How the design world is visually rebuking Putin with Ukrainian colors

Design World Ukraine Colors Ann H from Pexels

Credit: Ann H | Pexels

War is a serious topic that not many people want to discuss. The world is not even done with the effects of Covid-19, and the pandemic isn’t over yet and here we are, facing a situation nobody wants to ever be in. Some of our elders may have lived through World War I and World War II, so we sincerely hope they won’t have to see World War III.

No matter your opinion about what’s been happening between Ukraine and Russia, it’s clear that a war will never be the answer. It won’t be the answer to obtaining peace. It is rarely the ultimate solution, and in this day and age, it should not be happening. It will not—if we continue to fight in little ways. Putin and the rest of the world must know our abhorrence of violence, especially if many lives are at stake.

Ukraine Photo by Matti from Pexels

Credit: Matti | Pexels

You have probably already learned the bare minimum about the issue between Ukraine and Russia. And by now, you should have formed an opinion or two about the situation. We hope it’s to denounce the atrocities in Ukraine and show support to the country being invaded by its neighboring country.

Russia isn’t the bad guy here, as many Russians disagree with what’s been happening. People have been protesting across the country for their president to stop whatever he’s been doing. In our own little ways, we can show support for Ukraine beyond the act of changing our social media profiles with any mention of the country.

Fashion Activism

Credit: Stefano Guindani

On the Internet, we see influencers mentioning they stand for Ukraine. Several celebrities have expressed their opinions as countries and cities have said they support Ukraine. People worldwide are protesting and rebuking Putin for his decision.

We see creatives and artists showing their solidarity with Ukraine in the design world. We heard of architects and fashion designers showing support. Even those whose works had anything to do with Russia previously have started showing their support following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Giorgio Armani Silent Catwalk 2

For example, Italian luxury fashion designer Giorgio Armani held a catwalk show in silence as a tribute to Ukrainians. The show went on without any music as Mr. Armani wanted to show his heartbreak through silence. It was a powerful statement and signal that he and the rest of the company are not happy. It’s an act of recognition that something not good is happening in another part of the world. Armani isn’t the only fashion brand responding to the situation as there are many more.

Some people at the Milan and Paris Fashion week expressed different street styles. Ukrainian influencers and bloggers showed signs with messages like ‘No War in Ukraine’. Some also came carrying the Ukrainian flag to tell the whole world about what’s been happening.

Brands Are Stepping up

Many designers and artists have already shown their support. Furthermore, in response to the conflict, visual designers have also started using the colors of the Ukraine flag—yellow and blue. Therefore, if you see images with such colors, such brand, company, or personality may be expressing support for Ukraine.

More brands are rallying for peace and solidarity with Ukraine. There have been calls to give financial support for the refugees. Supermodel Gigi Hadid said she would be donating her 2022 earnings to Ukraine. Chanel also donated millions of dollars already to the UNHCR-Refugee Agency and CARE and has also closed its stores in Russia.

Louis Vuitton Kyiv

Louis Vuitton Kyiv

L’Oréal Paris supports refugees and people still in Ukraine through monetary help and donation of productions. Louis Vuitton and the rest of the LVMH Group have sent financial support to help the victims. Even their employees in both Ukraine and Russia have received the assistance they need.

Hermes has temporarily closed stores in Russia and has paused commercial activities in the country. Burberry has also done the same in Russia and donated money to charities supporting Ukraine. Prada has also suspended retail operations in Russia. More luxury fashion brands have announced similar measures, including Balenciaga, Gucci, and Valentino.

Some brands like Adidas dropped support and partnership with the Russian Football Union. The company also donated apparel, footwear, and money to groups that help refugees and children. Other fashion retailers like ASOS, H&M, Puma, and Mango also show the same support and solidarity with Ukraine. More luxury brands under Richemont (Cartier, Vacheron Constantin, Piaget, Montblanc, etc.) have also suspended operations in Russia.

