Punk’s epic comeback in graphic design

Punk’s epic comeback in graphic design

Figure 1. ACU posters, Utrecht (own photo).

Punk aesthetic is making its way back in 2023 in the graphic design industry, as the world is overwhelmed by political uncertainty and social injustice. Artists and amateurs are wondering how is it going to look like.

The movement started as a counterculture, in the 70s U.K. scene. Its rebellious nature was an anti-consumerist and anti-conformist call. While the generation’s dissatisfaction was vocalized by the punk band Sex Pistols, Jamie Reid, took over the graphic design field, by creating covers for the band’s albums and singles, like the iconic song “God Save The Queen”. His revolutionary style consisted of collaged typography, inspiring upcoming artist to break the limits of expensive, rigid and traditional sans serif. The 70s punk design rebelled against the mainstream, with loud and messy colors, raw textures and ironic messages, through vinyl artworks, posters, flyers and fanzines.

The 80s were marked by consumerism. Although the period was mostly dominated by new wave and retro designs, punk style was still used to combat communist propaganda.

In the 90s, punk’s spirit made a comeback, taking a grungier format. The typography was experimental, the photos were distorted, and the collages were grid-breaking. The same grungy aesthetic, mixed with bold geometric shapes and splashes of color to symbolize raw emotions and a chaotic energy were present in the 2000s and 2010s.

“In the past years, trends were pointing towards illustrations, 3D and minimalism” says Vasile Seul, art director and graphic designer at Moldcell, “but people are getting bored, clients are in need of bold and more convincing campaigns, and punk elements are helpful here. You can see them in the fashion and makeup industry, like Nike, Vans, Mac campaigns, anywhere really. Situations like police brutality, the Ukrainian war, the Queen’s death also created premises for new punk designs.” he adds.

Figure 2. ACU flyer, Utrecht (own photo).

With the technology rise and easier means to experiment, punk fused with other elements to create new styles, like steampunk, club and rave aesthetics. It is liberating and encourages individuality: “I create what I want to create, so I’ll use any material, use flashy colors, and draw unrealistic scenarios. I like shocking with my work, making bold and daring choices.” says Emmi van Dijk Speelman, an amateur graphic designer and a punk community member and musician. The values this style promotes in present are “anti-capitalism and anti-fascism. Those go hand in hand with feminism, LGBTQ+ rights, being anti-government, and anti-norms.” she adds.

Punk always managed to find its way back to people’s hearts. As trend forecasters predict its revival in 2023, it will be highly influenced by artificial intelligence, and other technological tools, while maintaining the bold and raw nature, so we are definitely not getting rid of it soon.

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