Food For Thought

Crises around the globe never ending and the need for reflection of our condition likewise to be constantly considered.  Famine has once again struck in the Horn of East Africa, plaguing the nations of Somalia, Ethiopia and trickling into neighbouring states Eritrea and Djibouti according to The Economist. The numbers unfathomable, more than ten million in peril’s way.

In this moment of need, social innovators Good for Nothing and digital creatives Many by Many have banded together to use creativity to launch the project 50/50. Fifty projects in fifty days to raise the ambitious goal of one million pounds for aid relief on behalf of UNICEF. With more than two hundred and forty thousand pounds raised, though just shy of a quarter of the target, one can hardly shrug off the power of creativity to command attention and funds from a concerned global community.

We feature work from one of these projects, Posterity a limited edition typographical project initiated by creative agency, The Mill. Of the thirty-three poster designs, “What The People Say” by New York-based designer Colin Hess caught our eye; an intriguing limn and thinking piece. We had a chance to talk with him about the project, the possible efficacy of such a project and what if anything can visual communication and design do in such an instance.

What The People. © Colin Hess, 2012. Posterity.

Can you share with us , what was the brief for the Posterity poster series project?

Colin Hess | The brief was to come up with a design that would bring awareness to the famine and drought going on in parts of East Africa.  The bigger idea being, generate as much money as possible for aid through the practices that you know.  For the Mill’s design department this meant design.  The poster series was the Mills creation as a collaborator with the 50/50 project.

What encouraged you to be involved?

CH | I got involved for a number of reasons but primarily because the canvas was so wide open and I could create something that was not constrained by client needs and wishes.  The objectives obviously are of great intention and I felt that if I could help generate some money for people who are starving by using the skills that I use on a daily basis then well, that’s a no brainer. The challenge of coming up with something that people would actually buy was something I found interesting as well.  In the context of the “Western World” we are exposed to so many things – so much so we don’t really internalize all of them and starvation is a big deal, but for people say with computers, it’s one of these issues that is so far removed from what they actually  experience and I thought to confront people on this and say something that would grab their attention.  I wanted to come up with something that would make people in the craze of their information syphoning, stop for a minute, think about these things, maybe chuckle, maybe smirk maybe roll their eyes — but ultimately confront them enough to do something to help fight against this very real problem.

Graphic design ultimately is about visually communicating a given message, what message did you hope to convey with your design?

CH | The message is: look how absurd all this is.  Starvation in 2011 is absurd. It shouldn’t exist, especially when you have individuals with more wealth than entire countries complaining about how much gluten they have in their diet. I wanted to re-contextualize these issues. Americans have way too much of virtually everything. Just the other day I was over at someone’s apartment and they were sifting through the cupboards through the bags of chips, pretzels, soup, etc…and they say “Let’s go out, we have nothing to eat.”  To someone who walks miles for water and stretches nuts and berries for weeks that line is like a huge “Fuck you“.  I wanted people to see this. Maybe do something about it.

The project is conceived to bring awareness and raise funds to the current famine in the region of East Africa,  as The Economist states, centered in Somalia & Ethiopia though also affecting neighbouring states, to what degree unverified but Eritrea and Djibouti. How effectively do you believe the selected posters achieve this?

CH | Well that is a loaded question.  I mean I share a fairly jaded view of how relief efforts of this kind actualize themselves.  Countries within Africa, in particular, are incredibly volatile and I don’t think UNICEF watching a check clear to Sharif Sheikh Ahmed really does much in the way of helping the starving people there.  If I really wanted to help these people I’d get on a plane, get on the ground and put food in the mouths of the people that  actually need it. It’s very saddening and I don’t mean to belittle efforts trying to help but how much does a poster help a starving person — not as much as food does I would say.  As far as generating awareness and prompting people to help by giving money I can only hope it gets out there in-front of people and they buy one.  Propaganda can be incredibly powerful and a resonating message can promote a great change.  Finding out what that message is is the tricky part…I guess we will just have to see how it goes.

Your design is definitely a good thinking piece, the only caveat being that the design paints the whole continent?

CH | Right – probably could have been more specific here to the point that “Africa is not a country”. I guess I felt like the shape of the continent was a stronger icon and had a better read than a country within Africa.  So when you look at it from afar you see Africa and that is the only shape you recognize at first, as you get closer you see the talk bubbles and then the messaging and then hopefully the irony.

To view some of the captions and the darnedest things that people say when they are not starving, click on the images below.


The full poster series can be viewed on where prints are available for purchase at $50 a piece.



Colin Hess currently lives and works in NY where he has been based for the past 6 years. With a little tongue-and-cheek he introduces himself:

I have made a living as a Digital Artist working in the Motion Design, Feature Film, and Advertising industries primarily. I am an experienced Designer, Art Director, Compositor, CG Maya Artist, and Typographer but my knowledge of how to use a fax machine is limited at best to a beginner / novice level. A random fact about me: I scribble a lot. Visually I enjoy swarms, data sets and systems, collages, the 1960’s, science, sound, and digital distortion – amongst other things.

Intellectually I enjoy journeys into new realms of consciousness. Socially I try to maintain a chivalrous code of gentlemanly conduct when out in the public sphere and freakishly I am continually seeking to free my mind in hopes that my ass will follow.

My autobiographical information could be A) Completely false, B) Impractical & diversionary, or C) Slightly humorous while drinking your coffee.

I very much like spicy mustard. I am musically inclined and can play the trumpet, piano, bass and drums. I hope to eventually open a cafe/studio/gallery/performance space that I can live and work from making fantastical things and super strong espressos.

I am currently accepting investment opportunities.

Image courtesy of Colin Mill and the Posterity project. All rights reserved.

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