10 ways to apply the lessons of pop art to your design

ways-pop-art-changed-modern-design

Pop art is one of the world's largest art movements and still used in design to this day. In this article, we will learn from one of the most recognizable styles of modern art and learn how to use pop art using famous pop art examples.

Pop Art emerged in the mid-1950s and 60s in Britain and America when artists created works inspired by the realities of everyday life—of popular culture, hence the name.

Artists such as Andy Warhol(opens in a new tab or window), Roy Lichtenstein(opens in a new tab or window), and Richard Hamilton(opens in a new tab or window) questioned elitist culture and fine art traditions and instead used imagery and techniques drawn from mass media and mass culture.

With saturated colors(opens in a new tab or window) and bold outlines, their vivid representations of everyday objects and everyday people reflected the optimism, affluence, materialism, leisure, and consumption of postwar society. Pop art is known for its bold features and can help you grab the attention of your audience instantly. Whether you're designing posters(opens in a new tab or window) or creating social media graphics(opens in a new tab or window), here are 10 pop art examples and 10 ways to apply them to your design.

01. Play on the themes of consumption and materialism

01. Tom Wesselman, Still Life #35

Art Tattler

First up, let’s lay down a couple of the central themes of Pop Art. Whether it was an endorsement or critique of capitalism, artists depicted the affluence and abundance of postwar society with imagery that celebrated materialism.

Consequently, Pop Art works have imagery drawn from advertising and consumerism with prominent brand names and recognizable packaging.

02. Sciencewerk

Bēhance

Sciencewerk(opens in a new tab or window)’s visual identity for Basha Market draws on ‘Broadway’ and its array of colorful typographic and symbolic signs, each one advertising a popular product of service for consumption.

03. Adrian _ Gidi

Adrian & Gidi

This set design by Adrian & Gidi(opens in a new tab or window) has a cool Miami vibe and advertises a selection of the cosmetics on offer at perfume shop Ici Paris XL. Packaging and brand names are all recognizable and elevated to protagonist status, sporting handbags, sunglasses, and shopping bags.

02. Use fame and celebrity culture

04. Andy Warhol, Untitled from Marilyn Monroe

MOMA

The second theme of Pop Art is the obsession with fame and celebrity culture—and surely little has changed today. Hollywood, movies, television, magazines, and newspapers were booming and as Andy Warhol declared, “In the future everybody will be world famous for fifteen minutes.”

Certainly fame and celebrities, like everything else in the 1950s and 1960s, was something to be consumed, and it’s evident in the Pop Art representations of celebrities like Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley.

East meets West on this cover of Vogue Italia and it’s clear to see where Steven Klein got his inspiration from, reinterpreting—and almost recreating—Warhol’s iconic image of Marilyn Monroe.

Tattle gives photos of Kate Middleton the Andy Warhol treatment

Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe series also provided the inspiration for this cover of Tatler magazine, which features four images of Kate Middleton in bright, saturated colors. Is that because the public just can’t get enough of the Duchess of Cambridge?

03. Borrow from mass media

This collage was made for John F. Kennedy when he was President Elect

With fame and consumption so heavily promoted in the postwar mass media, artists turned to them for inspiration and reference.

They borrowed physically and aesthetically from visual sources such as television, magazines, and comic strips, and created work that incorporated magazine pages, were rendered like comic strips, and featured images of recognizable products and people. You can also make your design through our magazine mockups(opens in a new tab or window).

08. Michael Hendrix Make America Great Again Collage

AIGA

This political poster(opens in a new tab or window) by Michael Hendrix(opens in a new tab or window) uses an image from a magazine or newspaper—it’s grain clearly visible—overlaid with a ‘Make America Great Again’ hat, the catchcry of Donald Trump.

It’s certainly not the picture of “Hope,” Shepard Fairey(opens in a new tab or window)’s portrait of Barack Obama, which also draws on some Pop Art conventions.

Alexandra Bruel was commissioned by the British version of Vogue to create a pop art inspired jewellery setup

Alexandra Bruel(opens in a new tab or window) also borrows from mass media visual sources, and in this case, it’s Pop Art. This set design for British Vogue features models of Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans to showcase the glittering jewelry, which serves to break down the barriers between high culture and low culture.

04. Showcase ordinary objects

Andy Warhol, Brillo Box (Soap Pads) 1964. Via MoMA

Artists incorporated and created images of objects that were banal, commonplace, and ubiquitous: Items on people’s weekly shopping list, products found in the back of a pantry, and tools stored in a cleaning cupboard.

This elevation of everyday objects to high art status subverted cultural hierarchy and commented on art’s role as a commodity. In doing so, artists like Andy Warhol elevated everyday objects to museum status.

Design by Kissmiklos

The commonplace burger has become a gourmet offering in recent years and this visual identity by Kissmiklos(opens in a new tab or window) captures that transformation as well as contrasting high culture and low culture references.

It has everyday images of burgers and soft drinks, plus a logo rendered in the style of Louis Vuitton, laid out in a pattern à la LV.

Erin McGuire draws on popular culture references for her Coca-Cola pixel art. Via Behance.

Erin McGuire(opens in a new tab or window) transforms a can of Coke Zero into a piece of pixel art by borrowing aesthetically from two visual sources. The first is the popular 1980s video game Space Invaders; the second is pixel artist Invader who leaves his mark on spaces throughout Paris.

