Posts tagged consumerism
Surrealism in Graphic Design

Rick Poynor's talk about Surrealism in graphic design was inspiring and refreshingly idealistic. He is an influential writer on visual culture and founder of Eye magazine. He started off by saying that surrealism is about transforming the world, a kind of 'poetic expression' and document of the 'marvellous'. To surrealists' the term marvellous is something transformative, beautiful and uncanny.

Katastrofa by Roman Cieślewicz (1961). From the archive of the Moravian Gallery in Brno. [Image Source].

Poynor argues that the clinical and grid-based designs being mass-produced today in the UK are a symptom of a much larger social control. The mobile phone that is supposed to free you is actually putting you into a node. He suggested that we should avoid 'submitting to the grid.' Instead he showed us brilliant examples of Polish and Czech graphic designers who created unforgettable images using surrealist elements. There are various ways to create this surrealist feeling: random juxtaposition, doubles, repetition, and of course the use of dolls. The images should make you feel uncomfortable, repelled and at the same time attracted to the work.

From the archive of the Moravian Gallery in Brno. [Image Source].

This image above by Jan Švankmajer is an excellent example of the kind of surrealist work Poynor emphasized in the talk and his earlier exhibition about the same topic.

^ by French artist Marion Bataille. From the archive of the Moravian Gallery in Brno. [Image Source].

Poynor goes on to mention that none of this may be "true" surrealist art since a true surrealist has sworn into the surrealist manifesto. You could say that this use of surrealist imagery in advertising and movie posters is a commodification of such ideals. We cannot deny however that surrealism, even as a term, has diffused into the mainstream, though not necessarily in the way that the original surrealist intended the term and imagery to be used.

Finally Poynor laments the absence of disruptive graphic design in UK and London, especially in the London tube. By encouraging students like us to pursue our individual expression, he hopes for a 'visual culture that reflects humanity in all its complexity.'


Poynor, R (2011). Surrealism in Graphic Design. Arts University College Bournemouth. 13th May.

Design Observer Blogs. (2010) Uncanny: Surrealism and Graphic Design. Available from: [Accessed 15th May 2011].

Moravian Gallery in Brno. (2010). Uncanny: Surrealism in Graphic Design by Rick Poynor. Available from Accessed [15th May 2011].