Armstrong, Helen. Graphic Design Theory: Readings From the Field, Princeton Architectural Press, 2009. Pages 64-69.
Heller, Steven. Underground Mainstream, Design Observer, 2008.

Questions / Prompts

  • Is the concept of mainstream vs. underground relevant in advertising of 1950’s / 1960’s and is it relevant today?
  • What is “culture jamming”?
  • Provide a visual example and description of early avant-garde culture jamming.
  • Provide a visual example and description of culture jamming today.

The concept of mainstream vs. underground is relevant in advertising of 1950’s / 1960’s because when Psychedelic art became mainstream it was copied by marketers. Advent-garde movements like Deutsche Werkbund and Bauhaus were “alternative cultures” that were sampled from the most. As something like a design becomes more popular and mainstream, the creator runs a danger of his/her work being stolen. It is relevant today because commercial artists and marketers still copy original work of “alternative cultures” and resell them as if they’re new designs. Culture jamming is the same thing in reverse in which alternative cultures aka the underground now leeches off of mainstream design to criticize the status quo.

Avant-garde culture jamming poster was shown through Marcel Duchamp who painted a mustache and goatee on a copy of the Mona Lisa in 1919. His intention was to show dadaists’ protest against the art culture at that time.

This culture jamming poster of today depicts a person in a serious hospital operation because he/she got a heart attack from eating too much McDonald’s and other issues. The caption emphasizes how McDonalds gives heart attacks which applies to any fast food. It shows viewers it’s McDonalds because of the McDonalds logo on the holter monitor.