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To what extent did the punk movement impact Graphic Design and is it still relevant in today’s digital age?The Punk Rock movement first emerged on to the scene of New York in the late sixties and took Great Britain, by storm in the 70’s. The Punk movement in Britain was mostly politically fuelled by the feeling of angst and unacceptance from deprived youths and the working class who as a whole shared the same belief of being mistreat within society. This Study will be exploring how the Punk movement of the 1970’s made such a mark within society and culture, And to what extent was the movement so influential to the field of Graphic Design? With seemingly strong evidence backed up from the ‘final’ stages of the 70’s Rock & Roll subculture, Countless times the phrase ‘PUNK IS DEAD’ has been used within Articles, debates and even current music. The son of lead Punk Rock band ‘The Sex pistols’ manager  has even said ”Rather than a movement for change, punk has become like a fucking museum piece or a tribute act.” The Guardian,. 2016. Malcolm McLaren’s son to burn £5m of punk memorabilia. However, is it so that as the era came to an end, the unique aesthetics punk once had, can still be seen and relevant – at such time where the world is so dependant on technology? Or is the DIY ethos gone forever in today’s digital age.  In this essay, the research will be gathered from key figures and individuals who played a key role within such prominent moment within graphic design. Using comparative research, This essay will focus on the views of Design and visual aesthetics that came with the Punk rock movement, The history of the subject matter, and the question of its existence within the present day. The Rise Of PunkThe Punk Rock subculture had remained more of an underground movement until 1976, when two bands – ‘The Ramones’ of New York City and ‘The Sex Pistols’ of London – really made an impression with the outside world of the scene . With their ‘Give us what we want’ protest style lyrics that came with a fast and loud music genre, not only did they gain massive popularity and huge success, but they also spoke to the masses of people which provided an inspiration and platform to those who realised this was the key to standing up for what they believe in, and having their statements heard. ”For me at seventeen, they were simply amazing. I had never seen such an explosion of creative energy. They made it cool to be angry and expressed the fears and disillusionment of our generation. It felt great to acknowledge that, yes; we had indeed, been cheated”. Guardian Readers. 2012. Readers’ panel: Sex Pistols.Graphic Design in the Punk era The mission statement of ‘Enough is Enough’ which the movement stood for was the spark of the visual extravaganza which accompanied the Punk era. Graphic Design was pivotal in helping convey their message and provided the means to voice the growing culture. The  design of the late 70s movement was just as important in what we vision ‘Punk’ to be as the unique fashion and music. Fuelled by the same bold anti-political/economic attitude and DIY ethos, the Graphic Design within the age of punk had such rawness that flowed through from the initial idea to the means of production and final execution. A recognisable example of this distressed style of design can be easily seen in the early generation of Punk fanzines which were created in the 1970’s, most famously the seminal music fanzine ‘Ripped & Torn’ by Tony D (Tony Drayton) from November 1976. (See fig.1). This image represents the change that graphic design had undergone, changing from a formal approach with a structural grid & typeface using minimal means of production to become this deconstructed visual style. The same year, along with the Ripped & Torn came fanzine created by Mark Perry, ”SNIFFIN GLUE’ which showcased Punk Rock music and artists, and consisted of a similar feel in terms of visual representation. At a time where magazine design and printing was only thought of being created in the field of professional organisations and large printing companies, on the basis of consumerism content, both ‘Ripped & Torn’ and ‘Sniffin’ Glue’ fanzines took what used to be a restricted area of work and provided the entire world with the ideology that anything could be designed and produced to convey a message with little means as necessary. In the world of Graphic Design, this technically gave the opportunity to anybody with a point to prove and the minimal equipment needed, to become a designer. “Mark Perry took it on to himself to document punk. He felt the need to create a voice for it. He was part of it, looking out, not in. “Mark had the visceral drive to make a visual record of punk. It’s punk journalism. It’s the one fanzine everyone knows.” The immediacy of it visually drew me in as much as the music.” Guardian Readers, Peter Silverton. 2016. Sniffin’ Glue: A fanzine that epitomized punk. It was these two fanzines that had such a broad impact on the aspect of design as what was once seen a product of professional doing, became very DIY orientated. Factory tools and Industrial machines such as large printers, were thrown out of the picture by the Punk ‘Do it yourself’ ethos, and replaced by basic photography, rough cut and paste imagery by the means of scissors and glue, and most famously, a cheap photocopier (See fig.2). ”The whole of that first issue was what I could do at that time with what I had in my bedroom. I had a children’s typewriter plus a felt-tip pen, so that’s why the first issue is how it is. I just thought it would be a one-off. I knew when I took it to the shop there was a good chance they’d laugh at me, but instead they said, How many have you got? I think my girlfriend had done 20 on the photocopier at her work and they bought the lot off me. Then they advanced me some money to get more printed”.