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A Plea for Stickers

I visited the music store yesterday for my weekly browse. Two stickers caught my eye on the promotional table. After examining their covers, I flipped each of them over to see what label the bands were on. But at the very bottom, something caught my eye.

In 5 point Helvetica Condensed sat a statement that looked very out of place. Its size and position recalled the Surgeon General’s warning on cigarette packaging.

IT IS ILLEGAL TO POST PROMOTIONAL STICKERS ON MUNICIPAL OR PUBLIC PROPERTY (the property of any city, county, state, or federal entity). Such property includes but is not limited to: Street signs of any kind. Mail boxes telephone poles. Bridge supports. Traffic light supports. Fire hydrants. Emergency phones. Street barriers. THE POSTING OF STICKERS ON ANY MUNICIPAL OR PUBLIC PROPERTY IS A VIOLATION OF, AND VOIDS AND, LICENSE TO USE THIS STICKER AND MAY SUBJECT YOU OR YOUR EMPLOYER TO FINES AND PENALTIES. PURSUANT TO SECTION 10-119(A) OF THE NEW YORK CITY ADMINISTRATIVE CODE, THE POSTING OF PROMOTIONAL STICKERS ON PUBLIC PROPERTY IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED.

Nevermind the terrible grammar you see, and the loud use of all caps. The real issue here is free speech. Even here in Seattle, Washington, where live music thrives on street promotions, there’s been the danger of losing the right to free speech.

Understand that I do not condone vandalism. Banning stickers from the aforementioned areas in the sticker clause makes perfect sense to me, but the need to have such a clause is disturbing. How free can free speech be with rules and regulations like this? I fear that one day we may reach a point when in order to advertise, you must go through Clear Channel and use their digital-billboard-rotating-dynamic-call-to-action application for buses, bus stops, parking lots, shopping malls, taxi cabs, or building drapes.

Instead of prohibiting stickers, why not embrace this method of communication. A trail has been blazed, and these vehicles won’t disappear. Provide a place for stickers. In Seattle, we have our telephone poles for posters, so NYC, please give adhesive-backed ads their place too.

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ENTRY DETAILS
ARCHIVE ID 2079 FILED UNDER Discussion
PUBLISHED ON Sep.17.2004 BY Jason A. Tselentis
WITH COMMENTS
Comments
Nary’s comment is:

Ok, so my question is how are They going to enforce this clause? Are there going to be sticker police keeping an eye out for sticker posters?

As for the part that says ...may subject you or your employer to fines and penalties does that mean if you, as a graphic designer, is employed by...oh..let's hypothetically say Nike to design a bunch of promotional stickers for their new line of socks and some mischievous kid gets ahold of 73 of them and covers a mailbox with them, either you or Nike can be penalized?

Does that even make sense?

On Sep.17.2004 at 01:41 PM
Jason T’s comment is:

It's a problem. I'd love to see some culture jammers fabricate loads of Nike stickers, post them all over NYC, and then get Nike into some serious s#[email protected]

On Sep.17.2004 at 02:00 PM
Joe Murphy’s comment is:

This is the battle between "mind-numbing control" and "trusting people to do the right thing."

I think it comes down to the fact that by the time we actually get the Sticker Police guarding signs and arresting violators [fit of laughter] --sorry, couldn't finish that sentence. We will never have Sticker Police. I'm sorry to disappoint.

The companies are just printing that disclaimer on the stickers to cover their butts.

On Sep.17.2004 at 03:07 PM
mahalie’s comment is:

I don't think they're intending to police your use of thier stickers themselves - or at all. It seems to me to simply be a liability determent. In some ways, this enhances your fredom to sticker everywhere, because as long as you don't get caught, you don't have to worry about your favorite band, their label, or their sticker maker getting in trouble either.

On Sep.17.2004 at 03:56 PM
Michael H.’s comment is:

Hey Nary, large corporations aren't stupid enough to litter prohibited areas with their sticke- wait, I'm sorry. I forgot about Microsoft.

Do y'all remember last year (I think) when Microsoft got into trouble for putting Windows XP stickers on the sidewalks of New York? There were a lot of stickers. I think NY either threatened to fine Microsoft, or actually did.

