“Reform deform, knowledge porridge, meta feta, multi pulti, innovation strangulation, two-year four-year, full half-baked or poached.” Gibberish on the face of it, but humorous enough to draw out a smile if you see this under the picture of a half-naked man standing on his head at a protest site in Delhi University where the protestors wear badges like “Sillybus to nowhere at Delhi University”, or the hugely popular “Say No to No Say”.

“Protest movements have always had a tradition of posters and placards as a way of drawing people’s attention in an imaginative way to the issue. It has also been the primary way to communicate what you were fighting for. This tradition was at its most creative during the 1960s. In fact even the French Revolution had its poster artists,” said History professor Mukul Manglik while explaining the history behind posters as a popular expression of protest across the world in all ages, but most recently this past week at Delhi University’s North Campus during a protest by some teachers to oppose the four-year under-graduate course.

“I have a friend Harsh Kapoor who studied in Delhi University back in the 1980s, he is the brain behind the innovation and design,” said Prof. Manglik, adding that frequent fun trips to the printers and getting numerous badges made for each protest and public meeting were all part of the deal. Another essential part of a successful poster was the clever use of colours and the minimal use of text. “Whatever you want to say, you say it through the image, the text supports it – that’s all.”

He also said that the idea behind the posters was also derived from the tradition of cartoons that drive home a point in a humorous manner without derision. “There is a chart detailing words that we hear but often don’t understand in the present scheme of things like “meta” and “four-year”. This chart is made in the manner of the “vision chart” you see at the eye-specialists’. There is a man trying to see this “vision” while standing on his head. The words you see as the writing gets smaller are things like “freedom/ fried dumb” …think of it as you will.”

Another rule in the book is to avoid repetition at all costs. The issue may be the same, but the posters have to be different because it is not about just keeping the issue alive but keeping it “freshly alive”. And most importantly one has to remember that people may not remember the speeches but they do remember catchy slogans and interesting things that they may have read on a poster or a placard – the idea behind making the posters into postcards is that you can take them home with you since this way the memory “stays with you in a different way”.