You know it. We know it. Life is busy. So much so that free time is in the inbetween. Folded into the commute. En route from the inbox to the kettle. And, for the micro publisher, that’s fertile ground.
With the right balance of messaging and context, mini stories can lift audiences out of the day-to-day. Somewhere near the intersection of sincerity, irreverence and absurdity lie stories that speak to the human condition. Playing at the crossroads where, if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry.
This isn’t about advertising either. It’s about writers with purpose. Storytellers taking split-second chances to impart some joy or give passers-by a breather. They have their own irony – adding more to the information avalanche – but when they work, these brevity bombers can fling us back into consciousness. Wake us up. And with a bit of luck, nudge our perspective.
Emblazoned on a building in Shoreditch, this piece is the work of artist Steve ‘ESPO’ Powers. And when it comes to bitesize profundity, Powers is masterful. From smaller works he calls ‘Indoor Voice’ to ‘Meltations’ – quick paintings improvised on every day experiences – and full-scale murals, Powers makes songs out of brickwork. In a recent interview with Design Boom, he said his larger paintings “go to a deeper understanding of the transactions we make everyday to live our lives”.
Whether you’re looking at his ‘Love Letters’ series or one of his most recent pieces, a colossal pier-long message in Manhattan reading ‘I WANT TO THANK YOU’ in 40ft high letters, you’ll recognise ESPO’s touch. Motivations with a twist. Love poems that sting. Humour sprinkled on everything. In an interview about ‘Adore and Endure’ with Denver based artist Juvenlee Ayudtud, Steve said, “People can identify with this message. I am making visual love songs, just trying to communicate emotion as poetically and directly as possible.”
Bumper to bumper. Begging the clock to slow down. The other drivers reflect frustration back at you and the message above is impossible to miss.
‘Good morning lemmings’, scrawled on a dual carriageway bridge in Auckland is as disarming as it is brutal. No-one has claimed responsibility but the words have been replicated in cities in the UK and America, so the existential aim is clear: There is more to life than social conformity.
Regulars are bound to see it every day, through highs and lows. It could be just the right poke to make some serious life changes, or the prompt to take a new route to work.
How many writers suffer from overwriting? In micro publishing, with limited real-estate and time-tied audiences, the editing process is brutal. That’s never truer than placard writing.
Faced with a cardboard tear off and a marker pen, there’s a tendency towards overwrought design. Complex messaging. Bubble-lettering and doodles.
The Extinction Rebellion movement, with the stated aim of using nonviolent civil disobedience to compel government action to avoid tipping points in the climate system, biodiversity loss, and the risk of social and ecological collapse deploys placards for maximum impact. Placards become a form of self-publishing for the street-marchers, with the best of their signs sharing serious, dark messages wrapped up in neon inclusivity.
When blockading Oxford Circus, sign-writers were given a boat as a canvas. A huge, unmissable canvas with boundless opportunities. Their message, three simple words, is a clear invite to the sympathetic, to everyone else: a challenge.
Tell the truth.