On Sep.17.2004 at 04:25 PM
DesignMaven’s comment is:

Jason:

Cities and States used to have designated areas

where you could post bills(flyers)and or stickers.

Times change. It used to be okay to ask the local merchant if you could post flyers on bullitin boards and outside property. Of course some people abuse the right without asking merchants.

In D.C. it's usually done at construction sights

and old abandon buildings.

Everytime there's a movie release or music CD you see new imagery posted. Usually, it's done at night.

Not sure what the ordinance is in my locale.

Certain, parts of the city where there are Gentleman's Clubs. Nothing more abusive that four or five post card size cards of naked women on your windsheld. Advertsing RUMP SHAKERS. And Closed Door Sessions.

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, I saved them only for the Terrible and Horrible Design(s).

Documenting Horrible Design Ephemera.

If Armin and Byrony let me post one I will.

Nonetheless, interesting topic.

On Sep.17.2004 at 04:28 PM
Jason T’s comment is:

Post them. I want to see 'em.

On Sep.17.2004 at 04:34 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Yeah, bring on the Rump Shakers!

On Sep.17.2004 at 04:36 PM
Nary’s comment is:

lol. Jason, for the poor design, no less. so you can take a gander at ample proportions and voluptuous forms of counter and stem and tail combinations of chosen typefaces sans panties, i'm sure.

On Sep.17.2004 at 04:39 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

Speaking of sticker police ;o)

On Sep.17.2004 at 04:49 PM
Jason T’s comment is:

Nary, you lost me...what on earth are you talking about?!

On Sep.17.2004 at 04:52 PM
Nary’s comment is:

it's Friday, who know? i don't. :)

On Sep.17.2004 at 05:02 PM
Anthony’s comment is:

yeah I agree with you on this one, Armin. I'd like to see the Man just kind of let people put stickers up. Especially in NYC. It's getting harder to find suitable places for flyers, let alone public/ partly suitable places to post concert/thear posters, etc. I could understand the rule if people were putting the stickers on police cruisers or hospital windows. But who's really aching to see an unfettered street lamp or fire hydrant. And come on, we all know that graffitti on the side of boxcars rocks.

On Sep.17.2004 at 05:43 PM
Anthony’s comment is:

Jason, rather. I agree with Armin too though. Bring the rump shakers to the hizzle. Fer shizzle my phizzle. Nozzle Drizzle.

On Sep.17.2004 at 05:47 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Actually, on a more serious note, I do think the point that Jason is trying to bring to light is cause for concern. Sure, there isn't a Sticker Police but the premise is rather scary. The idea of a completely sanitized environment — visually or otherwise — hinders people's need for self-expression. Understandably, the city of New York, does not want more shit pasted on the streets, but really, that's what makes New York — and any other city — interesting. The amount of stickers, posters, flyers, lost pets and other stickable ephemera.

I think it was in the latest Wired magazine that I read a little blurb about some yellow stickers in the form of an arrow that have sprung all over NYC. (Just did some quick Googling: yellowarrow.org). And on my first day here I ran into quite a few of them. Where would Shepard Fairey be without stickers? How would we know if we are driving too close to the car in front of us? It's things like these that — like Jason titled his post — should urge us to plea for stickers.

On Sep.17.2004 at 07:56 PM
Jason T’s comment is:

Armin, thanks for the follow up on the Wired mag. I too read that blurb, and I'm beginning to see a pattern here that can be attributed to a lot of things. But it's odd to see the "policing" so close to an election. Is this about free speech, free walls, or freedom from Bush bashing.

Paranoia aside, I want to see those poles, walls, buses, and buildings in your town. If you're in NYC, is the place sticker free? Doubtful. And if your car, building, wall, or bike gets tagged by spray paint, stickers, or posters, would that motivate you to enforce such a ban? Does it take being victimized for one to abolish such guerilla communication tactics?

As designers, communication and expression occupy our days. When the media we utilize becomes limited or controled, what does that do to us? To our clients? Or to the audience that relies on the message?

On Sep.17.2004 at 10:11 PM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

But who's really aching to see an unfettered street lamp or fire hydrant.

