Anthony Delbrun – April 28th

When something is mainstream, it means it is gaining a lot of views to the point where everyone is doing it. The particular something is very popular that people are making big businesses out of that particular something. Sadly, that particular something out grows the popularity and it does not become mainstream anymore. Things that are not mainstream anymore becomes underground, meaning it is not trending but it is still popular and is possible to make something out of it. Something that is underground can potentially become mainstream if it is appropriate to the public’s eye. 

 When it comes down to contemporary design, being mainstream means that a product will most likely be re-invented in a unique way or help inspire other designers to design something similar of the mainstream product. An example would be rapper Snoop Doggy Dogg when he started evolving as a rapper under the tutelage of Dr. Dre and how his persona changed over the years.  

The part where Steven Heller talks about copyright I kind of understand what he was saying. Copyright means protecting a person’s work. This means whatever content the person created cannot be used or published by anyone else without the consent of the originator. When it comes down to copyright, a lot of stuff on mainstream have a better chance of being recognized easier. The possibility of something being stolen is at a much lower risk, however it can still get an imitation. 


Assignment for May 5th

Our final reading assignment for the semester will be two short articles, both from Graphic Design Theory. Here are the PDFs:

Jessica Helfand, Dematerialization of Screen Space (2001): Helfand_ScreenSpace

Lev Manovich, Import/Export, or Design Workflow and Contemporary Aesthetics (2008): Manovich_ImportExport

This week’s writing will not be a direct response to the readings. Instead, the written portion of this week’s assignment will be to post (1) “sketches” of your poster and (2) a working bibliography.

You can interpret sketches literally and/or loosely; include actual drawings, outlines of material, or brainstorm clouds of related ideas. The bibliography can include relevant assigned readings, but it must also include at least a few outside sources.

Please also feel free to email me with any project-related questions that might come up through the week.

April 28 hw…

Steven Heller believes that mainstream art is stolen from visionaires, slightlty altered and then mass produced as a “new” product. For example he uses avante garde art as an example. It is bashed or looked at in confusion as it fades into infamy and obscurity only until something or someone mainstream accepts it, steals it and profits off of it does it get its recognition. I aimed to summarize some of Heller’s ideas via reasearching and comparing my own ideas of contemporary art in the sources I’ve cited below.

According to Heller, Mainstream vs. underground is relevant in contemporary design. One example he gives is where he points out the fact that “Outsiders are, after all, invariably marginalized until the mainstream celebrates them as unsung geniuses.” He also points out that underground art has been folded into the mainstream and is called cool now. All of this ties into the present day situation however. There is a sort of cold war between the two seemingly divided sets of “artists”..

Contemporary design is always changing, mainstream artists seeking ideas can take from the underground artist and pass it off as theirs. This dilemma ranges from clothing to art to music the entire gamut of creative execution deals with this age old problem and it will likely be around forever.


SÁNCHEZ, ALBERTO RUY, et al. “Snakes in Contemporary Art.” Artes De México, no. 71, 2004, pp. 73–92. JSTOR, Accessed 28 Apr. 2020.

Mugno, Charles V., and Steven Heller. “The Design of American Heraldry: An Interview with Charles V. Mugno.” Defense Transportation Journal, vol. 64, no. 2, 2008, pp. 17–19. JSTOR, Accessed 28 Apr. 2020.

“Contemporary Art.” The Museum Year: Annual Report of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, vol. 101, 1976, pp. 26–27. JSTOR, Accessed 28 Apr. 2020.

Nirel Escalante – April 28

When the term “mainstream” is used, it is referring to what as is deemed acceptable by the masses.  “Underground” is a term that refers to something underrated, new, or in other words what is “edgy”. Before reading “The Underground Mainstream” by Steven Heller, I have thought about how impossible it is for anything to be considered underground these days because of the internet. It is so easy and accessible to discover various sub cultures whether it be art, music, media etc. But as I’ve discovered in the reading, anything is underground until it is appropriated by the mainstream. For example in the reading he states  “In Europe the Weiner Werkstätte, Deutscher Werkbund, Bauhaus, and scores of other reformist schools and movements that sought to better the marketplace with convention-altering arts and crafts fell victim to their own successes. Their collective goal was to raise the level of both manufacture and design while changing timeworn habits and antiquated expectations, yet their ideas became established. The avant-garde is usurped when its eccentricity is deemed acceptable.” I think this example perfectly captures the relationship of the mainstream and the underground, and how it is relevant to contemporary design. It is pretty ironic how these reformist schools and movements wanted to do something new and innovative as a reaction to the mainstream, yet their innovations became mainstream themselves. Contemporary design can be considered the “underground” in this case, because it is all about being new, experimental and original.

