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Poster design to change the world

Melbourne illustrator Steph Hughes walked to the kitchen of her Brunswick “grotto” for yet another cup of coffee. After sketching all morning she only had “a puzzle, a patchwork of imagery and symbols.”

Then came what she describes as her “flash of inspiration” moment. Enthused, she began scribbling. The result is Oxfam’s latest poster series “Six Goals to Change the World”. These posters visually represent the human rights principles that guide Oxfam’s international development, humanitarian and advocacy work.

I put lots of little faces everywhere, because these are human rights. I incorporated a lot of cultural and gender diversity in all of these faces and icons. – Steph Hughes

Photo Credit: Martin Wurt/OxfamAUS

New Classroom Resource

To accompany these posters, the Oxfam Schools Program has released a new, interactive, online and free educational resource, co-written, supported and endorsed by VADEA-NSW, which explores the power of posters to change the world.

The resource – available for both primary and secondary students – invites students to examine the role of the designer in creating social change, as well as the history and techniques of effective poster-making. It includes a film and interactive timeline, downloadable activities and sheets (with both making and historical/critical activities). As well as being online, the entire resource can be downloaded as a PDF document.

The resource has been developed to support the teaching of Visual Arts, Media Studies and Design, as well as English (persuasive texts) and Humanities and Social Sciences (campaigning and political movements).

Beginning by charting the history of poster design, there is an emphasis on the ability of posters to communicate messages of social change. A module on successful campaign posters invites students to analyse historical posters, to then identify their favourite campaign poster.

The resource then turns to the history of Oxfam, and the ways that Oxfam has employed the art of posters to complement campaigns against poverty and inequality, through an interactive timeline of Oxfam posters.

“It feels so good that my posters are part of a long line of Oxfam pictures,” said Steph Hughes. “I’ve always seen Oxfam’s posters, since I was a child. As such a huge NGO, I’ve always been aware of the good work that Oxfam do, and I’m proud to contribute to their campaign.”


Photo Credit: Oxfam UK, 1964

Finally, the resource invites students to get involved in the design process by creating their own posters for social justice issues and campaigns.

This section begins with a video interview with Steph Hughes, where she describes her creative process, giving students an insight into how a poster transforms from a formative idea into a national human rights campaign.

Oxfam’s educational resources follow the global education pedagogy of “Learn. Think. Act.” This specific resource nurtures students’ creativity and situates historical and literary studies within a practical, artistic and critical thinking framework. Many students learn best by doing, and poster design facilitates this.

For Steph Hughes, drawing is how she communicates best. “Drawing for me is easier than talking,” she said. “I feel like I have ideas that I can articulate best through drawing. I think drawing is one way to change the world because, like every creative thing, it’s constructive, not destructive. I enjoy putting energy into something that can convey a message.”

Steph is eagerly anticipating how students will react to her work.

I’m hoping the reactions I get from the posters from the students is that they put them up on their fridges or walls at home, and they last forever and that message always remains in their eyes. That’s what I love about posters – they keep giving, you can put them up on your wall and they last forever.

This blog post was written for Oxfam Australia by our schools volunteer, Ben Clarke. 


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Access the ‘Poster Design to Change the World’ Educational Resource