CMYK Magazine, 14 / Early Spring 2001
by Lynda Twardowski
Chances are, you don’t know Fairey. But you probably have seen some of his work. As the one-man militia behind the “Obey Giant” campaign, Fairey despite seven arrests has taken it upon himself to plaster the world with stickers bearing a very frightening resemblance to the famed late wrestler Andre Rousimmoff, a.k.a. obey giant. Why does he do it?
“When I first started doing the giant thing, it was sort of just a joke. But very quickly I realized that . . . just planting something out there that’s provocative and not explained and is all over the place, it does something.
“It was like a lesson in sociology or anthropology for me to see how things got spread by word of mouth and how people’s interests were piqued. I really thought that is was something nobody had exploited to its full potential outside, maybe, the realm of advertising and on a much more sort of insidious, grassroots level that wasn’t some sort of religion or cult. I mean, my thing’s been called all of those things. But I really thought there’s all these communities within communities, and then each state is like a bigger community, and each is connected by highways, and you know what I’m saying? Just the organization of how it’ll take place and spread quickly in little cells and expand into the bigger cell around that and so on and so on.
“I realized really quickly that, if done properly, if the seeds are planted in the right place, it could really expand out. And I had all these fantasies about that, and it worked. Each little taste of success I had with it, the more excited I got that all my fantasies could turn into something real, and the more energy I got. So as I’m going, people are saying, ‘Aren’t you getting bored with this?’ And I’m seeing that it hasn’t even come close to reaching its full potential. So, no, I’m not getting bored of it. I’m getting more and more excited about it. To me, it’s like the biggest coup in history: the branding campaign with no product.”
And now that he’s part of a powerful marketing company whose job it is to jump-start branding campaigns for actual products? Not a problem product or no product, payment or no payment so long as the vision remains intact.
“I think Blk/Mrkt’s collective vision is to create marketing materials for companies that understand the level of artistic integrity we have in our work and are willing to trust our judgement and pay us reasonably as people who have very developed design and illustration skills yet are young enough and in-touch enough to connect with the 15- to 30-year-old market,” he says. “I’d like to think that the work I do personally and Blk/Mrkt does as a company can open people up to the potential of earning a living creatively without having to bow to the proverbial ‘man.'”