Learning Activity – Focusing on Design With a Conscience 

“Frank Shepard Fairey is an American contemporary graphic designer and illustrator who emerged from the skateboarding scene. He first became known for his ‘Andre the Giant Has a Posse’” (…OBEY…) (www.obeygiant.com) sticker campaign, in which he appropriated images from the comedic supermarket tabloid Weekly World News. 


His work became more widely known in the 2008 U.S. presidential election, specifically his Barack Obama “Hope” poster.

Write one page (about 350 words) on your opinion of this design and substantiate your answers with examples.

Analyse his 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.



The poster from the 2008 U.S Presidential election has a simple style, it showcases a realistic illustrated portrait of the ex-president Obama painted with a three-tonus effect, it uses few colors and in the lower part we can clearly see the word HOPE showcased in a bold sans-serif typeface in all caps. The designer did not eve bother to write the name of the subject or  the name of the campaign in the poster, the poster is focusing on the only important message, this man is the hope for America. He does not bother on writing additional information because there is no need for that since it was election time and everybody was familiarized with the candidates.che

The minimalistic style of the poster reminds us of previous propaganda art where only a person would be the focus of the poster and there would be a minimalistic color palette, the pictures would often be in black and white with often one color for accentuation. The most similar poster that was obviously an inspiration for this one is the one created by Jim Fitz Patrick of El Che Gevara. A poster that abstracted the famous photograph of El Che  to its minimal form of just the highlights in white and shadows in a black color, with a red background and minimal information on the corner.  Since both El Che and his picture were already famous worldwide, the designer minimized the details of the photograph until there was just a symbolic silhouette  that would come to represent not just the man itself but also his ideologies and deeds.

By comparing these two posters we have to agree that we can find a level of pastiche in the latter, both to poster are illustrating a political figure that is pointing his gaze upward in a heroic pose, both men seem to have a serious and focused look. It is clear that the Shepards poster has been highly influenced by Patricks and that he is using this style that people recognize as a symbol of revolution, heroism and socialism to portray Obama in the same light, as a hero of the people.  According to Lazo, “the Che Gevaras image continues to be framed into the last selfies of socialism by tourists passing through what was once called Civic Square and is now the Plaza of the Revolution and even Barack Obama, during his visit in March 2016, paused with American and Cuban officials for a group photo with Korda’s Che in the background”(Orlando Luiz Pardo Lazo, 03.09.2016). This scene brings us a direct connection between the two men as well.

Sources and References

The story behind Ches iconic photo,  Orlando Luiz Pardo Lazo, 03.09.2016



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