Creative Titans: Shepard Fairey and the Obama “Hope” Poster

Shepard Fairey innovative branding with street art

Shepard Fairey, born Frank Shepard Fairey, is an American contemporary street artist and graphic designer. While he started on the skateboarding scene, he has since created a name for himself in many circles.  His work combines graffiti, pop art, graphic design, and wheat pasting (using a water and wheat mixture to adorn posters to public spaces).

While he is considered an influential street artist, his work can also be found in a number of museums around the world, and on the covers of reputable magazines, album covers, and more.  His work is also featured in a number of publications, including “Supply & Demand: The Art of Shepard Fairey”.

Fairey is featured extensively in the Banksy documentary, “Exit Through the Gift Shop”.  Fairey’s likeness also appeared on a 2012 episode of “The Simpsons”, titled “Exit Through the Kwik E-Mark”, along with Robbie Conal, Kenny Scharf, and Ron English.

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Shepard Fairey innovative branding with street art

Shepard Fairey is most commonly associated with the Obey Giant campaign, featuring Andre the Giant, which originated in 1992. Although he had only recently become a graffiti artist, he took advantage of the visually striking image and took his stencils and stickers to the street.

He gained a great deal of respect after the release of his Barack Obama “Hope” poster, which was released during the 2008 presidential election.  This poster introduced a completely innovative branding tool into the world of political campaigning – street art and pop culture.  The poster originally had the word “Progress” captioned, but the campaign requested that he change the word to “Hope”. Two additional posters also feature the words “Change” and “Vote”.

Design Strategy

To create the infamous “Hope” poster, Fairey played on the colors of the American flag, with “Hope” drawn in bold letters. He utilized his standard cream and red colors, but played with different shades of blue until he found the perfect hue to convey the right combination of aesthetics and patriotism.

Fairey most commonly uses stenciling, collage, and screen printing to create his work. He has found great success in creating images that can’t be ignored and using repetition to get his message across. By simply plastering posters, stickers, and stenciled images on public spaces, he has made himself a household name with street artists, designers, and the public at large.

Creative Titans: How Saul Bass Changed Movies


Saul Bass was an esteemed graphic designer and filmmaker who created some of the most iconic film posters, corporate logos, and title sequences in history.  He also accrued a number of honors, recognitions, and achievements during his lifetime, both in the design community and in Hollywood.

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Saul Bass is best known for his visually striking film posters and artwork. He is also credited as being one of the first artists to realize the potential of beginning and ending movie credits and utilized the title sequence to set the film’s tone and mood.

His body of work consisted of logo designs, short films, commercials, posters, key art design, title sequences, and television. He worked with some of Hollywood’s most acclaimed filmmakers and was regularly contracted by Alfred Hitchcock. In fact, Bass was known for helping create some of the most memorable title sequences and controversial scenes, including the infamous “Psycho” shower scene. Some film books even credit him as co-director of “Psycho”.

Bass also created some of the most iconic logos of our time, including Quaker Oats, AT&T, Bell Telephone, United Airlines, Continental Airlines, and more. His legendary art has served as the inspiration for a number of works today, including the “Saul Bass Font”. His illustrations are also featured in various publications, including “Saul Bass: A Life in Film and Design,” and serve as inspiration for many graphic design and poster design pieces today.

Design Strategy

Bass’s simplified thoughts on design were: “Design is thinking made visual.” He also gave the following insight into his design strategy: “Sometimes when an idea flashes, you distrust it because it seems too easy. You qualify it with all kinds of evasive phrases because you’re timid about it. But often, this turns out to be the best idea of all.”

He worked to create art and film pieces that enhanced the viewer’s experience. His film posters were able to convey all of the important elements of the film in a striking, simplified design.

Bass passed away in 1996, but his work lives on and is still widely respected today.

Creative Titans: Dieter Rams and the 10 Principles of Good Design


Dieter Rams is a German industrial designer and respected product design guru. With more than seven decades’ worth of design experience, he has earned a list of notable awards and accomplishments over the years, and is one of the most important designers in recent history.

