In 2008, graphic designer and contemporary street artist Shepard Fairey created a poster of Barack Obama. This poster started out as a piece of street art, and it became one of the most iconic pieces of art in modern history. Who is the artist behind the hope poster design? How was the poster created? Why is it so iconic? These questions will be answered in this hope poster analysis article.
Shepard Fairey, born in Charleston, South Carolina, is the artist who created the hope poster design. He started in art in 1984 by placing his art on skateboards and t-shirts. Other works of Fairey’s include “Andre the Giant Has a Posse” (1989) and “Defend Dignity” (2019). Shepard Fairey is part of the Street Art movement (along with artists such as Banksy). His mediums include stickers, prints, murals, and posters.
To create the hope poster, Fairey used a reference photo of Obama from a 2006 media event to illustrate the poster. He created the poster in one day and first printed it as a street poster. The original photo is from photographer Mannie Garcia. In the photo, Barack Obama is positioned in a ¾ profile. Fairey turned the picture into a stenciled red, blue, and beige (instead of white) poster portrait of Obama. The colors used in the poster represent the colors of the United States. Originally, the word PROGRESS was used on the poster. In addition, the word CHANGE was also used on some of the posters.
However, HOPE became more popular and well known regarding this poster. The text on the hope poster uses the Gotham font. Gotham is a san serif, geometric typeface created by Tobias Frere-Jones. Fairey’s use of Gotham for the poster was brilliant because the font is legible. This legibility is due to the narrow widths of the Gotham font.
When it was time to distribute the posters, Fairey put over 300 posters up on the streets. Also, he sold 350 prints of the posters prior to putting them on the street. Fairey posted it on his website too. And people passed these posters around at many of the presidential rallies. With these posters, Fairey supplied a demand many Obama supporters wanted. Before this, people had little to no merchandise to show their support for Barack Obama. Once people got their hands on Fairey’s design, they used it everywhere. The image served as people’s social media profile image, t-shirt design, coffee mug design, etc. After Barack Obama won the presidential election in 2009, the Smithsonian Institution acquired Fairey’s work to use for their National Portrait Gallery.
If you’re interested in creating Shepard Fairey’s design after reading this hope poster analysis, check the article how to create a hope poster in Affinity Photo.
Fair Use Statement:
The use of Shepard Fairey’s poster falls under fair use, because this article is an analysis of the work.