Design Activism

Ukraine Flag Photo by Mathias P.R. Reding from Pexels

Credit: Mathias P.R. Reding | Pexels

Architects, curators, designers, and collaborators in Europe have been condemning the acts of Putin. The likes of the International Union of Architects, Russian pavilion curators at the Venice Art Biennale, and even the cultural institution V-A-C Foundation in Moscow are showing support and suspending public programs. The Architects’ Council of Europe (ACE) also expressed solidarity with Ukraine.

Creatives like designers photographers are also showing support, as evidenced in their works. The most accessible and distinguishable effort is using Ukraine’s flag colors. The bicolor flag is also easy to apply to different designs—just change the shade to blue and yellow. Doing this is a silent protest or quiet resistance and can be a symbol of solidarity, hoping that we can save Ukraine and the rest of the world from further harm.

A few weeks ago, a group of activists and artists launched 350 paper planes from the top floor of The Guggenheim Museum. It was a simple call for a no-fly zone over Ukraine. The paper planes had a message for the citizens of the world: “This jet is made of paper. But what if it were steel and carried bombs over the heads of the ones you love? Right now, Russia is making deliberate efforts to blow up the largest nuclear plant in Europe in order to wipe out the Ukrainian population. This would give Putin control over Ukrainian land. But that is not the end. Russia wants to move its nuclear arsenal to the Ukrainian-Polish border and push its army further west. Putin has openly said this many times. This is no longer a local conflict. Act now to save the world. Ask president Biden to declare a no-fly zone over Ukraine. Protect the sky over Ukraine. Full embargo on Russia. Boycott Russian influence in cultural and political institutions.”

Architectural Firms One with UKR

Architectural firm Zaha Hadid Architects has mentioned stopping all work in Russia. Here is a statement from ZHA: “ZHA has worked in Russia for four decades. Zaha Hadid was originally inspired by works of the Russian Avant-garde and many of our staff have taught architecture students at universities across the country. We are deeply shocked and saddened by the conflict in Ukraine and have placed our two ongoing projects in Russia on hold. We have completed our contracted works on all other projects in the country and continue to monitor guidance from the UK Government.” 



David Chipperfield Architects also said they were suspending work in Russia. Other firms with similar sentiments include Herzog & De Meuron, UNSTUDIO, MVRDV, and BJARKE INGELS GROUP. These companies have announced halting their projects in Ukraine and/or Russia. They are standing in solidarity with the citizens of Ukraine, as well as, with Russians who reject Putin’s decision.

Color Revolutions

The use of colors has proven to be a powerful tool to communicate. They can form mental expressions and affect the mood of a person. Colors convey meaning, and now the practice of changing colors for protest is evident in how designers, creators, and artists use yellow and blue together. This is how brands and groups communicate, as colors say a lot.

Changing and using colors appear trivial, but it’s an old practice for protest. As fashion plays a role in protests, so does color offers non-verbal communication. There have been colors of revolution used worldwide, so the current use of yellow and blue in design is a sign of protest against whatever Putin is doing.

Some notable examples of colors being used for protest include pink being used in India. Fuchsia pink saris were worn, and bamboo sticks were used during a march in 2006 to fight against domestic abuse and violence. Purple is used during International Women’s Day in Mexico instead of pink. The latter is also usually associated with the feminine movement in most countries. There’s the rainbow colors being used for the LGBTQ+ movement.

Rainbow Love Photo by 42 North from Pexels

Credit: 42 North | Pexels

In recent years, people attending rallies have worn different colors. Protestors in Hong Kong wore black to symbolize their sadness over what was happening. Interestingly, counter-demonstrators wore white. In mass protests in Iran back in 2009, green was widely used by the movement. In the US, many women wore pink knitted hats during the Women’s March in 2017 right after Donald Trump won. During demonstrations in Ukraine in 2004, people wore orange, resulting to the movement being called the Orange Revolution.