While he never worked for Apple, his designs are said to be the inspiration for a number of the Apple products that we know and love today. In fact, Jonathan Ive has publicly acknowledged Dieter Rams as his inspiration.  In the 2009 documentary, “Objectified”, Rams claims that Apple is one of few companies who design according to his principles of good design.

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Dieter Rams is most commonly known for his work with Braun, where he served as the head of design from 1961-1995. He has helped design useful, visually appealing gadgets for around the home.  Due in part to the user friendliness and look of Braun products, they became a household name in the 1950s.  While he retired from Braun in 1997, Rams continues to work with Vitsoe furniture designs today.

There have been a number of books published about Rams and his work.  His designs can also be found in touring and permanent exhibitions and museums around the world.  His 10 principles of good design have also been widely studied and used by designers and non-designers alike.

Design Strategy

Rams created the 10 principles of good design, which revolve around bringing simplicity and purity back into the product design process. His strategy and principles are built around the fact that good design is innovative, aesthetic, honest, long-lasting, unobtrusive, thorough, and environmentally-friendly. As he has so eloquently put it, his design approach is: “Good design is as little design as possible.”  Below are his fabled 10 Principles (from his Wikipedia page):

Good design:

  1. Is innovative – The possibilities for progression are not, by any means, exhausted. Technological development is always offering new opportunities for original designs. But imaginative design always develops in tandem with improving technology, and can never be an end in itself.
  2. Makes a product useful – A product is bought to be used. It has to satisfy not only functional, but also psychological and aesthetic criteria. Good design emphasizes the usefulness of a product whilst disregarding anything that could detract from it.
  3. Is aesthetic – The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products are used every day and have an effect on people and their well-being. Only well-executed objects can be beautiful.
  4. Makes a product understandable – It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product clearly express its function by making use of the user’s intuition. At best, it is self-explanatory.
  5. Is unobtrusive – Products fulfilling a purpose are like tools. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art. Their design should therefore be both neutral and restrained, to leave room for the user’s self-expression.
  6. Is honest – It does not make a product appear more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.
  7. Is long-lasting – It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even in today’s throwaway society.
  8. Is thorough down to the last detail – Nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance. Care and accuracy in the design process show respect towards the consumer.
  9. Is environmentally friendly – Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimizes physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.
  10. Is as little design as possible – Less, but better – because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials. Back to purity, back to simplicity.

Rams aims to make products that are useful and understandable, remaining functional, psychological, and aesthetic. He has stated that good product design “is a matter of balancing the esthetic content with regard to use”.

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Creative Titans: Banksy and the Rise of Street Art

Banksy and the Rise of Street Art

Banksy is a prominent UK-based graffiti artist who has changed the way we look at street art. His street art portrays his thoughts on politics, poverty, controversial social themes, and life in general.  While some critics have referred to his pieces as vandalism, his fans consider them artistic works of social commentary.

Banksy has remained pseudonymous over the years, despite intense popularity with the public.  In fact, he has not had a face-to-face interview since 2003. There have been rumors that the man behind the mask was revealed in 2013, but he is most commonly associated with the masked image that has defined him throughout the years.

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Banksy started his career somewhere around 1990, when he began as a freehand graffiti artist. Banksy’s work can be found in exhibits, books, films, on street corners, and in publicly visible places around the world. While much of his work is free for the public to enjoy, some of his pieces have sold for more than $1 million each.

The popular 2010 documentary, “Exit Through the Gift Shop” was a film created by Banksy about the story of Thierry Guetta, also known as “Mr. Brainwash”. The film was nominated for a 2010 Oscar for Best Documentary Feature.  Banksy also created 10 street artworks around Park City and Salt Lake City around the time of the screening.

