In this lesson, you will learn about propaganda.

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Video Transcription

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Hi, everyone. My name is Mario. And I'd like to welcome you to today's lesson on propaganda.

So we'll learn about propaganda and then check out a few examples of it in practice. So as always, feel free to pause, rewind, and fast forward at your own pace. And when you're ready to go, let's jump in.

So propaganda is the controlled dissemination and proliferation of symbolic messages in order to influence an audience's attitude. And basically what that means is that it's a form of communication that is aimed towards influencing the attitude of the viewer or community towards a particular cause or position. And it's usually by presenting only one side of the story or idea, or argument.

And design's connection to propaganda is best known for its war campaign posters, like this US propaganda poster depicting Uncle Sam, which also has the US initials. Now, Uncle Sam is supposed to be kind of a personification of the US government or US power, and the country. So it's suggesting that you join him by joining the US military and fighting with country.

Now, illustrations and these war campaign posters were also often used to stereotype the enemy, like in this next poster here, titled Jap Trap. And you can see that it's being used to demoralize the enemy and it's symbolically comparing them to rats. So this is going to influence the viewer's attitude towards these people or soldiers in a very negative fashion.

Now, design employs propaganda by repeating the symbol or slogan ad nauseum, which is another way of saying that it continues to be shown to the point of nausea or until it's tired out. And it gets repeated regardless of whether the statement is true or if there's even a statement at all to be made. And a symbol or slogan becomes credible simply by the amount of exposure it has received.

So a really great example of this in practice is Shepard Fairey's Obey posters. And Shepard Fairey's an American contemporary graphic designer who came to be known for his Obey posters depicting Andre, the Giant. Now, these images have no message, there's no statement, and there's no idea he's trying to convey to you or convince you of anything. And in fact, Fairey has said the real message behind most of my work is to question everything.

And he's also said, the sticker has no meaning, but exists only to cause people to react, to contemplate, and to search for meaning in the sticker. So again, the mere reputation was enough of a statement to be made, because it became credible simply by the amount of mass exposure, despite there being no real message to project. And Shepard Fairey, by the way, is also responsible for the Hope poster that has received such mass exposure and credibility as well.

Well, that ends today's lesson. We'll finish off with our single key term for today which was "propaganda." And I hope this is an interesting quick look at just how powerful and influential design can be in propaganda. And if you're interested or intrigued in this lesson or want to learn a little bit more about Shepard Fairey or other prolific artists, you can check out Exit Through the Gift Shop. And it's another great means for you to see just how powerful design really is.

My name, again, is Mario. I hope you've enjoyed this lesson. And I'll catch you next one.

Notes on "Propaganda"


Image of Uncle Sam, Public Domain


Image of Jap Trap, Public Domain


Image of Obey Poster, Creative Commons


Image of Obey Sticker, Creative Commons


Image of Obey Repetition, Creative Commons


Image of Hope Painting, Creative Commons


  • Propaganda

    Propaganda is the controlled dissemination and proliferation of symbolic messages in order to influence an audience’s attitude.