At the StoreFrontLab on Shotwell Street Friday, the floor was strewn with protest posters and banners, and neighbors sat together at long tables creating still more of them.

The community space has a history of planning events centered on social justice and activism. Jacob Palmer, a curator there, said the space had hosted several sign-making events in preparation for protests throughout the week.

Palmer’s colleague had already left and spent Friday protesting in Washington, DC. and many of the signs being worked on today would show up later on Friday or during Saturday’s march.

“We are trying to create a space where things like this can happen, where…people can do things like this, [and] don’t need a sponsor or funding, it just kind of happens,” said Palmer.

Leah Nichols, a former architect who helped organize the event as part of a nationwide Design As Protest movement, said part of the motivation was “for designers to be more political, recognize that we have agency, and make changes that we believe in.”

At protests, design comes in the form of signs and banners. But to Nichols, signs themselves are not just a visual element, they are a statement.

“In general it’s just an incredible act of bravery to put your views, beliefs, your convictions literally in front of you and stand with them,” she said. “Signage has just been a very important tool throughout history for any social movement.”

Nichols, too, expects to be marching in protests this weekend, and said she is inspired in part by the millions-strong marches in Korea that resulted in the President’s resignation.

“I know a lot of people think that protest is dead, but it can create real change. It can be a symbolic political action in itself, but I think it can also create change,” she said.

Documentary filmmaker Ken Fisher sat with his son, Lucas, creating a sign featuring outlines of hands – he hoped to turn it into a sign with a message of unity in opposition.

“I think that it’s often difficult to articulate complex issues, and signs do a really good job of creating powerful, succinct communications,” he said. “It’s an effective way to communicate.”

Staff was completely absent at Kadist gallery on 20th and Folsom streets – instead they had hung signs in the window announcing that they would be marching Friday.

Ken Fisher and his son Lucas make a protest sign. Photo by Laura Wenus

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