I have been really busy in the studio working on several pieces at once. It is very satisfying but I can’t help feeling like I am indulging. I love my art work and am keeping up to date with the design world but for now we do not have internet access at the studio so I have been painting and sketching. I have to say, I have been having a lot of fun but there is always the ‘self-doubt but’. Am I relevant? Is what I am doing actually important or appreciated? Will it sell? My heart says to give it a rest and just do what I do so for now I am following my heart.
I meant to keep up with my blog, it turned out that life had other ideas. I had a poorly pet bunny, got burned and then worked towards Open Studios after loosing a month. Still aiming to write and inform I decided to put it down ‘on paper’.
For some reason I keep forgetting to upload my new work on my website, WordPress and Facebook page. I find it interesting but I suppose my subconscious views Instagram as the ultimate tool for distribution.. I might also be having too much fun with it at the moment.
My intention by writing this essay is to investigate and understand the applied Punk Rock Do-It-Yourself (DIY) work ethic and techniques to determine what role it plays in contemporary art and design practices. I will also look at the powerful messages that are communicated by works that are produced by implementing homemade techniques that go against accepted traditional practices.
I will define DIY methods and practices before briefly investigating its historical origins. My focus will be on 20th century art movements, sub- and counter cultures that employed a DIY ethos to art and design. This background information will help me to understand repurposing, personalisation and home-tailored methods so that I am able to assess whether these historic practices had an influence on the Punk Rock work ethic. Additionally, I will explore the Punk Rock demeanour in depth and I will consider personal views to determine the social, cultural, political and historical influences on its DIY aspect. This knowledge should enable me to critically analyse the impact of the Punk Rock DIY ethos on contemporary art and design practices alongside improved technologies and current attitudes.
Keywords: Punk Rock, DIY, Visual Impact, Individualism, Consumerism, Consumer Market, Youth Market, Youth Culture, Détournement, Anti-establishment, Authenticity, Self-expression, Technology, Accessibility.
This essay focuses on the applied DIY aspects of the Punk Rock subculture that directly relate to art and graphic design practices. I will objectively look at various sources to establish how this aesthetic came about, developed and consequently influenced contemporary practices.
I am interested in the powerful visual impact of art and design works produced by using crude hand crafted techniques during the Punk Rock era. My aspiration is to, hopefully, provoke social change through my own designs. An investigation into these methods and the Punk Rock ethos will inform and possibly enable me to create influential designs to accomplish my goal. A look at contemporary work will apprise me of current DIY methods used in art and graphic design; it will also motivate and inspire me. I am especially interested in the persuasive and sometimes shocking nature of content produced with rudimentary and improvised techniques. My intention is to examine the DIY phenomenon that abolishes traditional conventions so that I can apply the knowledge to my own practices and combine it with sustainable art and design methods.
This essay is linked to my Final Major Project, a DIY inspired resource website. Free and low cost design resources and tools will be listed mainly for an audience of novice designers. From experience, I know that would-be designers often do not have the financial means to buy pricey tools, software or resources but there are many alternatives if you know where to find them.
I will analyse individual elements of DIY and Punk Rock to get a full overview of the culture and its influences. This information will help me to identify the work ethic and techniques so that I can further explore the influence of Punk Rock DIY on current methods and approaches.
By working systematically through this topic I hope to discover how and why Punk Rock DIY was used to communicate strong and compelling messages.
What is DIY?
The words ‘do it yourself’ are self-explanatory, the phrase literally means to create content by yourself (Vienna, 2009) without professional advice or assistance and devoid of traditional ethical constraints or processes to adhere to (Atkinson, 2006). In relation to art and graphic design, DIY is the ethos and methods of how and why works are produced. This amateur ethic therefore poses a conflict between the traditional views of art and design as professional disciplines and the “self-driven” nature of DIY practices (Atkinson, 2006). DIY is “a dynamic and ever-evolving process” (Permanent Culture Now, n.d.), it is uniquely tailored and specifically focused on the “end user” (Atkinson, 2006).