Design Strategy

Banksy’s work tends to focus on one eye-catching color or design.  His art masterfully combines stenciling, spray paint, and fine brush painting.  Banksy has been quoted as saying, “I use whatever it takes.  Sometimes that just means drawing a moustache on a girl’s face on some billboard, sometimes that means sweating for days over an intricate drawing.  Efficiency is the key.”

Banksy released the book, “Wall and Piece”, where he better explains his craft and design strategy.  In it, he revealed his love of stencils, which can save time, reduce the overlapping of color, and allow him to finish a complete work of art in one sitting.  While he has never specified exactly how he creates his intricate stencils, many have speculated that he uses computers for some images.  Regardless of what method or materials he uses, Banksy’s work will continue to be criticized and beloved because no one else can do it quite like he can.

For a greater insight into his style and thoughts on art, Banksy has been quoted as saying “art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.”

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Creative Titans: How Massimo Vignelli Impacts Your Commute

Massimo-Vignelli and Vignelli Associates Design Agency

Massimo Vignelli was born in Milan, Italy in 1931. He is a renowned designer who has created an impressive body of work in areas ranging from package design to interior design, and everything in between. Together with his wife, Lella Vignelli, he founded a design agency by the name Vignelli Associates, and designed The Vignelli Center For Design Studies.

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Vignelli is responsible for a great number of nationally recognized logos, such as American Airlines, IBM, Bloomingdales, and more.  His work both through his design agency and otherwise has been published and exhibited throughout the world and has influenced designers the world over.  He has been recognized with an impressive range of awards and honors over the years and continues to be heralded as one of the premier influencers of the typography that we know and love today.

He is also responsible for designing the Helvetica font more than 50 years ago, and changing the way we look at typography today.  In fact, “Helvetica” is now a feature-length documentary about typography, fonts, and graphic design.  It stars none other than… wait for it… Massimo Vignelli!!  Two feature-length television programs have also been devoted to Vignelli’s work.

With all that said, his most popular and perhaps most enduring work still remains the NYC subway map, which was recently updated from the original version. The New York City transit system can be rather complicated, but Vignelli created a design that organizes the various lines into a clear, colorful map. His masterful work has influenced everything from transit map design to furniture design and impacts the daily life of commuters, designers, and the American public at large.

Design Strategy

Vignelli works to create unique designs that can remain relevant over time. Along with his portfolio of work, Massimo Vignelli, and his wife Lella, have been known to eat, sleep, and breathe design. They create effective designs based on three investigations in design, including the search for structure, specificity, and fun. “I strive to raise the bar a few inches, taking the commonplace and improving it,” Vignelli said.

Vignelli believes in following the Modernist tradition, which focuses on minimalism and the use of basic geometric forms. He subscribes to the belief that simple, but strong, design is the best way to remain timeless. As he so eloquently put it, “If you do it right, it will last forever.” This form of stripped-down design has become increasingly popular over time and continues to be used in print, online, and packaging design today.

Vignelli has published a number of works in the past and currently hosts master design workshops, speeches, and interviews both domestically and abroad.  He and his wife continue to work and inspire others.

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Creative Titans: Fritz Kahn, the Father of Infographics

Fritz Kahn and Infographic Design

Dr. Fritz Kahn (1888-1968) is widely credited as being the father of modern-day data visualization and infographic design.  Dr. Kahn was a respected doctor in Berlin and a world-famous science writer. Throughout the 1910s and 1920s, Kahn was working as a respected hospital doctor by day and a writer for a German science book club called Kosmos after-hours. This was during a time of considerable industrial and technological change, and his images are reflective of this time period.

During the chaos throughout Germany in 1933, Kahn’s books were confiscated, banned, and burned.  Fortunately, his images survived due to recreations, which had been published in plagiarized work at that time. He returned to Europe in 1956, where he lived and worked until the age of 79.

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Kahn’s most popular work revolves around the “Man Machine.” One of the most complicated pieces of machinery is the human body.  Kahn worked to create clear illustrations of how the body works by designing a modern visualization of the digestive and respiratory system working as an industrial plant.

