With simple yet striking visual columns, published in various magazines and newspapers, the Dutch designers collective Gorilla comments on current political and social affairs. These are the minds behind the thought-provoking campaign for WDCD that now can be seen around México City.

‘A gorilla not only is a formidable creature, but also a vegetarian,’ the designers behind the Gorilla collective use to say to explain the name. ‘To us that’s what Gorilla is. We can pack a pretty punch, but we never hit below the belt.’

Their clever visual columns can currently be found on a weekly basis in Dutch news magazine De Groene Amsterderdammer and also in their book: Gorilla for president.

Gorilla is made by designers Karin van den Brandt and Alex Clay (Lesley More), Herman van Bostelen, Richard van der Laken and Pepijn Zurburg (de Designpolitie, What Design Can Do). We talked to Alex Clay and Herman van Bostelen about the role of design in society, politics and activism, and their upcoming Breakout Session on May 8 at the WDCD México City design festival.

How does Gorilla serve society?

Alex: ‘We try to raise critical awareness about political and economic developments. Satire can be an effective weapon against those abusing power. Hopefully that can make some people stop and think. Awareness is the first step to change.’

How do you think design can influence politics?

Herman: ‘I think design can help make information accessible, for instance to make a text more legible or to give an alternative to text by using images instead of words. The accessibility of reliable information is an important prerequisite for a democracy and an open society.’

In what way is design a form of activism?

Alex: ‘Most design is a vehicle for commercial interests. But there is also definitely a group of designers who try to use their skills in a meaningful way for society. At art academies I see students with an urge to do good. My advice: team up with writers and journalists, and help them get their message across.’

What do you hope to achieve with the WDCD México City campaign?

Herman: ‘That people will have a smile on their face, even if it is for only a few seconds. To imagine that things can be different from what they are, is one of the most important and hopeful things human beings are capable of.’

What can we expect from upcoming Breakout Session at WDCD Mexico City?

Herman & Alex: ‘All the participants will be making their own Gorilla poster in an intense but “everything goes” atmosphere. People are always surprised what they are able to produce in a short period of time. At the end of the session we’ll have a bunch of powerful posters hanging on the wall together, each with their own perspective and voice.’