It is hard to define DIY because it is an “alternative way of doing things” (Permanent Culture Now, n.d.) and techniques are therefore varied and distinctive (Atkinson, 2006). Within art and design disciplines, it is universally understood that ‘do-it-yourself’ translates to hand- or homemade content and repurposing or modifying items, materials or ideas (Buechly et al., 2009). Techniques such as cut-and-paste, collages (Hyndman, 2013), handwritten type, stenciling and stamping (Triggs, 2010) are associated with DIY. Albeit, these methods are ever changing with individual adaptations that evolve over time and with the availability of developing technology, a topic that will be discussed later in this essay.
Reasons for Using Amateur or Customised Techniques
The reasons why individuals choose a customised work ethic are controversial (Atkinson, 2006). In 2006, Atkinson was of the opinion that DIY in relation to art and design has not had the attention it deserves and that views were narrowed by the limited academic material that was available on this topic. I agree with Atkinson’s assessment. However, it is apparent that there are multiple motivations for applying a DIY ethos. The reasons for using personalised techniques are extensive and they seem to cover cultural, social, financial, ethical and political motivations. There are also many ties with anti-establishment movements. To focus this discourse, I will assess the reasons for using DIY methods alongside historical information.
The origins of DIY
A lack of literature on the subject of DIY in reference to art and graphic design means that it is difficult to pinpoint an accurate history of this work ethic (Atkinson, 2006). Arguably, it can be deduced that pre-historic rock art or cave paintings dating back 40,000 BCE were the first signs of amateur visual language. Unskilled individuals used methods that did not conform to any tradition or discipline to create rock art. Amazingly, hand stencils were one of the techniques used in prehistoric art; well-preserved examples of which can be found in France and Argentina (Visual Arts Cork, n.d.).
1. Prehistoric hand stencils at Gargas Caves in Pyrenees, France
However, for the purposes of this essay it would be prudent to look at western practices from the twentieth century onwards, since changes to art and design practices became increasingly erratic with dynamic political, social and cultural climates (Victoria and Albert Museum, n.d.). Developing technologies also played a large role in altered techniques and methods, especially the birth of the personal computer (Beddard, 2009).
The reasons for using self-tailored methods are vast. During the 20th Century, anti-establishment avant grade art movements and countercultures employed repurposing or handmade techniques to defy traditions and to express dissatisfaction (Gombrich, 1995).
Modernization and progressivism during the 20th century brought on a new mindset; individuals felt “capable” of expressing thoughts and ideas of their own (Inchausti, 1991). Individualism also led to home- and handmade techniques such as home publishing, an example of which is ‘The Comet’ fanzine, a science fiction fanzine, the first of its kind that was produced in 1930 (Triggs, 2010, p.17). This progressive manner of thinking had a huge and complex impact on consumerism and, by association marketing (Lee, Pant & Ali, 2010), which is of course, in turn, relative to graphic design.
2. The Comet, Issue 1, May 1930
The next section will briefly examine notable art and design movements that deviated from, and expressed dissent against traditional etiquette. A brief investigation into their motivations and techniques will focus this narrative.
Setting the Scene
A few avant-garde art movements that purposefully turned their back on traditional practices and aesthetics to communicate their frustration (Gombrich, 1995) originated during the 20th century. These movements preceded Punk Rock and techniques and ideas might have been adopted.
Futurism (1909 – 1944)
This art and social movement started in Italy. Futurists embraced technology, speed, industrialism and modernity (Green, 2014) and “vehemently denunciated the past” (Tate, n.d.). When looking at Marinetti’s Futurist Manifesto (1909) it is clear that the movement “glorified” aggressive action to ‘cleanse’ society of its traditions, history and morals (Marinetti, 1909). These ‘actions’ included war and the technological advancements that followed. The movement was “far-right” (The Art Story, n.d.) and strong political opinions were often depicted in earlier works. Other themes such as dynamism, machinery and “new visions of the world” were also explored in artwork (Green, 2014). Because Futurists idealised “disruption” (Green, 2014) and modernism, the characteristics of the style is varied. Many “aspects were borrowed” (The Art Story, n.d.) from other art movements and adapted to fit a new purpose.
