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One Surprising Side Effect Of Anti-Trump Protests: An Art Supply Sales Boom

According to a new report, creative protest posters weren’t just good for morale—they were also good for business.

One Surprising Side Effect Of Anti-Trump Protests: An Art Supply Sales Boom
[Photo: Brit Worgan/Getty Images]

In January, Co.Design wrote about the enormous amount of creativity on display during the Women’s March, mostly in the form of handmade protest signs. Here’s one way to quantify the strength of the movement: Take a look at art supplies sales.

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According to the consumer research group NPD, poster board sales for the month of January totaled $6.5 million, with nearly one-third of that amount sold the week of the march. Sales were up 33% for poster board and 42% for foam boards from the same week last year. The report, first reported on by the New York Times, pulls from retail data gathered by NPD’s market research, which reflects sales from 95% of the retail market in the U.S., according to NPD’s website.

[Photo: Stephanie Noritz/Getty Images]
Other tools for making signs grew as well: Paint markers were up 35% from the previous year, specialty markers were up 24%, and permanent markers up 12%. Even scissors got a 6% boost. Those who opted for T-shirts over posters tripled the amount of fabric paint sold this year from 2016.

People put those supplies to good use, with posters like “We Shall Overcomb,” “I Could Find Better Cabinets At Ikea,” and “This Is Not An Ovary-action” finding their way from protest sites to news articles and Instagram feeds. At a time when social media offers an infinite scroll of biting commentary and clever quips about politics, homemade protest signs showed a refreshing amount of forethought and care. As we recently wrote on Co.Design, craft and design have long been used as tools of resistance, showing originality and resilience during times of political and social upheaval.

After the Women’s March, some of that $6.5 million worth of poster board was left outside government buildings or Trump-owned buildings, and many of those abandoned signs were collected for museums, libraries, and digital publications. Yet since then, demonstrations like the Women’s Strike earlier this month, and protests against the travel ban in February, have offered plenty of occasion for people to re-up their poster supplies.

After the inauguration, the proof of resistance can be found in streets all over the country. Further evidence, it seems, can also be found in art supplies sales numbers.

About the author

Meg Miller is an associate editor at Co.Design covering art, technology, and design.

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