(Mark Perry quoted in Q Magazine April 2002). However, some would argue that with practically anybody having the means to produce punk imagery, could the masses of zines, fashion items, and most importantly posters actually fall under the category of design? “It is important to question the notion of a direct association between work by prominent early punk designers and the emergence of a radical new visual language of parody and agitprop,” Russ Bestley & Alex Ogg (2012).PUNK  DESIGN / JAMIE REIDAlongside the masses of Fanzines being produced by those with little background of a design or art related education, the relationship that existed between music and design of the Punk era played a crucial role in proving just how big the impact was on design. Hand crafted advertisements with the same DIY ethos were made for gigs and events of the music genre ‘Punk Rock’ and were plastered across streets, lampposts and buildings across the UK, dominating the typical idea of what an advertisement would have looked like (See fig 3.) Punk rock band ‘THE SEX PISTOLS’ were the the biggest band of the time making a huge name for themselves in the UK. Their hit records, such as ‘Anarchy in the UK’ (1976) and ‘God Save the Queen’ (1977), provoked a lot of controversy and helped distinguish the punk movement as an overtly politicised youth culture. Their erratic behaviour on Television and in the public eye seen the band gain huge popularity from the Punk scene. It was designer, Jamie Reid, who played a key part of giving the Sex pistols and the Punk movement as a whole it’s significant characteristics that defined the movements visual impact. Reid was defined by design writer Rick Poynor as “the only pure Punk designer”  (Poynor,  2001,  166). Jamie Reid was heavily influenced by the International Situationist movement, a radical left wing movement that addressed political action merging alongside creative means. The leader of the Situationist movement (Guy Debord) used various forms of art for his political motives, especially focusing on graffiti, comics and collages and Based his visual representation on the style of famous Dadaist artists like Tristan Zara and Hugo Ball. This is why Reid soon began to design and produce different posters, adverts and flyers in support with current political demonstrations of the time. Without a doubt the most memorable pieces of Music/Punk related design came from Key Practitioner Jamie Reid himself, whose work was the pinnacle of Punk design. ”Reid’s creativity and anarchic flair are so impressive, it’s very difficult to single out one aspect as the most important. That said, the ransom note’ typography, used almost every time punk is referenced, was Jamie’s concept (from his publishing days) and instantly lashed itself to the language of punk as the Sex Pistols’ logo and on the sleeves of their early singles. But there can be very few British people over the age of 40, who do not recognise Cecil Beaton’s photographic portrait of the Queen, photocopied and corrupted by a safety pin jammed through her mouth.” Magnus Shaw. 2018. Who Designed Punk Rock?. With the emergence of Punk’s most famous rock band ‘THE SEX PISTOLS’, Reid’s work provided the visual identity and character of the band. Reid was behind the most iconic album cover of the era, ”NEVER MIND THE BOLLOCKS, HERE’S THE SEX PISTOLS’ (See fig 4).  Although pictured in black and white, the vibrant colours it was printed in and its bold title were chose in order to get noticed and to cause disruption. Malcolm McLaren, the manager of the Sex Pistols, stated, Reid’s “style subverted the spectacle and commodification of everyday life by being bolder and more shocking”. The title of the album ‘NEVER MIND THE BOLLOCKS, HERE’S THE SEX PISTOLS’ was created with the method of shock tactics in mind. The typography used on the iconic Sex Pistols album was that of a similar style to a ransom note, featuring newspaper type cuttings which provided the appropriate voice to the bold album title, It conveyed the message very authentically, which definitely gained people’s attention, and motivated them to join in the cause. The style was very rushed and in your face. ”it’s all the types that were being used in the 1970s, but ripped up and mashed together in a mismatching way, then thrown back down on a page with felt tip scribbles. There was definitely no attention to kerning or leading. The theme that runs through is just this DIY immediacy.” (Hyndman, 2016). Reids impact on graphic design was major, as he brought a style that was completely new and innovative as there had been only very few times in design history where type had been broken out of the traditionally used grid and smothered across pages loosely and emotionally, like the Dadaist and Futurist periods of design. But whereas before, revolutionary graphic design posters/work would have featured quite aesthetically pleasing typefaces, With the punk style, its intended purpose was to clash, and bring revolt, something in which Reid achieved massively.It was the same style of shock tactics that could prove Reid’s impact on graphic design was huge, as he himself pretty much provided the visual DNA of which the entirety of the Punk Movement was seen to be. Amateur designers, Fans of his work & DIY Punks all used the same characteristics of Reids original work in everything ‘Punk’ created. Jamie Reid created the Foundations of the visual aesthetics of Punk itself. ”Jamie Reid’s work demonstrated the power of graphic design in the music industry and opened the door to a new generation of British designers. They used the creative freedom of the