3. Bolted Book ‘Depero Futurista’ by Fortunato Depero (1913-1927)
Dada (1916 – 1922)
It is hard to find a better quote than that of Artyfactory (n.d.) that perfectly sums this avant-garde movement up as:
“a form of artistic anarchy born out of disgust for the social, political and cultural values of the time.”
Dadaism started in Zurich, Switzerland in response to the First World War. Dadaists were disillusioned and horrified by what they had experienced (Tate. n.d.). They produced anti-art that “mocked and derided” the senseless slaughter as well as a “decadent society with social injustice” (Gottschall, 1989, p.19) that followed. Everyday items were repurposed as art; a well-known example is Marcel Duchamp’s Readymades (Tate, n.d.). Other techniques included collages, photomontages and assemblages. The nonsensical nature of artwork and designs also extended to typography; fonts were often mixed, text direction were haphazard and unconventional punctuation were used (The National Gallery of Art, 2016).
Surrealism (1924 – 1966)
A mention has to be made of the Surrealist movement that stems from Dada. It was a milder style of “nonconformity”. Surrealists were interested in the subconscious mind to achieve “superior reality” and they practiced automatism. Techniques were again eclectic with elements borrowed from cubism, expressionism and Dada (Art History Archive, n.d.). DIY methods such as collages, cubomania (Art History Archive, n.d.) and expressive typography (Gottschall, 1991, p.20), amongst others, were used.
Pop Art (1954 – 1970)
Pop art derived from “experimental European artists” (Iwonder, n.d.), especially Dada,
(MoMA Learning, n.d.) who used collages and repurposed everyday materials and images. Pop artists used “consumer goods and mass media” to “downplay the artist’s hand and subverted the idea of originality” (MoMA Learning, n.d.). They rebelled against the traditional idea of what art was deemed to be (Tate, n.d.) and drew inspiration from contemporary (Visual Arts Cork, n.d.) and commercial culture (Tate, n.d.). Not only did works of art reappropriate everyday objects, they also borrowed iconic images from the media and consumer goods. This iconography emphasised the power of the media, which in turn transformed artists like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein into celebrities (Visual Arts Cork, n.d.). Additionally, mass production techniques, such as screen printing and photography, were adopted (Honnef, 2015). Interestingly, Robert Rauschenberg, a prominent figure of the pop art movement, admitted to initially using everyday objects due to financial constraints (Iwonder, n.d).
The origins of graffiti art are unknown because it is transient in nature. However, if graffiti is purely defined as writings on a wall in a public area, then this technique dates back to ancient Rome (CSDT, n.d.). The origin of contemporary graffiti is again debatable (White, 2014). Mentions are made of a character called “Kilroy” that appeared at locations where American troops visited during World War II (Whipps, 2008), gangs of New York that painted walls and train cars during the 1920s and 30s (Marik, n.d.) and a fellow named Darryl McCray aka ‘Cornbread’ who (Good Graffiti, n.d.) started to express his disapproval of “social inequality” (White, 2014) with graffiti during the 1960s. It does not really matter where this art form originated because these early examples were very basic and resembled tagging, the vibrant visual art, as we know it today, which developed during the 1970’s alongside the hip-hop culture. The 70s was a pivotal time for graffiti, youths embraced the illegal form of art and turned it into a culture “in response to their socio-political environment” (Marik, n.d.). This form of self-expression was also adopted by activists who still use it as a tool to communicate messages to the public (Portland Street Art Alliance, 2014).
