Ripped from the Headlines
Johnny Selman's 99th poster, "Social Discontent Rising in China, Says Report," December 15, 2010
Every morning for the past 100 days, Johnny Selman, a Bay Area graphic designer, has woken at six to skim BBC headlines on his computer. As the world passes before his eyes, his fingers begin to get itchy. He thinks about a nasty skirmish between North and South Korea, or shark attacks in the Red Sea off Egypt. One day it might be rhino poaching in the Ivory Coast. Another day, papal reversals on condom use. By 8 a.m., Selman has created a poster dramatizing events like these for his website
He’ll be doing it for another 265 days.
A tall screen printer from Virginia, who turned to design mainly to avoid crouching (the apparel shop in Charlottesville that employed him used presses that were uncomfortably low to the ground), Selman moved to San Francisco with a friend from his rock band and settled into an MFA program at Academy of Art University.
Last September 8, his 30th birthday, he embarked on a thesis project to make global current events more arresting. Noting that 1) Americans, particularly young ones, get their news online in growing droves, and 2) a scary percentage remain clueless about matters more serious than Kim Kardashian’s lip gloss shade, he vowed to execute one poster every day for a year.
Today, Selman released his 100th poster, an illustration of a human rights challenge to Ireland’s restrictive abortion laws. To mark the occasion, he recruited volunteers in journalistic garb (safety vests, prominently displayed press cards) to hang all 100 posters chronologically in shop windows along a five-block stretch of Valencia Street, near his home in San Francisco’s Mission district. “I’m trying to spiderweb this thing from my own backyard,” Selman says, explaining that traffic to the site has hovered around a disappointing 500–1,000 visits a day. An occasional surge is provoked by media coverage in the UK, Australia and South Africa — everywhere, it seems, but the States, where his target audience lives.
Over the next three-month phase, Selman will invite other designers to submit headlines and posters to a part of his website called The Sunday Edition. As for the remainder of the project year: “It would be great if there were a movement to consider graphics in portraying news stories after this is done,” he says. “I think it would start with employing more graphic designers in news agencies that play a larger role in how media is presented. So much of it now is just stock photography.”