We can see other examples of how the underground blends into the mainstream through music. Take for example the Punk movement. We see what happens when the core ideal of the punk movement contradicts with famous punk bands who have made it into the mainstream. We explore this idea in “Not For Sale”: The Underground Network of Anarcho Punk. by Tim Gosling We can see an example of this contradiction in this statement ” In actual fact, behind the glitz, “pink” saw itself as having an attitude that was counterposed both to established society and to the theatrical rock it had generated. The media stars of the mainstream movement were reviled and heckled for their betrayal of the cause by placing themselves in the hands of the industry.”

Another instance we can look at to see how the underground turns into the mainstream is the evolution of white nationalist politics, or what they’ve recently started to call themselves “the alt- right”. In this case we can see how the mainstream pertains to the majority of white people in america and the underground would be people of color. In this current time in America, white people are becoming the new minorities, and the rise of white nationalism is a consequence of that. In Blood and Politics by Leonard Zeskind, he states ” I predicted a mid twenty first century conflict within the united states as white people became a minority in a nation of minorities and were no longer able to preserve a system of white privilege through majority rule winner take all democracy.” I always thought that the twenty first century was so progressive and I was completely shocked to see the large subculture of alt right people empowered by a bigot president to make themselves more visible in the mainstream media which in turn empowers more people to join them too.


Zeskind, Leonard. “Blood and Politics.” Google Books, Google,

Gosling, Tim. “Music Scenes.” Google Books, Google,

Heller, Steven. “Underground Mainstream.” Design Observer,


Gelek Samphel_April 28

Many scholars regard Picasso’s creation of the “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” in 1907 as the beginning of modernism. There is no doubt that Picasso has made many new innovations and breakthroughs, but it has not broken the boundary between “elegant” art and “common” art. Under Picasso’s pen, art is still a palace work that should be placed in the museum. All trends that followed after Picasso from cubism, expressionism, futurism, or post-war American abstract expressionism, all did not break the “high” and “low” in art. Whether it’s Jackson Pollock who was a major figure in American abstract expressionism or other artists, they all wish their work end up in a museum. 

But it is the pop artists represented by Andy Warhol who appeared in the 1960s that really made this breakthrough, Cans, Coke bottles, posters, Marilyn Monroe, politicians, everything can become the artwork of the artist. This group of artists also includes James Rosenquist, who painted street billboards. Whos billboards design is mostly gum, cola can, etc., on a very large scale. At that time, pop art was indeed an underground art, and no one could imagine that it would succeed.

 American brands aim at the common, while European brands aim at the elites. The cultural differences between the two are huge. When commercial advertisement posters and alike become the subject of art or even replace art, the “high” and “low” of art are truly broken, The recognition of pop art means that non-mainstream art with a prominent commercial focus has a mainstream status. Many years later, Rosenquist ’s art has been well received, and his works can be auctioned big price, even entering major art museums. 

The inversion of mainstream and non-mainstream requires two conditions, one is timing and the other is to follow the “trend.” In the context of the development of the entire art, if a consortium or a country wants to create certain art, there is an opportunity to become “mainstream”, the most typical representative is the American abstract expressionism. Abstract expressionism was developed by the United States in order to compete with the Soviet Union and create its own unique artistic and cultural trend.

Incertain context, Japanese design has become a mature design system comparable to Europe and the United States, because of the coexistence dichotomy of mainstream and underground. Japanese design is greatly influenced by Europe and the United States. Even in terms of art and culture, Japan can find very deep traces of Europe and the United States. However, in the process of Westernization, Japanese society still fully retains many national traditions and characteristics of itself, a two-track system of international and national, a perfect fusion between world wide mainstream and local underground.