The idea of a completely sanitized environment — visually or otherwise — hinders people's need for self-expression.

You guys crack me up. Your parody of self-important juveniles is spot on. But of course I'm missing the point. Stickers put out by your favorite band are the antidote to the crass commercialism that surrounds us. Take that, capitalist swine! Buy the shit I like instead!

Where, indeed, would Shepard Fairey be without stickers? Looking for a viable political theory? Yammering to self-important twits who think that low-grade vandalism will save them from being just middle class kids whose parents sent them to art school so they’d finally get out of the goddamned house?

Jason T. hit it on the proverbial head: And if your car, building, wall, or bike gets tagged by spray paint, stickers, or posters, would that motivate you to enforce such a ban? Does it take being victimized for one to abolish such guerilla communication tactics? As one who spent years painting over gang graffiti on my garage, I tend not to wax romantic about people assuming that their “self expression” takes precedence over their neighbors’ desires.

Gunnar

ps: As long as I’m being the nasty old fart: yellowarrow.org “to leave and discover messages pointing out what counts,” indeed. “What if �city’ was a verb?” What if grammar (or just precise expression) counted for something?

On Sep.18.2004 at 12:31 PM
Ryan Pescatore Frisk’s comment is:

Dear Nasty Old Farts,

It must be much more comfortable to drink wine in silence on such a rigid patio.

Messages are conveyed through various tactics, why is this one so wrong (because it invades your space!?)?

Perhaps you would be much more accepting if we lobbied in DC, like most others.

Advertising enters through every pinhole and anywhere else it can possibly manage.

Am I the only one who is familiar with so called underground marketing.

Designosaurs, please describe how your work is apparently so different from those which we don't like to see, or don't need to meet.

On Sep.18.2004 at 08:05 PM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

Ryan,

The difference between them and you is that they can sometimes put their clichés together in a coherent string.

Rigid patio? Seroiusly. What are you saying?

On Sep.18.2004 at 08:49 PM
Jason T’s comment is:

Dear Ryan,

We're addressing matters of speech here, and how restrictions alter what we do as designers. If one channel becomes cut off, what do we turn to? (Or where?) Something underground, as you state? Whether you're in NYC, Seattle, Chicago, or Rochester, I'm interested in hearing more about what you call underground marketing. Where do you see it? Do stickers come into play? Is it an effective means of communicating?

On Sep.18.2004 at 10:43 PM
RavenOne’s comment is:

My Rigid Patio ...

heh. Better than a weak one. I mean, it'd suck to walk out and ...step knee-deep into a sinkhole.

On the sticker issue, I'm all for being able to put stickers on your own stuff ... but putting it on someone else's without their permission seems to be stepping over the boundaries.

...and if someone told me I couldn't put stickers on my car or laptop, I'd tell them to bite me. And catch my case of the flu, while they're at it.

YARRrr

-sickly Raven

On Sep.18.2004 at 10:50 PM
Ryan Pescatore Frisk’s comment is:

I agree that most of us don't necessarily want to see our personal property vandalized.

My point is this — you can't discredit one particular method of communication without drawing obvious parallels. What about a blaring radio on the street, billboards 15 stories tall, spam, etc...this list could go on indefinitely. Where and how do you draw the line which separates the messages we want to receive from those we need to literally outlaw. It doesn't seem so clear cut to me.

On Sep.19.2004 at 06:16 AM
David V.’s comment is:

Gunnar wrote:

Jason T. hit it on the proverbial head: And if your car, building, wall, or bike gets tagged by spray paint, stickers, or posters, would that motivate you to enforce such a ban? Does it take being victimized for one to abolish such guerilla communication tactics? As one who spent years painting over gang graffiti on my garage, I tend not to wax romantic about people assuming that their “self expression” takes precedence over their neighbors’ desires.

I'm most certainly against stickering/postering on the private property of others. Municipal or Public or Corporate property, on the other hand, is a different matter. Your critique would have applied to such spaces 40 years ago, when they were relatively free of advertising. But in this day and age, when every square inch of free space is covered with ads and no public arena is sacred, it becomes meaningless. If corporations have the right to invade my every waking moment, I think the free exchange of ideas deserves some room as well. I have no delusions that by slapping a sticker on a billboard I'm striking a blow for the suffering masses or bringing down the Man, but anything which can encourage thought and dialogue is ok in my book. (And dont worry, I'll never touch your garage door. The telephone pole across the street on the other hand...)

