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Frank Baseman Spreads the Love, Or, What Happens When People Hate On Your Pro Bono Project

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Philadelphia has seen an escalation in violent crime in recent years, something that was frustrating to local resident, designer, “Graphic Imperative” curator Frank Baseman. When Philly-based Urban Outfitters made a gun Christmas tree ornament last year, that was the tipping point.

He created an homage to the homicide victims of the year before with a poster that listed the names, date of death, race and how they died. He made the white names white, and the black names black. Aligning with the Anti-Violence Partnership of Philadelphia, he talked to a local journalist who wrote a story to solicit donations. The money came in, but just as they were about to install, the city of Philadelphia rejected the design.

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But why was it censored? There were similar ads that showed guns. (The thought occurred to us that it might have been too well designed.) This was proof to Baseman that his image was working, so again, he turned to the power of the media. He donated a poster to a church where it remains viewable on the street, and his story got plastered all over the internet. We posted his eloquent AIGA Voice piece back in October, where arguments for and against the concept continue to rage in the comments.

But then something happened that changed the scope of the entire project. He got an email from someone who had seen it on the internet, and wanted a few of the posters himself: His uncle was the third victim on the poster and his cousin was #222.

By the way, it appears that Urban Outfitters is no longer selling the gun.

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