music industry as a showcase for vibrant design, unaffected by corporate compromise. Their influence has spread beyond music to fashion, the media and consumer packaging” (Smith, 2001).Graphic design was not the only field of design that was impacted as the Punk movement took over the country, other aspects of the creative industry were heavily moved, Fashion being one of the biggest. Before managing the sex pistols, Malcolm Mclaren managed the rebel band ‘New York Dolls’. At the night of one of their gigs in 1975, The theme of the event was communist red – in their own words ‘in coordination with the Dolls’ very special ‘entente cordiale’ with the People’s Republic of China’. Five guys dressed in tight, red coloured leather, played their guitars in front of a background image of the hammer and sickle communist logo. The bands record labels response was very quick and decisive, and a month later the band went on to disassemble. However, this was how the aesthetic of Punk Rock Fashion was established here. The style quickly spread, shying well away from the previous decades look of draped clothes, baggy flares and peace symbols – to super skinny jeans, leather jackets, ripped T-shirts, sweat and anger. Soft lines that were once seen were replaced with sharp cuts and tears. This style reflected the Punk movements motives, just like the Graphic Design style of Jamie Reid, and the DIY ethos of the fanzines. From the early days of the birth of punk, A year before McLaren dressed The New York Dolls in red patent leather, he and his fashion designer girlfriend (Vivienne Westwood) rebranded the pairs ‘ Punk rocker’ shop in 1974, naming the store ‘Sex’ situated at King’s Road in London’s Chelsea. This was definitely the use of shock tactics as almost nobody could have missed or not realised this very bold rebranding. A large sign made of pink rubber letters spelt out SEX in the face of pedestrians passing by, the pairs motto was placed above the shop door reading: ‘Craft must have clothes but Truth loves to go naked’. Inside SEX seen, graffiti art and chicken-wire as the interior design. Its ‘anti-fashion’ philosophy was what provided the Punk movement with its visual statement within fashion. After Malcolm McLaren became the manager of the Sex Pistols, it was Vivienne Westwood ( who is today branded ‘The mother of punk’) who became a lead figure in industry with her very impressive designs and made her name one to remember within the Punk era. Westwood and McLarens fashion work flooded the streets of the UK with clothes that were very opposed to the normal idea of fashion of the time, with streetwear t-shirts that caused controversy, with slogans saying things like like ‘Rapist’ and ‘Paedophilia’ sparking public outrage outrage. Another named, ‘Two Naked Cowboys’, which featured exactly that – two cowboys, wearing no underwear and their genitalia reaching out to greet each other. ”Their store, through its many iterations, cemented an unprecedented relationship between music, fashion and counter-culture, shaping generations of fashion designers who followed”(Rotman, 2017). With the Punk movement still at large in the US, and although a very long way from the UK, two of Punks most iconic trends of the time co-existed within both countries – Ripped shirts and the use of safety-pins. The ‘distressed look’ became a punk-staple and the safety-pin trend has often been linked to the American musician Richard Hell. Sex Pistols frontman Johnny Rotten, however, gave a more sarcastic reason for Punks equipping the essential accessory, claiming they prevented ‘the arse of your pants falling out’. No matter where the safety pin look actually came from, it was quickly adopted by design-duo Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, who radically transformed the style into being both a fashionable accessory and a strong political statement. Their ‘God Save the Queen’ t-shirts for The Sex Pistols which features the Queen having a safety pin through her nose – still to this day has the same amount of controversy behind it and provokes. Westwood and McLaren were the original creators behind this definitive Punk Look. Obscene customisation such as tears, zips, metal studs, badges and even armbands, were now being used as a political statement on the streets of the United Kingdom. These clothes all had a very bold statement and always had something to say – instead of featuring a logo, the T shirts came with different slogans or messages. Westwood and McLaren’s ‘Anarchy shirt’ is a relevant example (see fig.5). In the middle of all the chaos of the British punk movement The Sex Pistols were very much at large, and in 1976 the scene completely exploded when the band released ‘Anarchy in the UK’. The risky T shirt for the track perfectly captured this moment in time. The shirt featured faded prison-like stripes which were over layed with a slogan that read ‘Only Anarchists Are Pretty’; a picture of Karl Marx is appliqued and a red armband reads ‘chaos’. The reasoning behind the shirt and what it symbolised was clear as anything. It’s very easy to see how fashion designer and pioneer of the Punk era Vivienne Westwood was influential to design, having made her mark in the world by infesting the UK with her broad political ideology through the use of her fashion designing skills, and creating the original source to equip those of the Punk Movement. ”This is no accident. Even Kawakubo and Takahashi are not immune to the running obsession with Westwood. All of the above, and more, have cited her as a major influence. Even following SEX, Westwood was one of the earliest designers to politicize fashion, boldly expressing her often controversial viewpoints”(Rotman, 2017).


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