On Sep.19.2004 at 09:26 AM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

Ryan,—Where and how do you draw the line which separates the messages we want to receive from those we need to literally outlaw. It doesn't seem so clear cut to me.

What is clear cut is that (assuming we are the least bit interested in consistent principles) as soon as we make claims that not accepting graffiti or stickers placed on public property or others’ property is somehow tantamount to fascist censorship then we need to allow racist postings on all public property, Nazi slogans stuck to your front door. . . Additionally, the dubious claims that billboards represent free speech and nobody should regulate their placement become rock solid.

It strikes me that a reasonable definition of a designer is someone who looks at the current situation, envisions (better?) future states, considers the practicality of reaching those alternatives, and starts a move toward an improved future. This makes it particularly irksome when designers seem to indulge in rationalization rather than rationality about their actions in shaping our future environment. (This is not, of course, limited to stickers.) If, as David V. claims, every square inch of free space in our environment is covered with ads, is the best solution to cover the leftover square centimeters with mini ads? “The world is fucked up so I’ll fuck it up a bit more just to show my disgust” is a weak argument. Fight back rather than lash out.

I’m not sure what Ryan’s point was when he asked/stated the (I assume rhetorical) question “Am I the only one who is familiar with so called underground marketing.” Is that a claim that everything labeled as such is either good or bad or subject to different principles than other marketing is?

(BTW, Ryan, you were half right. My patio isn’t rigid by patio standards but it is a comfortable place to drink wine—in silence or otherwise. But I still have no idea what that was all about.)

Back to Jason’s original post:

Understand that I do not condone vandalism. Banning stickers from the aforementioned areas in the sticker clause makes perfect sense to me, but the need to have such a clause is disturbing. How free can free speech be with rules and regulations like this?

The statement on the sticker seems to be a cynical attempt to simultaneously encourage public posting of their commercial message and create plausible deniability of their involvement. There are interesting and disturbing implications to their covert statement that they are not actually selling the object but instead granting a license to use the object but that’s another topic. I’m confused, however, with your stance. You seem to be at once decrying vandalism and objecting to any attempt to curb it. What’s up with that?

Your suggested alternative:

Instead of prohibiting stickers, why not embrace this method of communication. A trail has been blazed, and these vehicles won’t disappear. Provide a place for stickers. In Seattle, we have our telephone poles for posters, so NYC, please give adhesive-backed ads their place too.

reminds me of “free speech zones” at colleges and political conventions. It confuses me, too. Do you really believe that there is a burning need to stick stickers and insufficient legal space to do so? What would be the rationale for a public policy of sticker zones? Do you think it would reduced stickers elsewhere (has sanctioned graffiti space anywhere reduced unsanctioned graffiti?) or is stickering a recreational activity to be encouraged by municipalities (like jogging or lawn bowling) or am I missing a point about the public good provided by this?

On Sep.19.2004 at 10:29 AM
Frank DeRose’s comment is:

it is pretty ridiculous that on a site called "speak-up" there are a bunch of people talking about speaking less. I guess voicing your opinion is okay as long as everyone agrees on the time, place and format.

very cool.

On Sep.19.2004 at 10:48 AM
DesignMaven’s comment is:

Gunnar:

Give me Directions. I'm on the way over with

the Near Beer, and Sparkling Cidar.

If only we could Zap ourselves like Star Trek and the Jetson's.

Aren't we suppose to be able to do that in the 21 Century ???

Beautiful Patio.

On Sep.19.2004 at 02:33 PM
Stefan Bucher’s comment is:

How free can free speech be with rules and regulations like this?

Easy: Multiple rules and privileges apply and need to be weighed according to the particular situation. If you go out on the street corner and make a political statement, that's free speech. If you do it in the middle of the road, it's still free speech, but it's mostly a traffic hazard. If you jimmy my lock and make your statement in the middle of my living room, it's free speech, but it's mostly breaking and entering.

