Canadian Museum for Human Rights

Posters for Freedom

Mobilized citizens, in South Africa and abroad, created protest posters that played a central role in the fight against apartheid. For the Mandela: Struggle for Freedom exhibit — a commemoration of the 150th anniversary of Mandela’s birth — CMHR desired an opportunity for visitors to work with protest poster content in a multi-user setting.

In developing concepts for the Posters for Freedom interactive, Upswell sought to approximate a natural experience of selecting and combining visual elements on a community table. We prototyped a variety of features — color changes, stamping, info callouts, canvas movement — looking to reduce UI elements as much as possible for a frictionless experience, and maximizing flexibility and creativity.

The result is a simple interactive that allows 1–2 visitors — alone or together — to create a variety of unique posters from custom graphics and phrases based on apartheid-era content. (English and French phrases make for a shared bilingual experience.) Graphics can be scaled, rotated, and tapped to change color; they stick to a canvas as it is moved around, and overhanging edges of graphics become invisible.

Upon publishing, completed digital posters are projected on blank posterboards among reproductions of anti-apartheid screenprints; the collection of all visitor posters are rotated through over time. Posters also go to the CMS server we created for content management, which adds an exhibit-branded banner to them and posts them to a Tumblr gallery for downloading and browsing.

This area of the exhibit explores themes of mobilization and protest, and a fast-paced, colorful animation harmonizes with imagery and dynamism of large-format video nearby and the projected posters changing on the wall behind the table. Visitors can also access the experience online using a smartphone or tablet, and see their posters appear breifly on the poster wall in gallery as well.

Grassroots aesthetics of apartheid-era protest imagery & phrases inspire poster making in a community format.


  • Mandela: Struggle for Freedom


  • Winnipeg, Canada


  • 2018