Creative Process: Tied to the Hands of Unfair Trade

Graphic Design

I created this piece for a class I took called “Two Dimensional Design: Digital.” The assignment was to utilize iconography, conceptualism and symbolism in three different pieces relating to a social or ethical issue that we thought was important. I decided to do my project on the sweatshop industry and unfair trade after watching a documentary on Netflix called The True Cost, which looks into the detriments of unfair trade. After doing a little bit of research about fair versus unfair trade, I realized that this was an issue that needed to be addressed, especially because so many of us (particularly in my generation) subconsciously promote fast fashion and this unethical practice without even realizing it.

For one portion of the project, we had to use iconography to portray the issue. I brainstormed a few different ideas and finally came to the comparison between sweatshop workers and string puppets. As an added feature, I had the sweatshop workers hanging from a woman’s arm, as if they were bags because these workers are basically at the hands of the consumers and consumerism (hence the title, Tied to the Hands of Unfair Trade).

Next, I googled some images of string puppets, which I used to help recreate the physicality and nature of actual puppets so that the iconography between my portrayal of sweatshop workers and string puppets would be noticeable. I continued to look up other images to use as guides for the rest of the graphic (a shopper, shopping bags, a person holding a credit card etc.).


This is one of my favorite pieces because I feel as though I established my own graphic style and was able to communicate the atrocious nature of such an important issue in a clear way. To this day, I still tell my friends and family about the sweatshop industry and try to buy clothes and products that are certified fair trade.

credit card

*FUN FACT —My name is on the credit card in this image because I used to be a huge supporter of fast fashion, without realizing the detriments associated with that industry.