How many images in public places have you looked at today? Think about it. Walking down the street, at the office, during your lunch break, driving on the highway… during all these normal daily routines, we see advertising, graffiti art, signage, and the sort. Think about images in media as well… we see corporate branding, politics, travel, celebrity gossip and we ask ourselves what does it mean? what is the point? Either way, whether we want to or not, we process much of what we see and we choose to accept (or not accept) the messages around us.
The truth is, graphics have a unique and interesting power to relay messages to the masses. Brands and corporations use graphics to show competency and trustworthiness in their products. Politicians use images to push and pull views on democracy. Urban art and graffiti often use imagery to shift social views and sometimes to self-promote their work. The interesting variable in all of this is that people (yes! you and me) decide what theses images mean or don’t mean. We have control in our interpretation of the images.
An interesting case study about the influence of visual communication on popular culture is the campaign, Obey the Giant. Created by Shepard Fairy in 1989, Fairy sought to elevate a likeness of Andre Rousimmoff (Andre the Giant), the late wrestling champion, into an iconic status through simple, brute repetition. Fairy stated that “Andre is so ridiculous that there’s nothing left but process”. The process Fairy talks about is his method to create a message through the pure advertising methodology of quantity, not quality. Fairy talks about advertising as pure greed. He says his method of showing the absurdity of it is to join the system by participating in the process… and if successful, showing people the hypocrisy behind it. Fairy began his message by printing stickers and posting them all over the city. He focused on the advertising technique, quantity not quality, and it worked!
To find out more about the Obey the Giant Campaign, click here.
Interesting about this case is that the social impact of his Obey the Giant sticker did not take on full life until the people responded to the imagery and defined it for themselves. The impact of the sticker became alive with the importance people gave the symbol. So what if we were to conduct a similar “Image Overload” experiment today? Would the results be similar? Would the technique need to be different to compensate for current technology?