Obama ‘Hope’ Poster



The Obama “Hope” Poster is an iconic image of the Barack Obama 2008 presidential campaign. Made by graphic designer Shepard Fairey, it was produced in one day and originally distributed and sold as a wall poster. As the Obama campaign grew, the poster became widely accessible via the Internet and became a defining symbol of Obama’s campaign. The original can now be found in the Smithsonian National Portrait gallery, however it can be widely found on the Internet, having found its way into popular culture. In this way, the Obama hope poster has been used as an advertisement and political propaganda piece for the Obama presidential campaign.

At first glance, the ‘Hope’ poster is a depiction of a stylized Barack Obama, balanced over the word Hope. The letters use a strong San Serif Font and frame the piece in a rectangular fashion. This frame is led with a beige edge that contains a strong contrast to the inner shapes of the work. The shapes within the center of the piece are highly polarized and contain many alternating colored vectors that are skewed and lean towards the left. The prominent colors of the vectors are a bold red, dark blue, lighter pale blue, and the pale beige. While most of the colors are solid, certain vectors of pale light blue contain a thin lined texture. The overall shape that is structured is very bold in its geometric form, and contains a high level of color contrast that gives a sense of depth.

Fairey’s ‘HOPE’ poster’s use of bold simplification in form and structure aid in is great deal of effectiveness. Sporting only four colors and the strong typeface of Gotham, Fairy creates a simple but strong concept that is easy to view. The text and shape work together to link the face of Obama to the idea of hope. It shows a great deal of effectiveness in its positive characterization of Barack Obama, affirmed by Obamas use of it during the campaign. Its form delivers a strong sense of Ethos, in that it appeals to a sense of comfort and good from Obamas face. Its use of the word ‘Hope’ gives a sense of comfort, being bold san serif, creating the feeling of confidence and power. For a man aiming to become the figurehead of the United States, this poster was very effective at persuading voters that Obama was the man to trust, as well as being strong willed enough to represent them. The blue colors are strong yet de-saturated, giving an aura of wisdom and trust. The Obama that is represented in the work is one of duty and grace, and the message of Hope became a key characteristic in Obama’s presidential campaign. On the other hand, the bold red color represents the strength in Obamas character. For a man aiming to become the figurehead of the United States, both colors are effective at persuading voters that Obama was the man to trust, as well as being strong willed enough to represent them. Yet above all, the colors are of the flag of the United States, a further part of Obama’s visual political image. Yet in the end, the piece acts as a work of propaganda, similar to that done in Germany and Russia (as well as many nations) during the period of WWII. They are art pieces that serve a nationalistic approach and build up a trust of potential leaders.



The Nazi Logo and the Swastika

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The image discussed in this blog is the Swastika, also known by such names as Flyfot, Hakenkreuz, Gammadion, etc. The swastika is an ornamental form of a cross, with each of its arms equal in length, protruding at right angles in a clockwise direction. It’s a twisting shape of interlocking right angled, four prong arms. Without considering the inner white spaces, the four black arms form a perfect square. The logo incorporates other elements like the white circle into which the swastika is centrally placed diagonally to form a diamond shape. White spaces between the interlocking arms form rectangles that are slightly wider than the width of the arms. The black swastika and white circle are centrally placed inside a bright red rectangle whose length is slightly longer than its height. This was the emblem of the National Socialist Workers Party (Nationalsozialisten) abbreviated Nazi.

This political logo was designed by none other than Adolf Hitler when he was put in charge of the fledgling party in 1920. Aware of the need to unite the party and nation around a strong visual symbol, Hitler sought out something that would resonate with the people. Germany was reeling from blows inflicted by war and badly needed reassurance. The answer came in an ancient good-luck insignia.

Until then, the swastika had existed for over five thousand years and was well-recognized as a good fortune symbol around the world. To be certain, it’s still a sacred symbol in Hinduism, Buddhism and other eastern religions. To create a logo for the Nazi party, Hitler appropriated the swastika. Not only did disenfranchised Germans need good fortune going forward after the great war, they needed an easily recognizable symbol to rally around. Also refereed as the “hooked cross”, the swastika is believed to have been used in Neolithic Eurasia.

According to Nazi theory, the Aryan nomads of India had used the swastika in the Second Millennium B.C, and Nazis thought themselves to belong in that ancestry. It’s difficult to make the connection, but Hitler somehow decided the swastika had been eternally anti-Semitic. Elimination of Jews became the clarion cry, a means of achieving ‘racial hygiene’. Transforming a symbol of good luck into one of evil, Hitler projected frustrations of his country towards innocent victims.