However, large corporations soon became aware of the compelling nature of graffiti art and how it directly reaches a wide audience. There is also a general assumption that all graffiti and mural art is illegal and deemed to be vandalism, a sentiment appreciated and applauded by certain individuals (Widewalls, n.d.). By commissioning graffiti, companies thereby attract a larger target audience and are able to place market focus on specific audiences who might not otherwise be interested in the brand (Zest Events, n.d.). What started out as protest art became such a lucrative trend that contemporary graffiti artists have become part of the consumer market, boldly advertising themselves for hire. A quick google search will confirm that even the old school artists such as the ‘Graffiti Kings’ in London are now available for hire. It can therefore be said that, as a result, this art form is losing credibility over time (Widewalls, n.d.).
Graffiti techniques include; freehand painting, spray painting, stenciling, wheat pasting, stamping, using chalk on walls and tagging (Smith, 2007).
There were a number of youth subcultures during the 20th century that had a direct or indirect influence on amateur methodologies employed by the Punk Rock participants, designers and artists.
The Swing Kids was a youth resistance movement against Nazism that started in Germany during the late 1930s. They segregated themselves by dressing differently from the “masculine” German ideal and listening to loud Swing and Jazz music. Their carefree attitude that blatantly confronted the Nazi attempts at “indoctrination” often led to imprisonment (Sherrod, 2006). This youth subculture is important because it gives insight into how underground cultures of rebellion with ideologies of personal freedom, along with technological advances, played a role in the contemporary culture of mass consumption with emphasis on personal identity (Lunt, Livingstone, 1992).
5. Swing Kids in Germany
Similarly, the British upper class Teddy Boys also used clothing and distinctive styling to set themselves apart during the early 1950s. The Teddy Boy movement has many connections with Punk Rock. It inadvertently started a youth market that was further driven by Punk Rock. It also attracted some of the key players of the Punk Rock movement such as Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren (Edwardianteddyboy, n.d.).
Rockers of the late 50s who rebelled against society were from middle class families (America Pink, n.d.), but the “extremist” Skinheads of the late 70s were from the working class (O’Hagan, 2014). Both of these groups are an important part of this narrative because they were formed by youths in difficult socio-economic circumstances, some of whom produced handmade fanzines (Triggs, 2010).
From these movements and subcultures grew a sense of individualism that became more and more apparent. Individualism was frowned upon in the past, in fact, Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859), a “French aristocratic political philosopher”, described individualism to be egotistic and “a kind of moderate selfishness that disposed humans to be concerned only with their own small circle of family and friends” (Lukes, n.d.). There were many factors that contributed to this “cultural individualism” (Grossman, Barnum, 2015) however, only the progression that led to the Punk Rock era is significant to this study. To assess the influence of Punk Rock, it should be noted that, in art and graphic design, individualism not only influences work methods but also consumer behaviour (Holt, Searls, 1994). Consumerism today, in turn, is largely stimulated by graphic design (Roberts, 2006).
It seems that since the early 1900s, much like today, individuals became disgruntled with economic, cultural, societal and political circumstances and wanted to move away from past traditions, even violently so. They forced progression by using new materials and methods that did not conform to the norm and consequently created work that delivered powerful, even shocking, messages. This need for self-expression progressed throughout the years. Collectively, all of these traits, methods, contemporary culture and the socio-political climate of the time set the scene for Punk Rock.
“To me, Punk rock is the freedom to create, freedom to be successful, freedom to not be successful, freedom to be who you are. It is freedom.” (Smith, n.d.)
