people in a 12-hour period of time.


Created by Joe Scorsone and Alice Drueding for the Good Design Cultural Association this posters addresses the issue of the impact if war on civilian victims. Wars leave many civilian and innocent victims who need a long-term (even lifetime) medical care. But they are often forgotten. The poster was made as a reminder of the obligation to all the war victims.

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