Meet the Artist Whose Swastika-Inspired Anti-Trump Logo Has Gone Viral Across the Country
The logo has given graphic expression to condemnations of the president for his equivocations on "alt-right" violence.
Disapproval of President Donald Trump’s comments following the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, has been widespread among both Republicans and Democrats. Many saw Trump as equivocating on the brutality that ensued after the KKK, neo-Nazis, white nationalists, and other members of the so-called alt-right protested the removal of a monument to Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
Now, spreading at protests nationwide is a logo that visually condemns the president for his hesitation to speak out against bigotry and domestic terrorism in the US. The “NO 45” logo, designed by Texas-based artist Mike Mitchell, takes the number 45—Trump’s unofficial moniker as the 45th President of the United States—and rotates it to the left by (as it happens) 45 degrees, giving the numeral the appearance of a swastika. It is then superimposed within a red circle and diagonal line that serves as the universal icon of opposition.
Although “NO 45” was designed in February of this year, the image has only become viral since Trump’s troubling remarks. The signage was seen at this past weekend’s demonstrations in Boston; at demonstrations in front of Trump Tower in New York last week; outside the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (where one fan yarn-bombed the design); and, even in the crowds behind the goal at a Seattle Sounders soccer game.
In short order, the logo has become one of the most recognizable images of opposition to Donald Trump’s presidency. But it was only recently that the artist turned his eye to topical subjects. Mitchell’s previous work includes graphically arresting images of characters from Star Wars, jaunty figures made out of foodstuffs like avocados and Jif peanut butter, and tributes to pop-culture figures like comic-book superheroes.
The image is available on the artist’s Twitter feed, where he encourages fans to download it for personal use.
We e-mailed with Mitchell about the logo’s global spread, what it feels like to go viral, and what designers are doing during this moment of political and social upheaval.
Have you been surprised to see the logo taking off as it has? For instance, I see it’s now at 12,000 retweets and 23,000 likes on Twitter.
Yes and no. Yes, because I felt I had something potentially explosive on my hands back in February when I first created it, but it took seven months before it really took off.
Where have you seen the image in use as a sign? What’s it like to see it take off?
I first saw it at the protest in front of Trump Tower earlier this week. My good buddy Ken Taylor messaged me that he’d seen a bunch of my signs on the news in Australia. That was about 24 hours after I had tweeted it and it had blown up. It’s cool to see an idea spread organically like that. I loved seeing the homemade ones.
I’ve done a few things over the years that have gone really viral, but it’s still an incredible thing to experience.
Do you feel like you risk anything with this kind of work?
Sure, but luckily we still live in a country where freedom of speech exists, despite the forces trying to take it away. There’s a risk to nearly everything we do in life, but it’s worth the risk to try and create positive change.
Do you feel like there are other kinds of things artists and designers could do with their work to resist and protest that you haven’t already seen?
I feel about as empowered as I’ve ever felt as an artist in this moment. Not because of my own icon, but because of all the amazing art coming out. The recent covers for the New Yorker, Time, and the Economist will be the sort of things that represent Trump when people look back to this time. We’ve been given tremendous power, and we’re using it. That’s all I can hope for.
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