Singer Patti Smith
“I consider Punk Rock DIY to be just ‘doing it’, i.e. if you want to be in a band just start one with some friends, not being able to play doesn’t matter. Just borrow, steal or buy second hand instruments and make a noise. Then get a gig, and if no-one will give you one. DO YOUR OWN, anywhere! And if you need a poster to advertise the gig or later the cassette tape or record. Make it yourself, with what’s available.” (Cottis, 2016)
Artist Martin Cottis
“I can do this too” (Albertine, 2014, p.87)
Viv Albertine after seeing the Sex Pistols
The anti-establishment Punk Rock youth movement started in the late 1970s and, according to Ian Moran (2011), was “fueled” by its DIY aspects (Moran, 2011). There are many versions of the history and origins of Punk, some of which are romanticised or stem from a “narrow frame of reference” (Sabin, 1999, p.2). What can be certain is that angry and “rebellious youths” initiated Punk Rock, that the socio-political and economic climates of the time were dire (Sabin, 1999, p.4) and that many Punks participated because they “gained a sense of belonging” (Moran, 2011). Martin Cottis (2016) remembers that he felt aggrieved because he was born too late to be part of the Rocker culture and that Punk was an exciting alternative. Punks vehemently freed themselves from all normality and traditions by being controversial and applying a DIY work ethic to everything they did (Hepdige, 2002), much like Dadaists but with the fashion sense of Swing Kids, Teddy boys and Rockers. Punks essentially crafted their own identities.
Music and fashion were at the forefront of the Punk movement and an eclectic hand-made style was applied to both. Clothing was pieced together and held in place with safety pins, clothing pegs, string or whatever served the purpose. Music was created by anyone, regardless of whether they could sing or play an instrument. Gig posters, music albums and other graphics were created by ordinary youths and fanzines were produced by amateurs with methods such as photocopying, handwriting and repurposing photographs without consideration of copyright infringement (Cottis, 2016).
Many academic writings and personal accounts suggest that Punks felt, due to the economic circumstances and lack of employment opportunities, that they had no future and therefore immersed themselves in the culture. In contrast, as can be seen from the quotes above, participants such as Viv Albertine (2014), Martin Cottis (2016) and Patti Smith (n.d.) as well as artist and designer Dave King, and musician Jeremy John Ratter -aka- Penny Rimbaud (MOCAtv, 2013) found the DIY work ethic to be inspiring. They felt a sense of freedom and they were now able to accomplish anything. This sense of freedom was yet another step in the progression of the growing cultural individualism that is common today (Yankelovich, 1998).
6. Fashion: Young Punk Rock Fans in 1977
Punk Rock only ‘lived’ for a short period in time between 1976 and 1979 (Sabin, 1999, p.3). Sound designer Blake Leyh (2016), who participated in the UK Punk movement, describes Punk as:
“Punk started with a bunch of kids as a genuinely spontaneous street-level culture, but was quickly adopted, co-opted and repackaged by commercial and corporate entities and sold back to young people in the UK and throughout the world for profit.”
Artist Martin Cottis (2016) agrees that when Punk was commercialised and became
fashionable, the exclusivity disappeared. Punks were not interested in being mainstream.
It appears that the individualism and self-expression that initially stimulated the Punk movement was what led to its death. The aforementioned youth market flourished by the late 70s; artists and designers worked on T-shirt designs, record sleeves, posters and other materials. In an interview with Dezeen, acclaimed graphic designer Neville Brody, who was doing a course in London at the time, admits that Punk Rock was “probably the most influential thing to happen to him in London” (Dezeen, 2014). Brody worked at ‘The Face’ magazine from 1980 to 1993 (Design is History, n.d.). ‘The Face’ is probably one of the most prominent examples of the commodification of the Punk Rock subculture. The magazine was styled like a fanzine and “focussed on youth culture and music”. It soon became one of the most popular magazines of its time (Shapers of the 80s, n.d.).
