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Posters and Election Propaganda

A blog dedicated to the examination of communications in election campaigns, with a focus on posters

Tagged as “Constructivism”

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Posted by Steven Seidman at 10:14AM   |  2 comments
Shepard Fairey, "Arm Yourself," Ad for Saks Fifth Avenue (Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company)

Saks Fifth Avenue hired guerilla artist Shepard Fairey recently to design advertisements, catalog covers, and shopping bags. Fairey became famous as the designer of several posters of Barack Obama during his run for the U.S. presidency, one of which was sold on Obama's Web site.

As with the Obama poster creations, Fairey's commercial work is influenced by Soviet Constructivist Art from the 1920s and 1930s, especially the work of Alexander Rodchenko, who combined photographic images, slanted perspectives, and bright, primary colors. He also borrows from the Bauhaus School, whose artists frequently used diagonal lines and lettering. These influences are evident in Fairey's ad for a slouchy bag, for example, which features an angled model with a raised fist—indicating that she is for the "rights of the people" as well as "arming" herself with a slouchy bag—along with red areas and white diagonal lines.

All of Fairey's work is propaganda, but in the best sense: it's goal is to influence an audience's emotions to promote a product, often inspiring viewers. According to Terron Schaefer, senior vice president for marketing at Saks, as quoted in The New York Times: "What we do very day, really, is propaganda." All advertising can be considered propaganda, of course. But I think that Fairey's comment about his work for Saks (also quoted in The New York Times) is more on the money when he stated that his goal was just to get attention.


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