running words around
design education and visual communication
authored by chris m hughes

Naked Re-Lunch

Monday, 15 June 2009

In the late 1950's, William Burroughs remarked that writing was fifty years behind painting. Writing certainly caught up a bit in the 60's and 70's, but nowadays both disciplines have been superceded by design and music as our foremost outlets for popular cultural expression.

In both areas, ideas evolve and flow from influences, reference points and common areas of discovery. And this is evident in the burgeoning area of graphic sampling - something relatively new to graphic design, but which music has been doing since the 1980's.

Graphic sampling involves reworking or reconceiving iconic design imagery into new formats. Try modern film titles reinvented as well-thumbed vintage book covers, games titles reworked into brochure format, and seminal record art mashed up into advertising layouts. For example, graphic designer Spacesick's 'I Can Read Movies' series of mashups like this one for John Woo's Face/Off -

Spacesick's Face/Off Mashup

According to an article in May's Design Week, a freelance graphic designer called Olly Moss posted designs for classic videogame titles on his Flickr site - restyled as Saul Bass Penguin covers - including Half- Life, Metal Gear Solid and Grand Theft Auto.

A flurry of related activity then followed on various sites and whilst the whole idea does seem a bit one-trick, there's no denying the power of sampling iconic visuals into new formats that can say something relevant.

Personally, I'm still with Burroughs, holding out for true cut-up design, where visual communication brands can mashup their own competitors, something the copyright lawyers will have a field-day with.

For more about the subject of digital copyright and reuse, its worth checking out Lawrence Lessig's book The Future of Ideas, all of which downloads in pdf format for free, under the CreativeCommons license.