Methods and Impact on Art and Design
The visual aspects of Punk Rock were and still are compelling. The book title “Visual Vitriol” by David A. Ensminger indeed gives a broad description of the plethora of fanzines, flyers, posters, album covers and graphics that were created during this time. In Sabin’s Punk Rock: So What?, Robert Garrett (1999) explores the reasons why ‘Anarchy’, a Sex Pistols song, and ‘Never Mind the Bollocks’, a Sex Pistols album, has a lasting impact. Garrett concludes that the music feels “authentic” and that it gives the impression that the authors are “no longer passive consumers, they can think for themselves”, which he, incidentally, believes is “the true meaning of DIY”. The same can be said of Punk aesthetics; it was homemade “by the fans for the fans” (Triggs, 2010, p.15). The low-tech materials, plagiarism, borrowed imagery as well as handwritten and ransom-note lettering amounted to authentic content that empowered authors and readers alike (Ablaze, 2009). Other low-tech techniques were also common; making collages that included found- and cut-out content as well as photocopies, stencilling, silkscreening, freehand illustrations, stamping and using letraset (Turcotte, Miller, 1999).
Détournement was also used to express opinions. Perhaps the most memorable examples are the work of Jamie Reid who repeatedly reused images of the British flag on album art for the Sex Pistols, the first instance of which are on the album ‘Anarchy in the UK’ of 1976. Reid also famously corrupted an image of the Queen on the cover of the Sex Pistols’ single ‘God Save The Queen’ in 1977, a song that the BBC banned from the charts (History, n.d.).
7. ‘God Save The Queen’ album art by Jamie Reid (1977)
It begs to reason that the lasting visual impact of handmade materials through low-tech methods inspires contemporary artists and graphic designers to imitate this style. It is especially visible in work by protest artists and designers. Interestingly, many key figures of the Punk Rock era are still activists including, but not limited to, Jamie Reid (Reid, n.d.), Jeremy John Ratter -aka- Penny Rimbaud, Gee Vaucher (MOCAtv, 2013), Vivienne Westwood (Westwood, 2016), Ian MacKaye (Bealmear, 2014) and Dave Grohl (Adcock, 2013).
The cover image of the edited book “Art & Agenda”, published in 2011, speaks volumes. Détournement was used to create a striking image (image 6).
8. Contemporary activism, cover image of the edited book Art & Agenda
Digital designer Clifford Singers’ posters of David Cameron on his website, MyDavidCameron.com is another example of détournement. Singer “tries to do politics a bit differently” by creating humorous content that highlights important issues. Part of the success of these particular posters was that Singer supplied templates of the Cameron poster for users to participate and “engage”; another part was that the campaign went viral (Singer, 2010).
9. Spoof David Cameron poster
Artist and activist Keira Mclean also adopted the Punk Rock style to spread her message. She regularly creates flyers and posters with typical Punk typefaces, handwritten notes and torn out images that are photocopied for distribution (image 7). Mclean additionally favours sign vinyl to quickly and easily communicate with the public. [first hand knowledge, do I cite this?]
10. Flyers by artist and activist Keira Mclean (2016)
It is obvious that technological advancements have played a huge roll in the homemade techniques that are used today. At the time, Punk Rock fanzines, flyers, posters and albums were created and distributed by hand through local and personal networks (Triggs, 2010, p.7). The rise of the internet, personal computers and desktop publishing brought about a new approach to DIY. Anyone with a bare minimum of equipment can now create content easily and cost effectively to be distributed to a worldwide audience. Similar to the Punk Rock methods, amateur producers do not need to “consider conventional design rules or aesthetics” (Triggs, 2010, p.13). Nevertheless, there are limitless amounts of self-help guides, tools and tutorials available on the internet. Canva.com is one such example; it is a free website that allows its users to create designs or documents with free tools that are supplied by them. Canva offers a blog, tutorials, teaching materials and courses with the aim of educating and empowering its users (Canva, n.d.). Additionally there are educational websites, free applications, software and sites like YouTube, Vimeo and Lynda.com that not only allow professionals to “share design practices” but also enable “anyone to search for software and system process resolutions” (Broadwater, 2013). The possibilities are endless, for example; CodeAcademy.com teaches code at no cost, itsnicethat.com often writes about content that is submitted to them, thereby giving it exposure. Hitrecord.org invites collaboration and Kickstarter.com provides a platform where users can obtain funding for creative projects. These select examples are a drop in the ocean. The internet does not only serve as a tool for self-education, it is also a medium for mass communication. During the 19th century, the term ‘mass communication’ initially applied to “one sender (mass media institutions) and many receivers (mass media audience)”, however the internet has changed this model (Kraidy, 2008). The traditional audience is no longer made up of passive consumers but of active producers of content, a DIY trend that, predictions indicate, will grow exponentially in the future (Pearson, 2014).