I've done a fair bit of work with bands who make stickers. I also really like stickers and pitch them to my club client every now and again. Here's what they tell me:

They can't hand out stickers anymore, because somebody invariably grabs 50 of them and goes to town on some mailbox or park bench or lamp post. Whitey calls that defacing public property, which Whitey don't like. And since Whitey doesn't know who posted the stickers, but can just read off our URL, we get the call.

Adding a disclaimer is an interesting way to cover yourself against that one guy who screws it up for the rest of us. Unfortunately, it also looks very, very uncool and whiney and bitchy and obviously pisses off a lot of people.

So what do you do? Stickers with a dodgy disclaimer? No more stickers at all? Or just stickers by people who can afford legal assistance or fines should they come under the scrutiny of the authorities if some fan goes out and covers a parking meter in Hillary Duff stickers? I don't know the answer.

Is all this a free speech problem? I don't know the answer to that, either. What's on the sticker? Is your free speech being abridged if your sticker carries a warning that's clearly a legal fig leaf intended solely to protect the people who spent money to give you an otherwise cool sticker.

Is it mostly a matter of political aesthetics? Is it just sad that we need the warning in the first place? WARNING: Cape does not enable user to fly.

On Sep.19.2004 at 03:56 PM
Joseph’s comment is:

I must say this is a very funnny situation. I've played in a band for years now. I always thought it very hilarious when we put out a new sticker design, the amount of pictures we would get of our new sticker on police cars. So someone has to scrape it off at some point. Big deal. There are plenty of prisoners in our jail systems to put to work on jobs like that. Oh well, Bushy's death grip on Americas basis of Freedom tightens.

On Sep.20.2004 at 10:40 AM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

So right. When they were passing the Bill of Rights it was assumed that the sacred right to put promotional stickers on police cars was self-evident. Then along comes some fascist yahoo and his brown shirt minions. Next they’ll try to stop us from burning tires in the street or dynamite fishing. So much for freedom as we knew it.

On Sep.20.2004 at 12:13 PM
David V.’s comment is:

Gunnar wrote:

If, as David V. claims, every square inch of free space in our environment is covered with ads, is the best solution to cover the leftover square centimeters with mini ads? “The world is fucked up so I’ll fuck it up a bit more just to show my disgust” is a weak argument. Fight back rather than lash out.

This is nitpicky, but I didnt suggest suggest covering the "leftover square centimeters". I would advocate specifically targetting spaces *already occupied* by advertising, preferably with a message speaking directly to the content of the ads.

Frankly though, if its not private property, I just dont see alot of harm in stickering. I understand that you have a personal axe to grind arising from time spent scraping and painting your garage door, but a tag, sticker or wheatpaste poster on a bus shelter or subway platform or public restroom door just doesnt strike me as particularly damnable behaviour. Especially when any old corporation can, for the right price, place a massive billboard over any public space without consultations with the citizens of that town. and yes, we should work to reduce the invasiveness of advertising in our daily lives and define where it is or isnt appropriate, but as long as its there, a little mischief might be just what the doctor ordered.

On Sep.20.2004 at 01:47 PM
Spencer’s comment is:

This recently happened in London where the music industry was about to get into all sorts of trouble for organised flyposting for new albums, etc. And it wasn't just the little labels, there were big pop acts with flyposters everywhere.

I did notice that one day flyposts would go up on Kingsway and come down by a team of pissed off looking Camden Council cleaners.

Don't know what came of all of it, once it hit national news I'm sure some record companies slackened it off, and others didn't.

Spence

On Sep.21.2004 at 03:24 PM
Tan’s comment is:

I must be getting old, because I've become far less tolerant about graffiti, stickers, and just about any visual violation of public spaces. That includes commercial advertising on buildings as well.

I've never liked graffiti in any way, shape, or form. It's not art, it's destruction of public property. Stickers, while seemingly much less offensive and far more dimunitive, is really no different than graffiti.

And this is not about free speech. It's about pollution. You can smear political statements on a building wall with human crap, but it doesn't make it protected speech.

It's just that stickers tend to be more designed which makes them less visually offensive to designers — but really, are they any less of a violation and pollution to public spaces? I realize that destruction is never the original intent of stickers — but since it's always likely to be the result, it doesn't really matter.