Kahn went on to write and design 10 books over his lifetime.  He had more than 1,500 graphic illustrations attributed to him, and worked closely with illustrators to visually portray the wonders of the human body. By representing the body as a piece of machinery, Kahn’s illustrations and graphics were able to find an audience with everyone from laypeople to designers to medical professionals alike.

Design Strategy


Kahn was tasked with finding a means to present complicated scientific information as more than a confusing illustration.  Rather, he used storytelling techniques to create journeys through the human body.  His goal was to provide a clear method of visualization that made the information understandable, accessible, and inviting. He set the stage for visual representations of complicated data and his images are still widely used, covered and studied today.

Following the 125th birthday of Dr. Kahn in 2013, an enhanced issue of the sold-out monograph was created to present Kahn in more than 350 images. The first edition of the book, released in 2009, sold out in a few short years.  Created by siblings Uta and Thilo von Debschitz, most of Kahn’s original images were reproduced at a larger scale pieced together as an organized portfolio. The siblings are looking forward to presenting a large-scale touring exhibition of Kahn’s images in 2015.

The updated 2013 Fritz Kahn monograph was chosen by the TED Book Club for their final book club mailing of 2013. Over the years, Kahn’s work has been praised, forgotten, and then recovered and reimagined. His illustrations and style have stood the test of time and continue to inspire the world of data visualization today.

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Creative Titans: How Paul Rand Influenced Logo Design


Paul Rand, born Peretz Rosenbaum, was an esteemed American art director and graphic designer who is responsible for creating some of the most recognizable and memorable logos of all time. Some of his most notable logos include those for IBM, UPS, Enron, Morningstar, Inc., Westinghouse, ABC, and Steve Jobs’ NeXT. He was an influential expert in his field who preferred to complete most of the work on his own. Despite having a large staff to depend on, he was considered a recluse in his creative process.

Rand had an impressive educational career to boast of, studying at Pratt Institute, Parsons School of Design, and the Art Students’ League. He later taught at Pratt, Yale University, and Cooper Union. He also received a number of honorary degrees from respected universities, including Yale and Parsons.

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Rand published “Thoughts on Design” in 1947, which is still used to educate students and professionals alike. It helped influence the world of graphic design that we know today. He had a number of important works and focused on trademark design and the design of a memorable logo. He also helped shape the way for strong brand image and Swiss Style graphic design.

Rand had indicated that some notables inspired him in life and in his design work. His inspirations included Roger Fry, John Dewey, and Paul Klee, to name a few. In his professional career, Rand was a logo designer extraordinaire, having created such iconic logos as IBM, which he continued redesigning from the 1950s until the 1990s. He created two variations of the striped logo, one with eight stripes and one with 13 stripes, to provide the right logo for different circumstances. Throughout the years, the basic design has remained the same, making it one of the most recognized logos worldwide.

Rand’s work was designed to create a memorable experience and a lasting impression. His work helped set new standards for graphic design and logo design. To create a successful logo, Rand considered the basics, including what logos are, what they are not, and what they are capable of being. This helped him  create the right level of simplicity to suit each client’s needs.

Design Strategy

Rand’s strategy was to focus on freeform layouts that are less structured and utilize collage, photography, artwork, and typography for an engaging result that users wanted to interact with. He took advantage of contrast and shapes to create unconventional ads and logos that were different from the rest.

His influence was work from modern artists like Paul Cezanne and he proposed the essence of Modernist theories in visual communication. His goal was to take something ordinary and create something extraordinary out of it. As Rand so eloquently put it, “the problem of the artist is to defamiliarize the ordinary.”

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Creative Titans: How Michael Bierut Influenced Typography

Graphic Designer Michael Bierut


Michael Bierut is one of the most recognized graphic designers in the world. He studied graphic design at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning, and is currently a senior critic in graphic design at the Yale School of Art.

