Learning Activites

Week 28 – Focusing on Design With a Conscience

Analyse Sheppard Fairey’s 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.

The Hope poster made by Fairey for the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election is widely regarded as iconic, and because of his distinct style and feel The Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston has described him as one of the best known and most influential street artists.

The style of the poster kind of fits the whole activism feel. Obama’s motto for said election was “Change We Can Believe In”, calling for a change in society. Perhaps this is why the poster makes use of inspiration from propaganda art as well – bold colours, clear messages and simplistic, but not boring, designs. It catches your attention, and cleverly makes use of the colours of the American flag as well to further underline that this campaign is deeply rooted in American values despite bringing something entirely new, a change for the country, to the table. Blue is the most prominent colour, used to emphasise that he is representing the Democrats. Although it wasn’t originally made for the campaign, it is arguably the most known graphic product of the entire 2008 elections.

I find the style of this poster not only drawing inspiration from propaganda art, but also a touch of pop art perhaps, with the stylised colour palette used on Obama’s picture. Below is Andy Warhol’s portrait of Elizabeth Taylor, and while it might not seem similar at first glance, we can deduce some similar features – both have a limited colour palette, the silhouette of the face is the main feature, simple shadowing, to name a few.

I also find the poster eerily similar to the pop-art / propaganda activism poster of Argentine revolutionary and guerrilla leader Ernesto “Che” Guevara from 1968 created by the Irish Jim Fitzpatrick, neatly tying in to the activism reference.

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