A good example of this changing model is the production of fanzines. Although printed zines are still available and can now be reproduced at minimal cost, they have a large online presence. A few online music fanzines are; Mudkiss.com, a zine that ran from 2008-2013, thecrackmagazine.com and vanguard-online.co.uk that is still up and running. efanzines.com and fanac.org/fanzines are fan databases that list historic and contemporary online Science Fiction fanzines. Zinebook.com is outdated but still contains a lot of useful information about fanzines. Zinebook.com was so popular that, in 2012, the editor, Chip Rowe, compiled the information in a book called ‘The Book of Zines: Readings from the Fringe’ (Rowe, n.d.). In fact, the same model applies to online magazines. Free digital publishing platforms such as Isoo.com makes it easy for independent magazines to gain readership.
10. Punk Rock fanzine, ‘Sniffin Glue’ created by Mark Perry in 1976
Typography is another field that has hugely benefitted from technology (Gottschall, 1989, p. 90). Thousands of readily available fonts can be downloaded and used for free at sites like 1001freefonts.com, dafont.com, fontsquirrel.com and Google Fonts. Handwriting is no longer necessary as long as you have a computer, script fonts can replace the authentic feel of handwritten content. Additionally, free font editors such as FontForge, Birdfont and Font Creator allow amateurs to create bespoke fonts.
Stock images and image manipulation/creation software are other tools that can be utilised to create digital content. These technologies, including free website domains, website templates and free blog hosting now empower anyone with access to the internet, supplying a platform for self-expression (Huang et al., 2007).
So what does this mean for graphic designs and artists? Not only can novice and experienced practitioners educate and train themselves, they also have a worldwide audience. Creatives can connect, collaborate and distribute work easier and over long distances. The “diverse online environment” is rich with contemporary and archived content and it is a source of inspiration for many. Ephemerality does not exist anymore; content is shared, blogged about, commented on and archived. Longevity can have both a negative or positive influence on a creator’s reputation, depending on the standard of work that is produced and showcased. To be different and stand out amongst other creatives is quite difficult with a worldwide audience, contemporary creatives therefore need to be market savvy in order to sell themselves and their unique attributes (Adler et al., 2013). Crowdsourcing is also a hotly debated subject that has both positive and negative implications. On one hand it might elevate careers, on the other, it takes work away from qualified designers and arguably “diminishes the (graphic design) profession” (Carpenter, 2010). Other common problems with the global audience are reproduction and copyright infringement. However, technology has had an overall positive impact on graphic design and art practices. Production methods have changed and improved and the production process has been expedited (Adler et al., 2013).
It could be said that the very nature of the internet promotes individualism and that it “intricately connects to the globalisation of the world economy and culture” (Kraidy, 2008). The rise of internet connected devices and constantly evolving technologies have a huge impact on consumer marketing (Peterson, 1997). Graphic designers have to be flexible and able to adapt to new and complex marketing strategies, not only for the youth market but also the consumer market as a whole. New terms such as ‘experience design’, ‘user experience’ and ‘interactive design’ seem to materialise overnight and graphic designers need to keep up to date with current trends to stay relevant (Wagner, 2016).
One such trend is ‘brand involvement’. Red Bull is famous for its content marketing strategies (O’Brien, 2012) and another current example is the Mozilla rebrand. Mozilla released possible “design routes” for “community feedback”. This strategy forces brand involvement and attracts a large audience who now feel that they are able to influence development of this brand (Burgoyne, 2016).
