Jul 26, 2012

Emory Douglas: The Revolutionary Artist of the Black Panther Party

The fiercest and baddest art director of all time is Emory Douglas, who as Minister of Culture and Revolutionary Artist for the Black Panther Party designed and illustrated the Black Panther newspaper from 1967-1980. His bold, provocative graphics and illustrations were a signature for the era, and with his designs for the party’s posters, buttons, banners, and publications he created one of the most memorable and lasting visual brands of all time. The New Museum in New York City has a show of Douglas’s most memorable work, and the last day is this Sunday, October 18. If you haven’t seen it, run over immediately and feast your eyes on brilliant posters and newspaper design. And be sure to check out the book Black Panther: The Revolutionary Art of Emory Douglas, which features many of the works on display at the show, as well as lengthy interviews and background information.

The Black Panther Party newspaper covers were bold and graphic, using just black and one color, and either illustrated by Douglas himself or with high-contrast photographs. Emory Douglas talked recently with SPD about his publication design work.

Emory Douglas: “Our whole idea was to take design elements, and transform them into a social and political statement, and to try to do it in a language that was simple and that people would understand.”

The covers were simple and direct, often without headlines. And although Douglas is better-known for his provocative illustrations and posters, his newspaper covers were groundbreaking in their raw and graphic approach.

 Emory Douglas: “We had such limited resources at the Black Panther paper; we had to deal with the materials that were available and at hand at the time. I always looked at how I could do things in the simplest way. I would look at something in another publication and then try to reproduce it in our paper with a more basic approach.”

Douglas started at the Panther paper when he was 22. Today he’s still creating artwork and working with students and community groups.

Emory Douglas: “We wanted to have a design element to the paper so that people would have something to look at. I always wanted to make things attractive. We were trying to get our message across to the broadest possible audience, through art and design, because art is a way to communicate, and we used it to sell our ideals and our program. And we always tried to do it in a language that was simple and that people would understand.”

More examples of the posters and newspaper design of Emory Douglas.


Special thanks to Babylon Falling for Black Panther cover scans and general graphic and political brilliance!