Today, we see the combination of blue and yellow being widely used. Duchess Kate Middleton wore a blue sweater with a flag pin when she and her husband Prince William visited the Ukrainian Cultural Center in London earlier this month. Salma Hayek donned a blue and yellow tunic at Balenciaga’s Paris Fashion Week. Greta Lee wore a blue-and-yellow jumpsuit by Marc Jacob’s over at the SAG Awards. Lawmakers and government officials worldwide have also been wearing blue and yellow to show Ukraine support.

Grammarly Stand with Ukraine

Credit: Grammarly

Slack and Grammarly also changed their colors in the tech world, albeit a temporary rebrand. The Salesforce Tower in San Francisco has been lit up in blue and yellow. The Brandenburg Gate in Germany and the Eiffel Tower were also illuminated in the Ukrainian flag colors.

Blue and yellow colors are almost everywhere as the world stands in solidarity with Ukraine. Even if people and brands don’t talk, they convey a message of support for the Ukrainians in times of crisis. So, hopefully, Putin and his supporters will really take a hint and just stop.

The response to the Russian invasion has taken different forms. We believe we will see more blue and yellow colors everywhere until Russia takes a step back. The past weeks have been nerve-wracking for millions of people around the world. We’re hoping this will be over soon for the future generation of Ukraine and Russia, and the rest of the world. If you haven’t been vocal about the issue, you can subtly make a statement by wearing blue and yellow.

Tech Giants Support Ukraine

Social Media Apps Credit Tracy Le Blanc | Pexels

Credit: Tracy Le Blanc | Pexels

Supporting Ukraine is a must, especially if you are a tech giant. There is no place in this world for brands that don’t show hatred for the atrocities. Of course, we still understand those companies that have not made any statement, but there is such a thing as social responsibility.

There is value in this move, especially if it’s a big name like Google or Apple. Earlier in March, Google employees donated $15 million in donations and in-kind to groups sending relief to Ukraine. Another $5 million were contributed in advertising grants that will help organizations connect people to major sources.

Google has also waived international calling fees from Ukraine (also US to Ukraine) on Google Fi. Google Voice calling fees to Ukrainer are also waived. Google has also started helping businesses that cater to refugees in neighboring countries. On their Business Profile, they can include if they are offering aid to refugees in the information. Google is also limiting its commercial activities related to Russia. The terms RT and Sputnik have been removed from EU search results already.

As for Apple, the Cupertino tech giant halted product sales in Russia. Meta (Facebook) also has several efforts, including establishing a special operations center to monitor the platform 24/7. In addition, safety features like locking a Facebook profile, additional Messenger tools, and removing the view-search friends function have been added. Twitter has already suspended many accounts, while some companies restricted or stopped operations in Russia like TikTok, Spotify, Western Union, Oracle, SAP, and Amazon Web Services.

Elon Musk, SpaceX and Tesla CEO, and Time’s Person of the Year for 2021, has done a lot already. His efforts include allowing Ukraine to use Starlink and sending internet kits. Tesla is also paying Ukrainian employees for up to three months.

Community Response

In many other ways, ordinary citizens are also showing support by sending money to efforts that directly help Ukraine. In a surprising but touching move, Airbnb is also being used. Since last month, free shelter and accommodations have been provided to about 100,000 refugees.

Airbnb has also urged more people to open their homes to support the effort. People from all over the world were also booking Airbnb rentals in Kyiv, Ukraine, as a way of helping even if they are not visiting. It is an indirect way of helping as the payment for the rentals is given to the residents that remain in the country.

What We Can Do

Here at Yanko Design, we value our brothers and sisters who have been suffering. We remember the works of Ukrainian artists, designers, and students. We wish to give them a platform and make their talent and skills known to the world. By doing this, we make them feel they are not forgotten and that we are one with them.

The attack against Ukraine is still not over. In our little ways, we can help by sending monetary help. We suggest you send to organizations that directly have relief efforts in Ukraine, like UNICEF and World Vision. Make sure you send to established organizations and charities as there have been reports of people getting scammed. You may want to check Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance to see if a group is reliable.

We are hoping for peace and recovery.