By: Katy Freeman
In September 2016, the artist Marie Shirine Yener created a digital poster that contains steps for how to help targets of islamophobic harassment. Her poster’s layout resembles a traditional comic book (illustrations accompanied by descriptive captions) and an easy-to-read educational pamphlet. Yener suggests that witness of islamophobic harassment should interfere by starting a casual conversation with the target in order to make the attacker feel irrelevant and ineffective in their attacks. The guide intends to inform its audience about how to diffuse a tense social situation and support social and religious equality. Yener’s poster is a successful, positive example of propaganda because it targets audience members individually by suggesting that each of them is capable of diffusing islamophobic harassment. A simple conversation can go a long way.
The current project intends to use a similar method of persuasion by suggesting that audience members can use these simple “six tips for how to have an open dialogue.” I created an 11 by 18 inch illustrative poster that I can distribute online or display in real public spaces. Similar to Yener’s guide on islamophobic harassment, my guide offers advice to people in social interactions that they may feel uncertain about dealing with. These six tips are for people that engage in heavy conversations with relatives or close friends that have strong opposing views. After the presidential election, some people have found conversation with others with opposing political viewpoints especially difficult. To promote a safe environment for important social and political topics in the U.S., people can begin from the smallest conversations with family and friends. This can encourage unity during times when people with different perspectives feel like they cannot communicate with each other. The tips that I wrote were partially inspired by AJ Willingham’s article on how to talk to family members about politics when everyone is packed into the space same during holiday gatherings. I also looked at Caroline Crosson Gilpin’s article on approaching politics at the dinner table during Thanksgiving. This topic of engaging in an open dialogue, especially with friends and family, is relatable for college students returning home and for any other people that finds themselves in these types of social situations. Even during a conversation that isn’t as challenging, these tips may prove useful for any type of conversation.
My poster’s simple layout and pastel colors, inspired by Yener, create an overall calm, approachable tone that welcomes readers into learning about how to begin an “open dialogue.” The color palette also reflects the calm and collected mentality that readers should take on while they use these tips. An informational guide should be easy to read and visually engaging, which is why I chose to pair illustrations with captions like Yener did. While designing the poster, I avoided colors that have strong associations with any existing political or social symbol in order to evoke a sense of neutrality. The message within this open dialogue poster resembles Jacques Ellul’s definition of propaganda in that it seeks to instill a certain belief in people (open dialogue can lead to understanding and unity) and also cause those people to take certain actions (use these tips). This poster doesn’t aim to restrict people’s ability to critically think about different points of view, rather, these tips encourage people to take on an open mind and sense of empathy when facing strongly opposing views. It’s accessible, open, and clear format hopefully welcomes people into reading these tips and engaging in open dialogues in the future.
 Daye, A. (2016, September 4). Artist creates illustrated guide to fighting harassment. In CNN. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2016/09/04/europe/artists-comic-guide-against-anti-muslim-harassment/.
 Willingham, A. J. (2016, November 23). How to talk politics at your family Thanksgiving meal this year. In CNN. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/22/health/thanksgiving-holiday-conversation-survival-guide-trnd/.
 Gilpin, C. C. (2016, November 22). Will Your Family Members Disagree With Each Other About Politics This Thanksgiving? In The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/22/learning/will-your-family-members-disagree-with-each-other-about-politics-this-thanksgiving.html?_r=1.
 Ellul, J. (1965). Propaganda; the formation of men’s attitudes. New York: Knopf, 25.