In 1980, he began his first job working alongside the legendary Massimo Vignelli and eventually rose to vice president of design at Vignelli Associates. He put in hard work over the years and even worked double shifts for four years at the design firm, and is now a partner in the New York office of Pentagram.  Recently, Mr. Bierut redesigned the Billboard logo, among other notable projects. He has  won hundreds of design awards and received praise and accolades from innumerable industry professionals over the years.

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While at Pentagram, Bierut has created new brand strategies, identities, and packaging for Yale School of Architecture, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Motorola, to name a few.

Bierut set the stage for typographic style design and took advantage of the beauty of fonts and type. He appreciates the way words look and used them to create unique designs that are hard to forget. He likes experimenting with new typefaces until he finds the perfect one for the client. He even hand-drew the typeface for the rebrand. His hand-drawn typeface was digitized and a one-of-a-kind alphabet was created just for the family-owned nut business.

During the Saks Fifth Avenue redesign, Bierut took the iconic cursive logo that was originally drawn in 1973 by Tom Carnese and breathed new life into it. By subdividing the logo into a grid of 64 smaller squares, which were then shuffled and rotated, he was able to create individual logo tiles that can be used to form abstract compositions. This followed Bierut’s strategy to create consistency without sameness.

Design Strategy

His goal is to create designs that people want to look at and read, and that are ideal for everything from logos to corporate brochures. He has given many inspiring talks throughout the years, highlighting his love of the designer/client relationship.  Mr. Bierut has said that being interested in the same thing as the client is key to a successful outcome.

He stated that “simplicity, wit, and good typography” are the keys to an iconic design. He further explained that “graphic design is the purposeful combination of words, pictures and other visual elements to support the communication of an explicit or implicit message.” While he doesn’t necessarily follow trends, he does observe them and feels that finding a balance between simplicity and complexity is at the core of the design process.

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Creative Titans: How Jonathan Ive Shaped Apple


Jonathan “Jony” Ive is Apple’s Senior Vice President of Design. His collaboration with Steve Jobs produced some of the world’s most iconic product designs, including the iMac, Apple TV, Mac Book Air, Powerbook G4, iPhone, iPod, and more. Ive  played a huge role in helping reverse a long decline and bringing the company back from the brink of bankruptcy. Along the way, he created one of the most recognizable and powerful brands in the world. Jonathan lived most of his life in London, but moved to the United States to work for Apple in 1992.

Ive works in a top secret design studio that is described as a noisy and chaotic place that plays techno music and sees designers skateboarding, playing soccer, and enjoying life. He has the only private office at the Apple design studio and works out of a glass cube that has just a desk, chair, and lamp. His office is so restricted that most Apple employees and execs, and even his own wife and children, are not allowed inside.

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Ive is most well known for his work with Apple. He has been with the company since 1992 and has served as an integral part of making the company into the global powerhouse it is today. He was also responsible for the iOS 7 design, which has greatly influenced the design world as we know it, leading to more flat, simplistic designs.

He has been recognized with numerous design awards and his work has been featured in respected museum collections worldwide. He also earned a place on the 2013 Time 100 list.

Design Strategy

Ive sites that he is greatly influenced by Dieter Ram, a legendary industrial designer who created several products for Braun, as well as the “10 Commandments in Design”. Both Ram and Ive were guided by simplicity and honesty of product design. Ram even said that Apple is one of few companies that design products according to his 10 principles of good design.

Ive was also naturally inspired by his father, Mike Ive, who helped create a mandatory design and technology curriculum for schools throughout the UK. His work and teachings have helped shape renowned British designers for years.

In a world of monotone computers, Ive brought color and transparency to the materials used to create eye-catching products. He was the one who pushed Apple to make their products white because most of the things he produced at his British design school were white. To create a successful product, he combined a simplistic, minimal design with aesthetically pleasing elements that set it apart from competing products.

Ive explains: “‘Different’ and ‘new’ is relatively easy. Doing something that’s genuinely better is hard.’ He worked to create designs that combined simplicity and emotion to create an experience for users.