Amnesty International 1995 – 1998

In 1995 we began a series of projects for Amnesty International. Our work included their campaign for an international criminal court and annual reviews for the Secretariat.

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Campaign for an International Criminal Court

In 1948, after World War II, the United Nations adopted conventions for the punishment of the crime of genocide. They looked into the possibility of setting up a court with global reach, but with the coming of the Cold War the idea was abandoned as unworkable.

With conflicts in former Yugoslavia and Rwanda bringing genocide back into international consciousness, and the end of the Cold War opening the possibility of broad international agreement, the idea was back on the table in the early 1990s.

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Amnesty International spearheaded the civil society campaigns across the world, lobbying the United Nations at several high-level meetings. We provided a marque and visual language for the campaign, including posters and an A6 information booklet; hundreds of thousands of copies were printed, in French, Spanish and English.

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It was a pretty harrowing project, selecting photographs (back in those days they were prints) to most succinctly represent the different genocidal conflicts around the globe.

We were, of course, delighted when, in 1998, the Rome Statute was adopted for the formation of an International Criminal Court (7 nations voted against it, including America, China and Iraq). The court was finally established, based in the Hague, in 2003.

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Annual Review

In 1997, membership of Amnesty International passed one million for the first time. At the time, they had a presence in 56 countries.

Their International Secretariat, based in London, asked us to design an Annual Review to summarise their global activities and report on their financial status.

Deciding on the cover design was the most difficult challenge. A single photo, however uplifting or disturbing could never do justice to the scope of Amnesty’s work. Instead we picked up on Amnesty’s logo – the single candle shining light in the darkness.

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We lit, snubbed out and photographed 56 tea-lights, one for each country with an Amnesty office. We didn’t have great photographic equipment so, to maintain the correct aerial view, we shot the tea-lights in small groups, had the photos developed at Boots (we paid the extra for a 24-hour turnaround) and then scanned and repositioned each image in a grid. Finally, we added the flame, representing the Secretariat and adjusted the lighting effects.

Although the cover was printed in full-colour, we kept costs to a minimum by printing the text pages in two colours (it made such a big difference to the price, back in the mid-1990s).

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We chose complementary colours, orange and green, so that, when overprinted, they combined to create a range of different depths of colour combinations, including an almost black colour for some photographs.

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We worked with the Amnesty team to help craft stories that spanned the full international scope of the organisation, reporting on campaigns and activities across the world, including our campaign for an International Criminal Court.

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And, of course, because it was an annual report, we had to include financial data and detail about the organisational structure of the International Secretariat.

The document was well received and we repeated the design for the following year, with some changes in content.

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