Posted in Off Topic by DCroy on 22 January 2009


Originally uploaded by jca2112

Originally uploaded by jca2112

Post-election, I was hoping that this poster would go away and I could keep my carping to myself (and my long-suffering special lady). But lately, Shepard Fairey’s been all over the place, and while I think it’s great that we’re inviting graphic designers into the larger conversation, the downside is that the poster’s back again and so here goes.

I don’t hate it. It’s fine. But there are two major problems that just keep nagging.

The first is simple craftsmanship: it’s just not been drawn. It is more a demonstration of the limits of Adobe Illustrator Live Trace than it is an illustration. The shapes around the mouth, especially, are just horribly weak. It becomes a clip-art version of a WPA poster. Someone versed in anatomy would know how the philtrum is constructed and how the lips curve over each other and would (even if he was tracing it for a photographic likeness) be able to finesse the lines to push the perspective and the reinforce the overall strength of the image. This is what illustrators do that computers can’t (among other things). 


Computer: Bad

Just look at the uneven lips, the shapeless shapes around the mouth, the incorrect perspective. It’s kind of exasperating if you get into it. Don’t even get me started on the nose (just look at the comparison! Ugh).

The second is more the fascist style of it. I’m not sure if it was intentional or subliminal, but it’s definitely there. It seems like, after the past eight horrid years, and with a great candidate to get behind, all of us Obama supporters couldn’t wait to shove some of our own fascist imagery down the throats of the other guys. I don’t think that a poster image of fascism is as bad as the more real-life shades of totalitarianism embraced by the neoconservatives of the past two terms. But still. I didn’t like the toothless fascism (they call it “school spirit”) of high school rivalries, or the subtler but slightly less toothless fascism of patriotic displays, and I don’t like fascism here, even though it’s my side that’s doing it.

Also: I am an Obama supporter. And I don’t know much about Fairey’s work, except that I did like the Andre the Giant stuff. But this thing – okay, maybe I do kind of hate it.


4 Responses

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  1. jonashyde said, on 25 January 2009 at 9:07 pm

    The first thing I thought of upon while viewing it was this interpretation could be from some 1980’s Eastern European propaganda. Good blogging for calling it out…

  2. litherland said, on 1 February 2009 at 11:59 pm

    Well done. I agree with you on every point. I guess Fairey’s poster is responding to some sort of Zeitgeist but it has always seemed terribly overrated to me.

    And here’s the thing: although for whatever reason there may be sort of a cult of personality around Obama, he has never solicited that. Obama has always been about community over self, about being part of something larger than oneself. Not about self or subjectivity.

    Note: I have been an Obama supporter since the day he announced on Meet the Press (in 2006) that he was considering running for president. (As a C-SPAN junkie, I already had my eye on him. The minute he got to the Senate he stood out.)

  3. Oba-meh Update « said, on 7 February 2009 at 12:21 pm

    […] like to think I was out front on this, there was plenty of other damning stuff out there before I got on it. Tagged with: compensation, lawsuit, Obama, plagiarism, Shepard Fairey « […]

  4. Black and White « said, on 4 May 2009 at 8:37 am

    […] Not that I care – design is a daisy chain of influences, and it’s not like they stole this, crudely digitized it, claimed it as their own and didn’t credit the original, like that other Obama-related […]

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