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Influences of Dada on the Work of Jamie Reid Essay

Jamie Reid has always been one graphic designer that has excited me; not only is his work powerful, but every piece has a meaning and reasoning behind it Jamie Reid is most famous for his iconic sex pistols album covers in which he successfully managed to ‘subvert and court the media’ and was one of the first to break through the ‘permissive society. ’ His controversial and unique way of thinking has led him to become such an iconic graphic designer. Jamie Reids work is still well recognised and his iconic designs are still printed on merchandise such as T-shirts and posters.

It is also coming up to the 35th anniversaries of the sex pistols album and Jamie Reids designs are still as powerful and recognisable enough to be used today. In my essay I want to find out how the punk subculture was reflected in Jamie Reids graphic design and how he pushed the boundaries of what was redeemed socially acceptable. I will also be looking out how the Dada; a key movement in graphic design, influenced Jamie Reids work and the similarities and differences between the two. The punk subculture firstly started around the 1970’s and it was largely characterised by a concern for individual freedom and anti establishment views.

Punk music was a key part of the subculture, with lyrics often being very offensive and Jamie Reid reflected this in his graphic design. One of the key graphic styles central to the punk movement was the Swiss style, which started around the 1950’s. This movement became widely recognised when the bicycle, tram and car had been invented meaning the mobile masses could read it at just a glance. In order to do this most Swiss graphic design consisted of minimalistic amounts of colour, normally two and at the most, three.

A grid system was also commonly used which meant text and images lined up and presented a sense of uniformity to the viewer. The text used was also very simple and usually a san serif font, so that it was easy to read. This contrasts to Jamie Reid’s work, who was a big part of the punk subculture. Likewise, Jamie Reid wanted to get a message across, however it would usually be to do with issues such as social injustice and political issues. Central to the introduction of punk, were two mechanical devices, the type writer and the photocopier.

It was about grabbing attention of the very thing it was reacting against. Jamie Reid wanted to grab the attention of the mainstream media, cause controversy and they had to ‘subvert the media while simultaneously courting it. ’ This is something that Jamie Reid was very successful at. These two pieces of graphics were designed at similar times but are very different. The Swiss piece as talked about above consists of 3 colours, white black and red which makes it very clear and easy to read. It also only used typography which again means it is easy to read, and the space also helps emphasis this.

The font is also very simplistic which makes it very easy to read at a glance. Reid designed the cover for the ironically titled single ‘god save the queen. ’ The image was made out of a second hand print of the queen that Reid had found in a newspaper. The photocopy of the print almost mocked the polish, slick photograph of the queen. He made no effort to disguise this fact, in fact he tried to really emphasis this, though ripping the queens eyes and mouth out and filling it will with cut out lettering.

This image came across as very provocative and what made it more controversial was the timing of the release of this single. It was around the time of Elizabeth’s 25th wedding anniversary, and to add to this Reid designed his print in official jubilee colours; blue and silver. In comparison to the Swiss style Jamie Reids design is full of colour and visual imagery. Everything is placed around the picture of the queen. The text is cut from magazine article, and cleverly placed over her mouth and eye, which could perhaps be for a reason.

The colourful flag in the background is painted and is ‘messy’ which could reflect the attitudes towards GB at the time. ’ However there are a few similarities as they are both easy to read and they are both there to portray a message; good or bad. Jamie Reids work was very radical and different to what was known at the time. The British designer gained prominence as the designer for the punk band, the sex pistols. He successfully managed to ‘subvert and court the media. ’ To understand the impact of Reid’s designs at the time, it’s important to know the public ttitudes towards visual imagery.

The degree of nakedness that we now take for granted on adverts or bill boards would have been very provocative in for most people in the 1970’s. Even though the graphic design got so much public hostility, it perhaps got more attention than they would have ever wanted. Radio shows and T. V companies had rejected their advertisement and some major retailers refused to sell or stock it. It got so extreme that even printers were starting to refuse to print it. However it did not only achieve a strong graphic identity, it also helped the punk movement as a whole.

The homemade quality of punk came from the movement of Dadaism, and still today it is often compared. There are many similarities between Jamie Reids work and the dada style, and it was perhaps the Dada that influence Reids work. The dada began in the 1920s and a dominant feature in this work was a powerful brand of photomontage. Dada was known as not an art; as an anti art. For everything art stood for, Dadaism stood against it. Where art was concerned with ascetics, Dada ignored them. The similarities between Jamie Reids work and Dadaism was that they were both rejecting things.

The Dada was a protest against the barbarism of the war and the rejection of prevailing standards of art and Jamie Reid was rejecting the nationwide celebration of the queen’s silver jubilee. Both were rebelling against things they didn’t believe in. The techniques used in both are very similar such as the photo montarging and the erratic mixing of fonts, sizes, and styles. However the differences between the Dadaism and the punk fanzine are that the Dada movement was created by trained artists who thought they could challenge the limitations that they placed on their professions.

On the other hand the Punk fanzines were put together by a group of amateurs, who perhaps had little interest in art or design but wanted to portray a message on a page with ‘passion and honesty’ Jamie Reids work could have been influenced by the likes of Richard Hamilton. His most famous piece ‘’just what is it that makes today’s home so different, so appealing’’ There are clear links between his work and Reids work and there is the same ironic hummer and anti consumerist message present in both, Hamilton and Reids work.

Another artist that was part of the Dada movement was Marcel Duchamp. He also could have influenced Reid, as he drew a moustache and goatee on a reproduction of Leonardo De Vinci painting. This is similar to Jamie Reid’s iconic ‘god save the queen’ poster in which he placed a safety pin over the queen mouth. That common object; the safety pin, has since become a modern symbol over the style and attitude of the punk movement, which Jamie Reid was centre of.


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