Illustrating Peace, One Idea at a Time

Is there a link between peace, sustainability, and design? Chen Design Associates (CDA) thinks so. The San Francisco-based firm has produced Peace: 100 Ideas (CDA Press), a Chicken Soup for the Soul for the Jenny Holzer generation. Through collages, illustrations, information graphics, paintings, and photographs, the book illuminates simple suggestions for becoming more considerate of each other and the earth.

Adapted from the list “100 Ways to Promote a More Peaceful World,” written by Dr. David Kreiger, president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, the book began life as a promotional piece: a way CDA could demonstrate its breadth without creating a disposable or self-congratulatory work.

After stumbling upon the list, CDA principal Josh Chen says he realized that the aphorisms “were crying out for a visual interpretation”; he approached Kreiger and secured permission to illustrate the ideas. Chen and his team of seven then experimented with “every type of design process that we’d been dying to try out,” pairing each of their finished works with one of the axioms.

The connection between peace and eco-friendliness came as the project progressed. “Peace is not just home and happy thoughts,” says Chen. “Peace is the absence of things that harm us. So, if you take that a step further, how we pillage and waste our resources…or [even] how we use labor in other countries, this all becomes part of this greater idea of peace.”

Chen admits that he could take some advice from the book, such as following point No. 76, “Let someone else go first.” “I [illustrated] that one,” he says sheepishly, “but I find that when I’m driving around town, that’s a really hard thing to do.”

Shortcomings aside, Chen is hoping Peace will generate conversations about the ways both the graphic design industry—and humans in general—injure the earth and each other. He’s proud that the book was printed on oxygen-bleached, 100% post-consumer recycled fiber—it’s a step in the right direction, he says, and every step helps.

“There’s great power in visually presenting an idea to someone,” he asserts. For the sake of peace, let’s hope that’s true.

Included here are samples of aphorisms and images from Peace: 100 Ideas. An exhibit of artwork from the book runs through February 15 at the Pasadena Museum of California Art.

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