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Interview ‘As my politics solidified, I wanted to express them creatively’

ROBERT STREADER talks to Cliff Cocker about what inspires his radical approach to design

“THE ART of any propagandist and agitator consists in his ability to find the best means of influencing any given audience, by presenting a definite truth in such a way as to make it most convincing, most easy to digest, most graphic and most strongly impressive.”

No less a person than Lenin laid out what revolutionary propaganda should be all about in those demanding words.

Doubtless, they’re an inspiration to Robert Streader, responsible for the eye-catching graphics which have raised the profile of the Communist Party and the Young Communist League (YCL) on social media in the last 18 months.

Streader, whose work was recently displayed in the online Abolish Neoliberalism Resist Imperialism poster exhibition, is a 28-year-old east Londoner who first engaged with graphic design at the age of 16. “I’ve had an interest in art for as long as I can remember and, as my politics solidified, I wanted a means of expressing them creatively,” he says.

College courses in photography and Photoshop proved indispensable: “They allowed me to create a large number of posters relatively quickly, easily and of good quality,” he says. At university, studies in 3-D and spatial design helped improve his understanding of graphics and how to use them effectively.

“I rarely sketch out ideas, unless I’m working directly with someone and need an idea of what they want,” he says. “Most of the time I take photographs of objects or draw them digitally and put them, along with text, into a template and move them around until I feel the design is right.”

Streader's work brings to mind posters by the Polish communist designer Tadeusz Trepkowski but designers he draws most inspiration from are the Soviet artist Alexander Rodchenko and the German John Heartfield, the inventor of photomontage.

“Rodchenko’s work influenced my use of typography and colour, this helps the designs be bold while remaining easy to read,” he explains. “Heartfield has inspired me to be more experimental. For me, the most effective designs are those which use limited colour along with striking geometric forms and angles.

“This creates a dynamic image which is clear and easy to understand. The best examples of this sort of design I think are posters produced by Maki for the Communist Party of Israel.”

In the Abolish Neoliberalism Resist Imperialism exhibition, he was struck by the work of Lizzie Suarez, which uses photography to recreate the political history of Latin America and Windows and Fences of the Neoliberal world by Labani Jangi, “which shows the impact of neoliberal economics using only visuals and no text, an impressive achievement.”

Streader’s They Cut, We Bleed, which featured in the exhibition, was a “rather long-term idea,” a protest against the austerity policies of the Tory government created in 2015 which was radically modified for the YCL this year.

“Although I do a lot of ‘work to order’ designs for the Communist Party and YCL, most of the time my designs are something I’ve developed independently and cover a fairly wide range of subjects, from anti-austerity to Palestine solidarity and commemorative posters for important historical events.

“Most feedback I get is positive but even negative feedback is welcome because it usually means I’ve aggravated some reactionary.”

Getting work posted to a wider selection of social media platforms to reach a wider audience is key, along with fly-posting, “and this is already happening with the YCL,” he says.

Streader, who wants to carry on designing for the Communist Party and YCL and has plans to get involved with more graphic or set building work in film, is doing his best to live up to Lenin’s demands. He’s making a pretty good job of it.

Images from the Abolish Neoliberalism Resist Imperialism exhibition can be viewed at antiimperialistweek.org

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