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.


When looking at the concept of mainstream vs. underground in advertising of the 1950s / 1960s it is still relevant today due to the practices that were done and we see still being done. During the 1950s / 1960s most art went for the psychedelic theme which was “influenced by earlier graphic idioms that overturned the rigid rules of clarity and legibility” as described in Underground Mainstreams by Steven Heller. This new style started to attract much attention with how visually interesting it was, soon attracting companies to go for this style with many products for example album covers. It then exa[anded to the point where everyone saw it and people would be over it and start looking at the problems, the main one being psychedelic being associated with drugs. After everyone takes this style as far as they can they move on to the next big thing which is Punk and Grunge. We see that today with something blowing up randomly whether it be art or media in general where everyone talks about it, shares videos, memes on social media then that trend or art style gets replaced by something new when everyone gets sick of the old one. 

Culture Jamming type of protest which people mostly the anti-consumers. It is done usually by too big companies to expose them for whatever practices they could be doing that can be seen as hypocritical or anticonsumer. An example we can see of this in early avant-garde is this image below called “Priestier” by Lucian Barnhard to advertise matches. What he did here is minimalizing aspects just like the matches themselves and using bold lettering. 

Lucian Bernhard

An example of culture jamming done today is this poster using BP’s (oil company) logo in the top half and bottom half used to represent an oil spill. BP caused an oil spill while drilling in the ocean on April 20, 2010, spilling over 4 million barrels of oil into Macondo then taking 87 days to finally cap. 

Kenneth Lyngaas