By Stan Alcorn
They Don't Work For You is the creation of a group of Brooklyn designers, not the usual people involved in policy fights. But it might be one of the most compelling ways you'll see to get people involved in stopping Washington's heel-dragging over the issue.
The Web site theydontworkforyou.org is designed to make you mad. It's a series of full-screen posters, with clean text on smiling photographs. The first is of six teachers killed at the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut:
The second is of the 45 senators whose votes killed the gun control measure that would have extended background checks to online sales and gun shows:
And the next 45 screens are of every single one of those senators, one by one, each paired with a child who was killed by a gun whose sale the bill might have stopped. "Senator Alexander doesn't work for kids like Charlotte." "Senator Baucus doesn't work for kids like Hiram." "Ask why" the website directs the user, next to links to contact the senator over Facebook, Twitter and by phone. A final message appears over a photograph of NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre: "These senators don't work for you. They work for the NRA, who works for the gun industry, whose sole purpose is to sell more guns."
It's a website designed to make you mad, but it started even angrier. Faun Chapin and Meg Paradise were driving back to their temporary design studio in the Catskills, when Chapin got an email from her old friend Judy Marcellini. Marcellini, a 65-year-old "ex-hippie," was livid about the senate vote, according to Chapin. "She said `I just want to get these fuckers!' I was like, `My God! She said `fuckers.'" Marcellini suggested they make buttons with the words "child killer" printed on the senators' faces. "Definitely a child of the sixties," said Paradise. "They are child killers," said Chapin, "but that won't get us anywhere."
Chapin and Paradise haven't done political advocacy professionally. They met in "innovation consulting" and founded their own company, Guts & Glory, last May to do a variety of branding and design work. "Our last project was for bridal jewelry," Chapin said. But they had been increasingly upset by events like the Newtown massacre and gun violence across the country, and felt disenfranchised by the legislative process. "Every once in a while we get really engaged and we get really angry and we try to do something that makes a difference," said Chapin.
In this case, they started brainstorming as they drove, and by the time they got home they were able to call their friend and HTML5-savvy web developer Marc Phu with the basic concept ("they don't work for us"; pairing senators with children killed by illegal guns). "Within four hours we were mocking something up," Chapin said. But it would take four days to put together the website, much of that time spent researching the children to include. "We were very meticulous," Chapin said, "as much as we possibly could--about including children that were killed in gun violence that could have hopefully been stopped if there were things like background checks and more gun control." They were also careful to select only children killed within the last year.
The website launched, quietly, on April 22, and they have been watching its progress closely. "We've watched people go through the entire site and tweet to every single senator," said Paradise. "Which is kind of incredible."
But they can't let it dominate their focus entirely, given that they still have a full slate of design clients. They were originally supposed to fly to Costa Rica on Saturday for yet another client project. "We'll probably push it back for a week or two," said Chapin.
Copyright 2013 by Fast Company. Reprinted with permission.