Firstly, propaganda was calculated to woo unemployed workers. Economic woes of post war Germany were blamed on Jews. Whoever was responsible for economic hardships was Germany’s enemy and needed to be dealt with ruthlessly. Anti-Semitic notions quickly caught on among unemployed middle class workers. The Nazi logo elicited more hypnotic barbarity than WWI propaganda posters. Adrenalin was high among Hitler’s followers. The Nazi logo seemed to evoke a sense of power and direction. It was bloodbath for the perceived enemy, resulting in the slaughter of an estimated six million Jews!

In his book Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler himself summarizes both the swastika and the philosophy embodied in its composition and design. “In red we see the social idea of the movement, in white the Nationalist idea, and in the swastika the vision of the struggle for the victory of the Aryan man.” Previously, the swastika was symbolic of the sun’s movement. A day is the space between sunrise and sunset, a period that provides new opportunities. In Hitler’s usage, the new opportunity was to destroy a perceived enemy in order for one ethnic community to achieve its economic goals.

The Nazi logo is arguably the most dreadful and nauseating symbol of the Twentieth Century. It’s impossible to look at it without conjuring up the dreadful holocaust of WWII. It should serve as a teaching aid on the power of symbols, of graphic design, and indeed of the printed page. Designers and artists should be aware of these realities and tread carefully to ensure artworks don’t evolve into devouring ogres.


“Adolf Hitler Biography Military Leader, Dictator (1889–1945).” Bio.com. A&E Networks Television, 16 Oct. 2016. Web. 10 Nov. 2016.

Holocaust Memorial Council, 02 July 2016. Web. 10 Nov. 2016.

“MEIN KAMPF by Adolf Hitler: Volume 2, Chapter 7 – The Struggle with the Red Front.” MEIN KAMPF by Adolf Hitler: Volume 2, Chapter 7 – The Struggle with the Red Front. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2016.

“The Swastika: A Sign of Good Luck Becomes a Symbol of Evil.” Holocaust Teacher Resource Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2016.


Keep Calm and Carry On

170px-keep-calm-and-carry-on-scan“KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON” was a poster design originally created in 1939 as a series of three motivational posters from the British Government’s Ministry of Information, in order to boost public morale during WWII. The poster was printed in a run of 2.5 million copies, but the government deferred them to storage for use after a potential air raid, and they were never actually hung or distributed. After 1945, all of the prints in storage were destroyed to make pulp (for new paper) and very few of these original prints remain. This design only became an icon of popular culture more recently, when the design was rediscovered, and redistributed on a worldwide scale in the early 2000’s. This image has become so ubiquitous, in fact, that you have probably already seen it printed somewhere on something today. Although Keep Calm and Carry On Ltd. holds a trademark for this exact slogan, the slogan and graphic style have been countlessly replicated, parodied and imitated since the original design’s resurgence in popularity.

The poster design features a bright red background, and the slogan “KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON” is printed down the majority of the page in a bold, sans serif typeface. Each word sits on its own line, and the text maintains the same point size throughout, aside from the conjunction “AND,“ which sits in-between the other four lines at half the point size. The leading is consistent between all five lines of text, although the letter spacing is a little sloppy. The Tudor Crown, an emblem of the British State, sits on top of the text in the upper middle portion of the composition, as if it is resting on the head of the two EE’s in “KEEP.” The text is centered, and the O’s and C’s have very rounded letterforms. The crown icon and text are white against the bright red background, resulting in a highly contrasting image.

This poster is really interesting because it can be discussed in terms of significance and effectiveness in design from two separate eras in graphic design history: first from its origin as a piece of British propaganda from WWII, and then again with its resurgence and widely appropriated design as a quintessential piece of the postmodern era. Although this design was never utilized for its original purpose, the poster falls in line with typical agitprop of Britain’s WWII poster design. In the event of a catastrophic air raid, the poster was intended to send a message of reassurance from the government to the public, while bolstering loyalty to the crown. Through the message “keep calm and carry on,” the government was urging citizens to remain calm, complacent, and loyal to the crown amidst the atrocities of war. The crown is literally placed on top of the text, and the shape of the text on the page creates a form that alludes to a British soldier. The bright red background also associates with the red uniforms and stoic resilience of the royal army. Although the Ministry of Information toned down their messages a bit after WWI, the other posters of this series were still criticized by the public as sounding manipulative, or patronizing, and were not favorably received.

