“Graphic arts is a means of expression beyond words”
Friday, December 13th was our last night in Paris. My fiancé and I had big plans to fully enjoy the city of lights and all it had to offer for one more night before heading back home to New York City. We had been in Paris that whole week for business and partially for pleasure. We spent a full three days before my conference gallivanting around the city, eating cheese and chocolate, and sipping wine. Then, we enjoyed another three days filling my free evenings with delicious cafes and restaurants and wandering the moonlit, romantic streets of Paris – not a care in the world. That Friday night after our last meal and glass of wine in Paris, that feeling came to a screeching halt.
We casually walked out of the restaurant to screeching sirens zooming by us, unable to get a cab. After waiting several minutes, we got into a cab and were stung with the news of shootings and bombs less than a mile from where we were having dinner. As we frantically Googled the news on our phones, we were driven to safety at our hotel where upon our arrival, we learned, “There have been 9/11-type attacks in Paris tonight.”
After the terror attacks in Paris on the dark Friday, a symbol of peace unified people across the globe, offering the world a glimpse of light. I’ll never forget that image because I posted it on Facebook that evening as I sat, anxious and scared in my hotel room in Paris. A simple image that combines a peace sign and the Eiffel Tower created by French graphic designer Jean Jullien was shared by millions across social media.
"It was the most spontaneous thing. I heard the news on the radio, and I had this heartfelt reaction. I wanted to draw something that could symbolize peace and solidarity, and I wanted something with the context of Paris," Jullien told CNN.
About four hours after the image was posted on Twitter, it had accumulated 16,000 retweets from Jullien’s personal Twitter account; after 24 hours that number had climbed up to 53,000 retweets. His followers on Twitter also sky-rocketed, going from around 8,000 prior to November 13, to more than 21,000. A few hours after Jullien posted the image to his Instagram account, Instagram shared the image to its 113 million followers with credit to the artist. After 24 hours, the post by Instagram had accumulated more than 1.3 million likes. Not to mention, countless media outlets and celebrities around the world also have shared the image.
Aside from social media, Jullien's illustration was used in a public show of support and to commemorate the victims. Not even 24 hours later, people began printing it on T-shirts, on posters, and on flags, bearing it proudly in a global show of solidarity with the City of Light.
"The response has been overwhelming -- especially since I didn't have any control over it. But I can't feel pride or happiness because it is such a dark time. It's undesired exposure. A horrible moment. But, I'm just somehow glad people made use of it,” he said.
So what caused the image to go viral? The social role of graphics is a powerful.
Jullien said, "People think it's just an everyday tool to sell things like cars or advertise products, but graphic arts is a means of expression beyond words. Words can sometimes be difficult to translate. I think the simpler, the better, the more universally understood it can be.”
In Jullien’s case, the Peace for Paris symbol he designed was able to unify millions across the entire world in a common cause against terrorism, proving that art can defy hate.
Jullien’s design was honest, authentic and immediate, sending one message: peace. Sometimes words can be hard to form after such a tragedy, and Jullien's design gave give us something powerful to share.
Jullien currently lives and runs a studio in London.
About the Author: Amanda Ciccatelli is a Social Media Strategist at IIR USA where she manages social marketing strategy and content marketing across the business. She a background in digital and print journalism, covering a variety of topics in business strategy, life sciences, innovation, law, marketing, and technology. Amanda is the Editor at Large for several of IIR’s blogs including Next Big Design, Front End of Innovation and The Market Research Blogs. She previously worked at Technology Marketing Corporation as a Web Editor where she covered breaking news and feature stories in the technology industry. She can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her at @AmandaCicc.