“About Contemporary Art.” j Paul Getty Museum,


“Modern Art Was Cia ‘weapon’” Frances Saunders –


“Picasso and the Painting That Shocked the World”: How a Picture Of Five Women Ignited Modernism

2018 Posted: March 21 –

Islam Mahrouss – April 28

Steven Heller has spent much of his career exploring the history and culture of graphic design. In his entry from Design Observer, he explores the advertising world and takes through the relationship between the underground and mainstream design. The relationship between these is based on how underground rebellious culture becomes popular among the youth culture, but also popular and reinvented due to advertising. An example of this would be the 1960’s psychedelic movement. This movement was seen as a representation of sex and drugs, making it rejected by society. However, due to the visual arts that came from this movement it has become popular among the youth culture. With the increase in popularity in this particular culture the style of psychedelic art has increased in advertising and marketing to attract those particular people. This is what leads underground cultures to being adapted by mainstream advertisers. As Heller describes it there are certain “codes” that are associated with these underground cultures and using these codes is how they become more popular. And as they became mainstream the shock value has decreased. Especially today in our world nothing shocks us anymore since we have already seen it all. 

A lot of mainstream design includes products and one of the most common products includes clothing. The design of clothes is something that is always changing and we can see how something that is currently popular being used by the mainstream. The article Approaches to material culture: The Sociology of Fashion and Clothing,by Diana Crane and Laura Bovone describes how different cultures such as youth, gay, and metropolitan identify them selves based on the clothing they wear. This reminded me of how many brands today draw influence from other cultures such as African and use them in their clothing designs. The idea of underground and mainstream shows itself in this scenario. The cultures that might have not been so popular are used as an influence from mainstream design by being copied but in a way where it is redesigned to look similar. Sometimes this could also come off as cultural appropriation which happened to many high end brands such as Gucci. 

On the topic of culture something else that is associated with cultures are slang’s or popular phrases. These can be especially popular among the youth culture, and this is one way that mainstream advertising uses to become more popular. Many ads today especially on social media might use specific language that is related to a certain group especially teens and young adults. Jose Antonio Sanchez Fajardo explores the pragmatic and linguistics of  teen slang in his article, Exploring the shashification of teenage slang. The way that this is also always changing gives advertisers more opportunities for them to use them. Advertisements like these are also more recognizable to youth culture since it is calling out directly to them as a target audience. 

Even though the underground culture rebels against the mainstream, in this case it is what makes it popular to the mainstream. In some cases like today what makes the mainstream popular isn’t always the underground. Today sustainability is a big issue for the environment and much of the mainstream design has focused on becoming sustainable. This specific environmental problem has become popular and we can see how it affects design because now designers are designing for a different world then the past. Jeremy Lehrer discusses in his article, The Sustainability Saga the relationship between the environmental movement and graphic design. Although it is not an underground movement it still was an issue that not many people took seriously at first but now through many products, advertising, and design this issue has become popular by the mainstream. 


Fajardo, José Antonio Sánchez. “Exploring the ‘Shashification’ of Teenage Slang.” English Today, vol. 35, no. 3, Sept. 2019, pp. 49–54.

Lehrer, Jeremy. “The Sustainability Saga.” Print, vol. 67, no. 5, Oct. 2013, pp. 18–20. 

Crane, Diana, and Laura Bovone. “Approaches to Material Culture: The Sociology of Fashion and Clothing.” Poetics, vol. 34, no. 6, 2006, pp. 319–333., doi:10.1016/j.poetic.2006.10.002.

Paulina Tipantasig – April 28th

Steven Heller, the most prolific design writer says that underground designs have a great impact into the mainstream because it takes egotistical ideals and advertise them. As the article states, many futurists and constructivist masterworks were self advertised for their new ideas. Back in time many art related concepts were later adopted into mainstream. They come into the idea that what was old and forgotten should be remodel in a way that consumers would want to use or buy them and benefit from those ideals. Underground is just a broad term that can include many things like bands, art pieces and more. The main idea is to alter or disrupt the main message of the things like culture jamming. While mainstream are the ideas, attitudes, or activities that are normal or conventional of what is called “trendy.” The mainstream leeches’ alternative cultures but the underground takes ideas from the mainstream in a tactic to disrupt media culture and consumerist leading them into false reality. As the article says, magazines were examples of the underground where they caricatured and disrupted, the main message of things which was made it into a non-real message. Underground idealists can modify ideals altering or joining the mainstream and a significant amount will follow because people mainly go towards the things that are trendy or cool.