It can be said that the Punk Rock DIY ethos originated from an evolving sense of societal individualism and a need for personal self-expression. The evolution of these attitudes became evident during the investigating of anti-establishment art and design movements of the 20th century. These characteristics had a considerable impact on the youth market of the time. However, advanced technologies have empowered society to such an extent that the consumer market is playing catch-up.
DIY is no longer the style of anti-establishment youth cultures. In fact, it bears no resemblance to Punk Rock at all but it is now an accepted convention. Technology has drastically changed DIY methods. Cost effective equipment and readily available tools have turned ordinary people into creators and collaborators.
Information is now instantly accessible online and the consumer audience is much more perceptive than ever before. Marketing campaigns that exploit our desire for self-empowerment or underhandedly communicate emotive messages intended to affect an audience in a thought-provoking manner are often exposed and disrupted by social media. Therefore, marketing strategies are evolving processes that contemporary graphic designers have to stay abreast of. Contemporary DIY has consequently led to an increased pace to the profession. It also inspires innovative ideas because designers and artists, by nature, strive to create content with a lasting impact in an ever-changing market.
It appears that visual impact and powerful messages are not achieved through using specific methods but rather by being authentic. DIY methods certainly help to bring about authenticity. Contemporary artists and designers often “re-appropriate” the punk style by imitating Punk DIY methods and by using a minimal colour scheme to “evoke the coarse edge of punk” (Lekach, 2014). Deviating from expected traditions is often considered to be authentic and original. Artists and designers use this technique to produce interesting work that attracts attention.
Détournement is another tool that can be used to achieve visual impact. By reusing and altering the meaning of recognisable images, artists and designers are able to easily communicate an idea with their audience and shed light on specific matters of interest. Content produced by applying détournement is emotive and raw, therefore conspicuous and engaging.
It is evident that the Punk Rock DIY ethos has had a lasting impact on graphic designers and artists alike. Punk Rock DIY methods are still used to create powerful content and the DIY ethos transformed the consumer market.
Buechley, L., Paulos, E., Rosner, D. and Williams, A. (2009). DIY for CHI: Methods, Communities, and Values of Reuse and Customisation. ACM Digital Library [online]. Available at: http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1520750 [Accessed 18 July 2016].
From writing this essay, I have come to realise that technology has progressed to the point where we now have mountains of tools for self-empowerment. We can learn new skills, look at how-to guides, make money, buy things, swap things even buy pets online. These are just a few examples. The possibilities and power that the internet and internet connected devices bestow on us is quite amazing. It has changed the whole world into creators. Even if you particularly suck at something, you can teach yourself not to! DIY is the norm now, we have tools and free software, apps and even recycling websites like freecycle if you want to work with reclaimed materials.
Another thing is that social media can make us feel important and that we have a voice, we no longer have to dress funny or make a ruckus to feel that we belong somewhere (well… we all know someone…).
Considering this, subcultures seems to be a thing of the past, it’s a worldwide culture now. I wonder where it goes from here.
When you read about Pop art there is a phrase that always pops up in one form or another;
Pop artists wanted to blur the lines between high and low art
Whilst this can be understood, it is rarely discussed why they hoped to blur lines. Apparently artists rebelled against the archaic view of what art is supposed to be and focussed on contemporary inspiration. But why did they rebel? It seems to me that from this point onwards artists and people in general became more interested in subjective needs and wants than anything else.
If you look at Dada for instance, there were manifestos and literature documenting why they wanted to oppose the system, they were against the war and against the high society that reared its head after, they had a purpose. Surrealism that followed also stood by the same values but it appears to be subdued. Surrealists turned inwards, focussing on the subconscious. By the time we reach Pop, artists just wants to make contemporary art that they like and they want to make money so adopted mass-production methods like screen printing.
This is of course my personal view, but I can see a definite decline in society that were once concerned with worldly matters to the individualist culture of today where everyone is focussed on their own comforts.