William Drenttel | Essays

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Universal Declaration of Human Rights poster series, Amnesty International, design by Woody Pirtle, 2002

Today, December 10th, is the 60th Anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Adopted by the member states of the United Nations in 1948, the UDHR consists of 30 articles, which set out human rights fundamental to the dignity and development of every human being.

Sixty years later, we live in a world where these basic rights are still neither universally respected nor legally mandated in many countries. We still have hunger, slavery and persecution. The rights to education, work, voting and religion are still abused. In the U.S., we have lived through a reign of Presidential imperialism that supported torture and surveillance; where the richest country in the world ignored the education of its children and the health of its elderly; where economic growth trumped economic responsibility; and where a country turned its back on genocide and environmental destruction. On this anniversary, sadly, there is little sense of progress.

Still, we have hope for the United Nations. We have hope for a new American administration. We have hope for the Kyoto Protocol and the Millennium Development Goals. But, mostly, we have hope in citizen initiatives around the world, grassroot efforts to work in small communities, to affect change in small ways. We can only hope our governments will follow our lead with larger initiatives and systemic change.

Today should give us pause. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights deserves not only celebration, but our respect and our best efforts.

In this vein, we are honored to present the work of designer Woody Pirtle.

Working with Amnesty International, which uses the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the foundation of its activities, Woody Pirtle designed a series of posters that spotlights 12 of the individual articles. The posters were distributed to schools as part of the group’s “Amnesty Educate” initiative in 2002. The design uses photography of common objects to visually summarize each article. Posters were printed in a kaleidoscopic range of colors that, when hung together, provide a lively classroom display. The intent was to make the UDHR into a “living” document relevant to students.

Article 02: Freedom from Discrimination

Article 04: Freedom from Slavery

Article 09: No One Should Be Subjected to Arbitrary Arrest, Detention or Exile

Article 11: Everyone Has the Right to Be Presumed Innocent Until Proven Guilty

Article 14: Everyone Has the Right to Seek Asylum in Other Countries from Persecution

Article 16: Everyone Has the Right to Marry

Article 18: Freedom of Religion

Article 20: Everyone Has the Right to Peaceful Assembly

Article 21: Everyone Has the Right to Participate in Government and Free Elections

Article 23: Everyone Has the Right to Work

Article 25: Everyone Has the Right to an Adequate Standard of Living

Article 26: Everyone Has the Right to Education

Posted in: History, Politics

Comments [19]

By my count, our government has been in non-compliance of at least 18 of all the rights noted in the document. What a sad indictment of a morally bankrupt administration. We can (and will) do better. The posters are wonderful as well.
Matthew Brett

thanks for sharing this thoughts! It's important for everyone to think about our freedom from time to time and then act for people who don't have a right of free expression or much more essential a right of living in peace!
Designers are usually so busy we tend to forget the world around us or just talk about it :-)

Great posters, vintage Woody. Also, thanks for not putting them into the "slideshow" format. This is a much more pleasant viewing experience.

Thanks for making me think about it!... I wish I and other people could speak less and do more... this is a special design project...one that every designers should at least make one!...As a contribution to change...Still, change is hard, but let us believe things can really change...not only believe...but do something about it! Thanks again...
Mónica Nascimento

woody is a master post 60s pushpin craftsman. one of my heros and reasons i chose to be this business. these posters should serve schools (and kids) well. that said, he threw up an interview shortly after leaving Pentagram that was tarnishingly "big and corporate" as if he needed to debunk the chains (design) he now seeks to relieve himself of.

Still, gotta love Woody. He's all heart.
felix sockwell

Good stuff. Don't miss this video on the subject. Pretty cool.

Joe Moran

Every Human Has Rights
These are wonderful posters and would be a great classroom design assignment. On Monday, November 24, the New York Society for Ethical Culture co-sponsored an event with Amnesty International to mark the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the concert hall at 2 West 64th Street. (You probably have seen the concert hall in the film Scent of a Woman.) The night included the premiere of the world music video, The Price of Silence.
Carl W. Smith

absolutely amazing

Apologies. A much better quality video can be viewed here. VR/
Joe Moran

Thank you for sharing these!
Aaron Irizarry

Where's the Freedom from having to tilt your head to read poster?

Wow, what a great lineup. These are awesome examples of simple posters that yet deliver a strong message. The vertically text surprisingly works too! Makes you stop and read what it has to say. Thanks for sharing!
Poster Printing | PrintPlace.com

It must have been great being part of this desgin project. Coincidentally, I saw this and the feature on Guantanamo Bay on Boston Globe's Big Picture within a space of a minute. Notice the parallels between Poster for Article 09 and Picture 2 on that site? What I thought was a wonderfully strange coincidence actually gave way to another thought - "this is how design, and sometimes, art does influence the way people think, by affecting their consciousness and bearings." It was earlier this year that Michael Bierut had been pontificating in his article about the hoax of Ernst Bettler (an article that was an eye-opener for me), about how we designers are constantly searching for validation and evidence that our work can and does trigger change. Perhaps we are trying to look for more than is needed, in that we only need to believe that design is a great "agent" of change, a catalyst, so to speak... it need not be the very instrument on every occasion. Work and coincidences (more than just a coincidence) like these remind us, me of that fact... that it does influence thought.
Nishant Vats

This is great. It really makes a person think. People should all take more action and fight for their rights. It's a constant battle to keep them.
Nikki - Logo Design Guru

Everyone has the right to marry, huh? Not yet! No on prop 8 (still)!!!

I love you people.
I am from Palestinian and also now teach English, please tell me right I wrote the following sentence: "Is the owner and the author of intimate adult dating web site available at."

:-( Thanks in advance. Lakeisha.

I love these posters and would like to hang them in my classroom. Is there any way I could order prints?

I'd love to get prints of this. Someone tell Woody to put them us for sale and share them with the world!

Is it possible to purchase any of these posters?

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