Paula Scher, the designer as well as the designs made for The Public Theater were all influenced by the constructivism which in this article is touch as Heller said that they self-advertised for their new ideas, their main point was to remodel and create the new. In “Carnival Modern,” Heller says that the underground that can be anything which was known before produced effective advertising into the mainstream, he stated that Scher’s campaign for the public theater was influenced by some artists,“ Like a work of Russian Constructivism, they embodied the design attributes of balance, harmony, and proportion, demonstrating that flat colors and sans-serif typefaces resulted in eye-catching designs.” This quote demonstrates that the underground alter or disrupt the main message from the old constructivism to the new constructivism that Scher implement in her work for the public. She got influenced by constructivists to advertise her work, but in her work she tries to implement something new by including a variation of flat colors such as red or yellow or even green or other colors, also a variation of sans serif type in which Scher plays with its boldness and thickness, location and position, which eventually contributes to the eye catching to the public theater audience.

Scher wanted to create a new message for the theater, so the best way for her to do that was with type usage. In the article named, “Street Theater,” Heller said “Scher believes that the best way to communicate to New Yorkers is to SHOUT. “What better way to get a message across than for someone to yell something like ‘I’m pregnant!’ down a corridor; it’s better than the Internet,” she says. And this is exactly how she designs for The Public: She SHOUTS with type.” In this quote, she illustrates the main message and point of her designs as well as the identity that the theater will have which is to Shout out the normal. But, as she said it was made for New York, which is a city that contains millions of people, but what if people from other countries or cities wanted to go there, maybe one has to be a New Yorker to truly appreciate the impact of The Public’s language on the public. It is not a hidden idea to the society that Scher made for the Public Theater, Montgomery talked about the latest release from the design publishing powerhouse Unit Editions that looks at the niche but rewarding subject of combining typography and images. In “Type and Image”, Montgomery said “Type Plus looks at how designers use graphics and type together to Cyturbo-charge meaning and impact’. This is demonstrated through examples such as Paula Scher’s striking 1990s posters for the Public Theater.” This quote tells that another idea from this designer was to have a combination of image and type in her posters to get into the mainstream of what public would not avoid seeing, she wanted to be more innovative, to put the theater to trendy standards. Scher mainly contain the message to shout out from the normal, but at the having the mainstream from what was normal seeing and implementing some type of ornament into her designs that were influenced by constructivism.

Heller, Steven. “Carnival Modern.” Print, vol. 51, no. 6, Nov. 1997, p. 112. EBSCOhost,

Heller, Steve. “Street Theater.” Print, vol. 50, no. 3, May 1996, p. 29. EBSCOhost,

Montgomery, Angus. “Type and image.” Design Week Online, 18 July 2014. Gale General OneFile, Accessed 26 Apr. 2020.

April 28th assignment

The concept of mainstream vs. underground relevant in contemporary design is that Kindred visual artists, musicians, and designers developed means of expression that helped define the culture’s distinct characteristics. But for Underground bands they led the way in a commercial whirlpool.  The establishment still disapproved of the aesthetics. It was difficult to be terrified of something that had become so integrated into the mass marketplace. Very little emerging from the underground fails to turn up in the mainstream. 

 I’ll be addressing Stephen Treffinger, it regards to THE VICTORIAN naturalist that inveterate collector of specimens, cataloguer of species, and keeper of sketch filled notebooks is back. In the pictures of the article “Field guide: contemporary design with a naturalist’s bent” it represents the Moving through the shop’s appealing jumble of antique lab equipment and furniture, taxidermied birds and beasts, and other curiosities provides a palpable sense of what it was like to live in an era when our understanding of the natural world was dramatically expanding. 

   The recent growth of festivals, media, and events associated with the design industry has had a major impact on the way we conceive, produce, distribute and consume design. However, the network of actors involved has changed, as has the trade of expertise and services they offer. It includes photographers, commissioning agents, curators, patrons, journalists, and PR personnel amongst others.  In the article, “The Commodity of Trade in Contemporary Design” it mentions that the authors have developed two tools for analyzing contemporary design processes and the trade occurring in commissioned design projects that will be presented in the paper. The two authors Giovanni Innella and Paul Anthony Rodgers expand the notion of conventional design process, and highlight the key roles that media and event organizers now play in contemporary design.  

However, the conceptual posts exist in most areas in design. Wether it’s  in a pure state, usually for exhibitions, or fused with more commerical goals and able to buy.

                                                 Work cities that I used

The Commodity of Trade in Contemporary Design by Giovanni Innella & Paul Anthony Rodgers 

Field guide: Contemporary design with a naturalist’s bent by Stephen Treffinger

Speculative Everything – Design, Fiction, and Social Dreaming by Dunne, Anthony ; Raby, Fiona