When a surviving original poster was rediscovered in an old bookstore in London, it became so popular that the “Keep Calm and Carry On” design has come to resemble what is quintessentially British. In the true spirit of postmodernism, this historical design was rehashed, parodied, and used commercially out of its original context with great success. The slogan and Tudor Crown combination have been appropriated for countless other applications. I believe the design is effective today because it still represents the idealized British character and renowned regalia of the British military, but with a more light-hearted sentiment due to its context and commercialization. Today, people can buy this message on a tote or coffee mug on their own free will at retail outlets worldwide.


Fowler, Brittany. “Brits May Roll Their Eyes at ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ – but Here’s Why They Secretly Love It.” Business Insider. Business Insider, 23 June 2015. Web. 03 Dec. 2016. <http://www.businessinsider.com/the-surprising-history-of-keep-calm-and-carry-on-2015-6&gt;.

Hatherley, Owen. “Keep Calm and Carry On – the Sinister Message behind the Slogan That Seduced the Nation.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 08 Jan. 2016. Web. 03 Dec. 2016. <https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/jan/08/keep-calm-and-carry-on-posters-austerity-ubiquity-sinister-implications&gt;.

“Keep Calm and Carry On.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 27 Nov. 2016. Web. 03 Dec. 2016. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keep_Calm_and_Carry_On&gt;.

Hans Rudi Erdt

Hans Rudi Erdt its an artist born and based in Germany. Erdt is one of the main artists working in the Sachplakat (Poster Style) movement. In the Sachplakat movement, artist wok with simplified forms, colors, and shapes to get an idea across.


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In “UBoote Herasus” (The U-Boats Are Out!), Erdt uses Sachplakat for the advertising of a movie poster promoting the government film celebrating submarine warfare. This poster breaks things into simplified shapes and colors. The Figure is in the foreground and blocked out into peach, black, and red shapes. The typography in this poster is simple yet experimental. The “U” is centralized in the composition, it encompasses the commander and the boat sinking in the back.  The black silhouette of the “U” and boat echo each other. Although this poster was made specifically for a movie; it still has elements of World War 1 propaganda.

In the Moslem Poster Erdt uses Sachplakat to advertise cigarettes. This poster uses four colors black, red, white, and peach. The background combines effortlessly with the figure in a minimalist fashion. The Cigarette smoke makes a shape that wraps around the “M” in Moslem. Both of these posters show how Sachplakat is used for advertising in different ways.

Manoli Limit poster takes a slightly different approach to Sachplakat. In this poster there is no figure and the main focus is the cigarettes. The box of Manoli’s are open with cigarettes all across the ground. “Manoli” is repeated multiple times, in the title and along with the box. Conceptually, this piece works perfectly because the main focus (the product) is never lost.

Hans Rudi Erdt is an artist that uses Sachplakat to advertise and promote numerous concepts and ideas, from World War 1 propaganda movie posters to cigarette ads.

Works Cited




El Lissitzky

El Lissitzky, a Russian  artist, designer, photographer, typographer and architect was important during the Russian Suprematism. He designed many works alongside his mentor, Kazimir Malevich (founded this arts movement). These works displayed propaganda and displays for exhibition. His works changed the way one experiments with materials and production techniques, which later influenced the Bauhaus  and carries on to 20th century graphic design. He innovated change in producing photomontage, book production, and typographic exhibitions. El Lissitzky believed that artwork and artists could be used to change surrounding environments. Being of Jewish origin, he created books in order to help spread and share his culture through Russia. During this time, Russia was going through many changes.

His artworks, like many during this time were focused on basic geometric forms in limited colors and abstraction. Centered and based around right angles and grids. Text were often also placed at an angle. This different from the classic art usually based on what we see (Prouns: establishment for New Art). El Lissitzky’s piece “Beat the White with the Red Wedge” was one his most popular posters. In the image, we see shapes of primarily white, black and some grey. These simple composition is broken by a large red triangle placed in the center of the frame. This was said to symbolize the environment in this time period- the bolsheviks fighting their opponents during Russian Civil War.


This helping begin the Constructivist movement. His works similar to these helped spread that art is not only what you see, but also can spread an idea or phase through simple shapes and forms.