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The aesthetics of politics: obama posters 101

Posted by on Aug 21, 2008 in Uncategorized

I have been preparing a lecture for my 2d design class on political poster design, with a focus on the Obama posters. And Oh…My..God.. there has been a few thousand of them made, especially since the well-known Sheppard Fairy version/s. Many of them (especially the mock versions conservatives dish out) are just simple photos posterized in photoshop. But a few are really stunning, like this one (with detail):

Some others are really clever and interesting, here are a slew of my favorites:

There are some that use radiant light accents around his head, i guess to symbolize the near deific feelings some have for him. Here are a few and some interesting precedents:

Of course, some conservative bloggers like to indicate the connotative meaning behind that particular stylization ( or graphic influence) of a few designers, and equate that with Obama himself. Well, if radiating lines indicate evil i guess they are right (Obamao?)

Silliness, just plain.

Ah, the politics of aesthetics.



  1. markcreegan
    August 21, 2008

    I suppose Fairy’s is hard to beat, but I love the fact that since he put that out, so many other artists and designers have been inspired to try out their versions. Makes sense that the idealism of a candidate would hit home to a lot of artist types, no?

  2. valuistics
    August 21, 2008

    Yes! Thanks for this post. I’m sure you know, though I don’t know if you mentioned it, but you can find some of these posters on Obama’s website under Artists for Obama. There is a stunning woodcut on there.

    It is interesting that the tropes of extreme leftist “socialist realism” (the bold lighting, up-shots, radiating lines, posterization, utter idealization of the figure, etc) are being resurrected in support of Obama, a centrist by my reckoning. Have the George W. Bush years brought us such right-wing madness that a centrist candidate looks like a Maoist? Or are the posters celebrating the radical newness of the MAN Obama, and the hope HE embodies, as opposed to any specific policy he’s touting? I think that’s more likely.

    The fact that the style is being held up by conservatives as proof that Obama is a foreign commie bad guy is remarkable. If my father in law (a 68-year-old Cold Warrior) saw these, he would probably think that Obama looks scary in these ads. But my silkscreen students think these posters are the bomb. My question for all y’all is this: Do these posters function the same way as posters for Lenin or Mao? Or is the meaning of this style (re-mixed as of late by Sheppard Fairy) changed in the minds of the younger voters who will most likely be digging these posters?

  3. globatron
    August 22, 2008

    great imagery. i love how it’s brought back the communist design motifs. They are really just great design elements. Shepard Fairy has been capitalizing on that style for years now though.

    It’s interesting to apply that style to the next possible leader of the free world. I doubt Shepard knew the significance of it at the time as he’s been using that style for some time it seems.

    Is this preparation for your design class coming up Mr. Creegan. I thought it was interesting how I ran upon your bookmarks. There is a whole crazy world of thought provoking contemporary design out there. I’d love you to share your findings on there also if you cared to.

  4. Andrew
    August 23, 2008

    Although the Shepherd Fairey one is great, I think Ron English’s take on Obama is the best yet.


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