Now I'm not against bill posting. There are public places where it makes sense, can be seen, and doesn't violate property. It's not that difficult to tell where. You can still dissimenate public information and be a good, non-destructive, responsible citizen. It's the recognition of responsibility to do so that's most important.

I never realized how prevalent public space desecration was until I owned a commercial space downtown. Almost every week, we had to remove (or pay someone to remove) stickers from our windows, graffiti on the walls and glass, human waste and trash from the sidewalks and entry ways.

You quickly grow intolerant of the destruction, and become keenly respectful of all public spaces and their conditions. I'd swear that I'd fucking cripple the next asshole I caught painting or stickering my office building or any of my neighbors'. You have no idea what a violation it can become.

There are many, many other ways to get your voice heard. Choose another way.

On Sep.21.2004 at 05:14 PM
Steve Mock’s comment is:

I would add this simple sticker disclaimer: DON"T BE AN ASS!

The posted legal boilerplate has nothing to do with free speech. (But that little bit about Clear Channel is worth exploring.)

Really, man (to those that would)... What does tagging private or public property accomplish for you? I mean... why?

On Sep.22.2004 at 08:01 AM
Stacey’s comment is:

Now I have to design a sticker with the disclaimer text in big black text, (just the disclaimer info, mind you) and plaster it all over town. Don't ask why, it's simply a moral imperitive.

On Sep.22.2004 at 10:11 AM
szkat’s comment is:

David V: but a tag, sticker or wheatpaste poster on a bus shelter or subway platform or public restroom door just doesn't strike me as particularly damnable behaviour.

Tan: I must be getting old, because I've become far less tolerant....You quickly grow intolerant of the destruction, and become keenly respectful of all public spaces and their conditions.

Tan -

it's not about getting old. it's about respect and responsibility. i totally disagree with David V's comment — no, it's not a damnable action to put up stickers or posters, but it sure must be nice to be able to walk away after leaving your mark. let someone else worry about what to do next. but leaving your personal responsibilty on the wall with your sticker is such a dick move.

it's like my biggest issue with smokers: I've seen so many just throw their cigarettes in the street. it's lazy and littering and someone sometime has to pick the little f***er up. just as someone, somewhere has to scrape the sticker off the building.

i don't feel like my views are even conservative, they're just respectful. you should see my nalgene bottles, absolutely covered with stickers from every band i've seen. that doesn't mean i feel justified putting them on the front door of my apartment building. how would you feel if someone put a pro-bush sticker on your windshield? not a big deal, really, you can take care of it in five minutes.

but i bet you'll be cursing the perpetraitor the entire time...

On Sep.22.2004 at 10:20 AM
szkat’s comment is:

ps. David V, i hope you don't take that as a personal attack - it really really isn't. i think you've been voicing good points, but i happen to not agree with what i quoted, specifically.

On Sep.22.2004 at 10:25 AM
Marco Acevedo’s comment is:

A great topic, because ultimately it grows with discussion to cover areas that touch on the greater concerns of: viable communication in this media-saturated world, the high-density urban lifestyle (and our fluctuating standards of "quality-of-life"), and creative inspiration (to check out the current offerings at the up-to-the-moment graphic design section of St. Marks Bookstore in NYC one would assume that we designers are more interested in street art and found graphics than we are about our "old-school" professional predescessors).

Joe Murphy mentions a "battle between 'mind-numbing control' and 'trusting people to do the right thing.' " As a New Yorker who has lived through the 70s (when every square inch of subway car surface, inside and out, was covered with graffiti), and 90s (when the real estate developers first decided that every square inch of Manhattan, decrepit or not, was fair game) I find there's always been a battle in my own head between my desire for a clean city and my distrust of sterile environments. Certainly I have to admit I relish the memory of Adam Purple's trails of purple footprints, which would appear miraculously overnight snaking through the canyons of lower Manhattan and perplex the bleary-eyed office drones at dawn... or the story of how a friend ran off a thousand stickers with his own cryptic pseudo-corporate Dubya "brand" (the "Death-Pig") and handed them all out passersby one Sunday afternoon in Union Square on the eve of the RNC, later to see his message dispersed across the urban environment, on sidewalks and maiboxes and skateboards. But while the sight of a trainyard full of elaborately tagged subway cars was breathtaking (this was about '77 or so, when the tags were the size of church frescoes), I also have to admit I like my current MTA clean and bright and efficient (well, two out of three ain't bad).

