Week 28 (part 1) – Graphic Design and History in the Making

Focusing on Design With A Conscience

Sheppard Fairey
“Frank Shepard Fairey is an American contemporary graphic designer and illustrator who emerged from the skateboarding scene. He first became known for his ‘Andre the Giant Has a Posse’” (…OBEY…) (www.obeygiant.com) sticker campaign, in which he appropriated images from the comedic supermarket tabloid Weekly World News.
His work became more widely known in the 2008 U.S. presidential election, specifically his Barack Obama “Hope” poster.
The Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston calls him one of today’s best known and most influential street artists. His work is included in the collections at The Smithsonian, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego, the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
Analyse his poster for the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election and give your opinion on the use of style and its efficacy. Also critique the use of pastiche and typography.
Write one page (about 350 words) on your opinion of this design and substantiate your answers with examples.
Shepart Fairley designed this Barack Obama “Hope” poster during the 2008 U.S. Presidental election year in one day and originally was printed as a street poster. It became to represent Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.
The poster has a picture of Barack Obama, now the former president of USA. Fairley used a picture found online and stylized it to stencil. The colors he used were solid red, beige and blue (light and dark). Just a few colors but still so effective — still so peaceful, in harmony and somehow soft. As we have just learned about the Post-modernism and propaganda posters — the same colors bright red and smoggy blues and beige, can be seen in those as well as the propaganda posters during the World War I.
At the bottom of the poster is only one word “Hope”. Although the poster can be seen with other versions too. The typography is bold with sans serif font which quickly communicates the message. The word is also written in uppercase letters. This is seen in many propaganda posters, and the boldness of the font draws attention.
The poster has an image of and man (Obama) who’s looking the up right with his dreaming eyes. It seems that he’s dreaming but still focused and concentrated. The poster reminds me the poster of Che Guevara made in 1967 by Jim Fitzpatrick based on Korda’s image. It has the same determined look, that one image covers the hole poster and has just a view colors.
Pastiche, according to the Wikipedia, is a work of visual art, literature, theatre, or music that imitates the style or character of the work of one or more other artists. I do see that Fairey has been influenced in some means by previous artists. As mentioned many propaganda posters use the same kind of arrangement in the composition. One big figure with determined look in the eyes, just minimum text, sans serif font, few colors.
It has been said that Punk has had a big influence for Fairey. He discovered that “punk rock could have an attitude in its style but a specific point of view in its lyrics. That’s when he became interested how Punk Rock shapes attitudes and culture.
Even the “We can Do It!” poster designed by J. Howard Miller in 1943 to recruit female workers has the same determined look in the character’s eyes that the Obama poster has.
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