Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Graphic Design, Politics, and Branding

All art is said to either endorse the status quo (and the politics of those in power), or to challenge it. The 1960s saw presidential candidate John F. Kennedy using the new and growing medium of television to drive his presidential bid for office. He was successful. 

2008 saw the first use of direct emails, blogging, Photobucket, and a host of other Internet communication tools delivered to the American voting public by Barack Obama. The campaign made extensive use of well -designed, thematically harmonious tyography and other iconic imagery to deliver a memorable and tasteful impression. During the long campaign, the style was so succesful, it was emulated in popular ads and repurposed. (As if by using the same font (Gotham) and copying colors and layouts one could achieve credibility simply by visual association.) The use of Gotham has diminished since the election, but for about 2 years it was everywhere in print and on the Web. 

The designers behind the branding of Barack Obama have distinguished themselves and achieved a level of success that will fuel their careers for a long time. Obama Design

America loves dark characters, bad boys, and anti-heros like Tony Soprano. Graphically compelling work is sometimes of a subversive or questionable nature. Certain artists intentionally pattern their work around just such a subversive or 'underground' ideal. (Sheppard Fairey) (GPS grid art) (viral) Usually, this is intended to bring about a positive political change, or to draw attention to issues the popular media ignore. (post modernism)

The really phenomenal thing is that when a subversive/underground work reaches a level of notoriety that brings it to the attention of popular media, it is consumed by that media to become a new norm, an acceptable standard now devoid of anything for which it initially stood, it's message of political challenge watered down to hip contemporary fashion. (led zeppelin, grunge type, gangsta, harley davidson, rick james) (cool hunting, cultural appropiation and paul simon)

So that's what I want. To create an image that is fresh and alive and noticed by everyone. At first creating sensation, even outrage, but gradually becoming accepted by popular media and critics alike, forever connecting me to the emergence of that image as it's founding father! A moment of critical mass . . . The last big thing that came along was David Carson and grunge type. What will be next? Maybe it comes from you . . .

Graphic Design vs. Fine Art

Graphic design is primarily a medium of communication, a way to deliver a message. Designers wrap up the message and give it as a gift. If wrapped in a provocative way, the reader is compelled to open the package and look.

Graphic designers are information architects that disseminate information in a way that makes it easier to understand, like a way-finding system. Successful ones have gained an understanding that their creativity has to fit within the limitations of the final output device; that this limitation is actually liberating, eliminating unnecessary effort and allowing a sharper focus on creative problem-solving and a speedier solution.

Graphic design can overlap into other forms of design, finding its way into branding systems for private companies, educational institutions, transportaion, military, and governement; as illustration and typography for 50-state quarters and postage stamps, signage, uniforms, architecture, interior design, packaging, clothing and textiles, vehicles, toys, etc.

If you stop to think about it, everything in our environment that is man-made had to be designed by someone! Ordinary, everyday things we take for granted as having no 'design' or 'style' per se at some beginning point were defined, whether by design or out of necessity, by a living breathing person (or group of persons). Men can only emulate the world from the outside-in (craft). Only God can create the world from the inside-out (growth). 

The difference between graphic design and fine art is one of intent. Fine art is created for art's sake, with an eye to the ethereal, the spiritual, and the aesthetic. Graphic design usurps fine art and places it inside other documents to sell a product or service, to deliver a message, or to convey an awareness. The Mona Lisa and the Leaning Tower of Pisa were not created to sell painting services nor promote tourism, but images of these cultural icons have indeed been co-opted and repurposed for those very reasons. (Copyrights on old art)

Consequently, graphic design is regarded by many fine artists to being something inferior—a commercial business to sell pizzas and motorbikes. Fine artists may feel this way about graphic designers in a derogatory sense, but sometimes graphic designers deliberately think this about themselves (but not in a bad way), discarding the idea of being artists altogether in favor of becoming information archetects and master communicators, deliberately relegating the status of graphic design to that of communication only. (unimark

Graphic design was and is heavily employed as a vehicle of propaganda, extending the idea that its practitioners are not artists. (Constuctivism)

China and Japan view the graphic arts more favorably than the United States and Europe where, historically, the calligraphic arts flourished before the pictorial. Graphic designers are awarded more respect in the Eastern than in the Western world.