I also remember quite clearly the day I first sat in a "branded" subway car. A monolithic promo for Fruitopia soft drink had taken over every inch of available ad space in the car, creating a pseudo-psychedelic environment for a captive audience. Corporate graffiti, as it were, and very effective, but wearying after about a week. Then came the first cryptic Nike subway campaigns, which were ground-breaking in their appropriation of the vanishing textures of street-blight, the random tearing and layering of bills and posters. More importantly they launched the mystique of the stand-alone Nike swoosh, which mimicked the random placement of an anonymous street tag. Interestingly enough, the seismic shift in our job descriptions, from corporate identity to branding, seems to date from this time.

Now we're in the era of fake street campaigns and million-dollar "wild postings". I guess what lingers in the air is the faint smell of hypocricy. Is corporate "vandalism" any more appropriate or is grassroots "self-expression" any less valid?

On Sep.22.2004 at 11:28 AM
szkat’s comment is:

"...one would assume that we designers are more interested in street art and found graphics than we are about our "old-school" professional predescessors."

i think that ultimately, the saturation of designers and people who realize that they have venues in which to express themselves have tragically lost track of the concept that the choice of medium is equal in value to the choice of the message.

sometimes stickers are the best way to express the message, sometimes billboards, sometimes lighting yourself on fire in a public square is how to get your point across. it seems people are only concerned with getting heard somewhere. stickers are immediate, posters are visible, but one must not confuse immediate with effective communication.

On Sep.22.2004 at 12:39 PM
Jason T.’s comment is:

They can place as many bans as they want on stickers, posters, and the like. In the end somebody will figure out some way to cut through the noise. Most of this guerilla marketing is just that---noise. And is it effective? I feel invaded when I see these things pop up in front of my eyes, in places where I neither need nor want to see "communication."

So there's places you can hang posters and places you can't hang stickers. As graphic designers, how do we reconcile this problem when we are called upon to manufacture a sticker campaign? Do we steer the client towards another media or turn them down all together?

Stickers occupy a niche as collectibles or villains. When posted on private property, they're awful. When stuck inside my closet for memories, they're forgotten about until years later.

On Sep.22.2004 at 12:55 PM
Tan’s comment is:

The difference with commercial graffiti like Frutopia and Nike is that a) they're paying for the permission to use the property, and b) they are going to be responsible for the removal of it once done.

As to the issue of visual clutter of public spaces — well that's another can of worms entirely.

>we are called upon to manufacture a sticker campaign? Do we steer the client towards another media or turn them down all together?

There are other ways of guerilla marketing that is far less permanent and destructive. Tshirts, postcards, pin buttons, static stickers, etc. I think most reasonable clients would want to avoid being the inadvertent cause of public destruction — especially if given an alternative that achieves the same effectiveness.

As a designer, it's my responsibility to offer those alternatives. The moral dilemma that you're suggesting is as clear as the issue of sustainability. It's not the decision that's difficult, but the accountability and action.

On Sep.22.2004 at 01:37 PM
Marco Acevedo’s comment is:

My biggest problem with the whole idea of client sticker campaigns is that it's disingenuous.... stickers and such are a tool of the budgetless or those who feel the need to indulge in a bit of civil disobedience to get a social or political point across to a public caught up in the mindless routine of getting around town. To your point szcat, media campaigns masquerading as grassroots intiatives are not effective communication, at least in my book, because they tick me off.

The issue of visual clutter in a public space seems to depend on the context. When I lived in Park Slope, Brooklyn, years ago it wasn't a big deal to see every other street lamp post covered with notices for missing pets, stoop sales, yoga classes, etc. with all the little phone number tear-offs fluttering in the breeze. Everyone availed themselves of the "option," they were simply an effective way to communicate with your anonymous neighbors. It wasn't until I heard a rumor that the city was starting to issue summonses that I even imagined they were considered a nuisance.

On Sep.22.2004 at 02:20 PM
David V.’s comment is:

Tan’s comment is:

I've never liked graffiti in any way, shape, or form. It's not art, it's destruction of public property. Stickers, while seemingly much less offensive and far more dimunitive, is really no different than graffiti.

I've always been struck by this need (quite common, this is far from the first time I've heard it or will hear it) to define Graffiti(and by extension stickers/posters) as EITHER art OR vandalism. Cant it be both? If Cindy Sherman had her photos printed on sticker paper and slapped them around town, would it be art, or vandalism? If Picasso doodled a sketch on a wall, which is it? There is some truly stunning graffiti out there, and indeed the enormous influence of "street art" on modern design and the artworld is a testament to that.

Marco Acevedo’s comment is:

My biggest problem with the whole idea of client sticker campaigns is that it's disingenuous.... stickers and such are a tool of the budgetless or those who feel the need to indulge in a bit of civil disobedience to get a social or political point across to a public caught up in the mindless routine of getting around town.

I'd be curious to know if Gunnar, Tan and others see a distinction when stickering/postering is done by those who truly have no access to traditional avenues of communication, and are doing so in support of a sincere political cause.

On Sep.23.2004 at 11:29 AM
Tan’s comment is:

>Cant it be both?

Sure it can. But calling something art doesn't mean it's not destructive, offensive, and vandalism either — especially if the owner of the property didn't ask for the "art" in the first place. And lots of things can be considered art. Profanity is an art. Violence is an art. War is an art.

>see a distinction when stickering/postering is done by those who truly have no access to traditional avenues of communication, and are doing so in support of a sincere political cause.

It's a slippery slope that you're making this argument on. What you're basically asking is whether or not vandalism and public destruction can be justified and differentiated by a worthy cause? Why stop there? In support of a sincere political cause, why not justify and advocate violence? Anarchy? Terrorism? War?

There are always other alternatives to vandalism — no matter where you live. There are also many public places where posters and stickers are perfectly suitable for posting —�and can be tremendously effective. You should be able to differentiate where those appropriate places are — just like you can tell when or when not to use profanity or resort to violence.

On Sep.23.2004 at 01:10 PM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

I'd be curious to know if Gunnar, Tan and others see a distinction when stickering/postering is done by those who truly have no access to traditional avenues of communication, and are doing so in support of a sincere political cause.

I’m always curious about hypothetical constructs. Who is it that has no access to “traditional communications” but is prepared to manufacture stickers? What are these “traditional communications”? The original subject of this thread was stickers promoting some band. Is that a sincere political cause? What sort of “sincere political cause” (other than a political stance promoting the free application of all manner of messages on all public surfaces) are you really talking about here?

EITHER art OR vandalism. Cant it be both?

I’ve never made such a claim if for no other reason but that defining something as “art” is, except in narrow, controlled circumstances, pure folly.

I’ve heard a very few people say “It’s not art. It’s vandalism.” I’ve heard many more say “It’s not vandalism. It’s art.” Implied in the former is the arguable stance that “art” implies overall net social value. Implied in the latter is the completely indefensible stance that “art” trumps all other social values.

On Sep.23.2004 at 01:41 PM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

Anyone not convinced by my pleas against vandalism should look at this example of fictional America defiled by the sticker savages.

On Oct.13.2004 at 11:49 AM
szkat’s comment is:

did you see "students for bush: no flip-flops"?

man, i've been out of college for almost two years and i still live in my sandals just like i did all though college, just like i did all through high school. it just doesn't seem well thought out. i would totally have that sticker (in the alternate universe where i was pro-bush) and be wearing my flip flops.

or VIVA BUSH...

makes me think someone, somewhere is thinking,

"okay, check hispanic off the list. we have that demographic covered in the stickers."

On Oct.13.2004 at 05:48 PM
Maurice’s comment is:

Would someone in the state or city of New York please give me information or directions on who I speak to about working around town posting music, fashion, statements or just current events.

I have been unsuccessfully trying to find out contact info....please help 516 369 0606 Moe.

On May.08.2005 at 12:52 AM