05. Enlarge and repeat objects

Andy Warhol is famous for taking familiar objects and turning it into pop art, like this Campbell's soup cans

To drive home the theme of consumption and the point that art may borrow from any source, artists satirized everyday objects. The result was commonplace objects enlarged to gigantic proportions and repeated for visual effect.

Trident gum pop-art example

Bēhance

This playful and interactive packaging for sugar-free chewing gum by Hani Douaji(opens in a new tab or window) has a mouth that takes center stage, and it’s large enough for the individual pieces of gum to appear like teeth.

15. Wei Yi Boo

Bēhance

Wei Yi Boo(opens in a new tab or window)’s campaign for Chupa Chups not only repeats the image of the iconic lollipop, like Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe series, but it also draws on characters from popular culture.

Each Chupa Chup represents a different cartoon including Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Where’s Waldo, and the Super Mario Bros.

Create patterns with simple objects by repeating them in a bigger size, like with the Exclusive Offers Social Media Post(opens in a new tab or window) and Colorful Summer Sale Social Media Post(opens in a new tab or window) templates.

06. Isolate material from its context

Andy Warhol's experimentation with the banana motif began in 1967, when he designed the cover of The Velvet Underground's debut album

Pop Art is, in many cases, removed of emotion, and it does this by removing material from its context. For example, a banana painted as part of a fruit bowl in a still life is quite different to this oversized banana by Andy Warhol.

Objects are not only removed from their context, but also combined with other objects or images(opens in a new tab or window) to create other associations that play on the themes of consumption, materialism, and fame.

17. Van Orton Design

Van Orton Design

VJ Day in Time Square’ (1945) by Alfred Eisenstaedt is one of the most famous black-and-white photographs in existence, and probably the most well-known from America’s post-WWII celebrations.

Van Orton Design(opens in a new tab or window) used the image for a Sisley window display and rendered it in Pop Art style with saturated colors and sharp lines.

18. Twice Studio

Twice Studio

These posters by Twice Studio(opens in a new tab or window) not only take a Pop Art approach aesthetically, with bright saturated colors and bold black lines, but what look to be images of cartoon characters are blown up to almost abstract proportions.

07. Collage images

Richard Hamilton, Just what is it that makes today's homes so different, so appealing?

Pop Art artists fashioned meaning in their works by combining similar and dissimilar images, many of which were ‘found’ in magazines, comic books, advertising and other mass-produced graphic work.

The effect was to create analogies between popular products and people in order to make an artistic or cultural statement.

20. Snask

The Die Line

This cover for Washington Posts’ ‘Favorite’ issue by Snask(opens in a new tab or window) features a series of objects in the shape of letters that when combined spell out the word ‘favorite.’

Heath Killen uses collage to make interesting designs

Heath Killen(opens in a new tab or window) is an Australian artist and designer who incorporates images from magazines and photographs into his work, arranging, overlaying, enlarging and coloring various elements to create meaning related to the product or service on show.

08. Reproduce, overlay, duplicate, and combine images

10. Meet the People 1972 by Sir Eduardo Paolozzi 1924-2005

Eduardo Paolozzi, Meet the People

The visual effect of Pop Art, whether it is collage(opens in a new tab or window) or repetition, is created via the reproduction, overlay, and duplication of various images.

This combination of images was used to reflect everyday life of postwar society, while repetition emphasized those elements the postwar population found fascination with.

23. Sagmeister _ Walsh

Sagmeister & Walsh

This very clever campaign by Sagmeister & Walsh(opens in a new tab or window) overlays a set designed to look like a bedroom or living room with color that emphasizes object outlines in a comic-strip style typical of Pop Art. The effect transforms three-dimensional spaces and objects into flattened form.

Via Mojoko

Artist and designer Mojoko(opens in a new tab or window) bombards viewers with an abundance of imagery in his work Red Flower Power, with an array of recognizable faces from Western and Asian culture.

09. Use saturated colors

Keith Haring pop art figures

Widewalls

Postwar life was filled with color due to the mass production of new plastics and other materials manufactured in a rainbow of colors. Bright colors conveyed the optimism and affluence of postwar life, and Pop Art artists used primary colors and saturated neons to vivid effect.

Reynold Reyner Waldo Trommler Paints

Reynolds & Reyner

Vibrant color is the name of the game when it comes to Reynolds & Reyner(opens in a new tab or window)’s packaging design for Waldo Trommler Paints. Designed to ‘stand out’ on shelves, the cans combine green, yellow, pink, purple, red, blue, plus more.

27. Kiss Miklos

Kissmiklos

This design by Kissmiklos(opens in a new tab or window) borrows directly from Pop Art’s rendering of comic strips. In bright, saturated colors, a comic illustration with the word ‘BOOM’ appropriately hides the boiler.

Don't be shy with playing with colors to liven up your design, just like with the Art Event Flyer(opens in a new tab or window) and Colorful Floral Doodle Background Flyer(opens in a new tab or window) templates.

10. Use clear lines and sharp color

Lichtenstein's 'In the Car' is based on a frame from Girls' Romance comic

Similarly, clean lines, bold outlines, and sharp color are familiar characteristics of Pop Art, as artists drew on commercial production techniques of mass media imagery. Many artists began their careers in the world of commercial art, and trained in production techniques such as screen printing they looked to the visual style of mass media imagery, such as comic strips.

29. Jan Baca

Jan Baca

Jan Baca(opens in a new tab or window)’s visual reference is very clear, not only in the aesthetic style of the work, which looks like Roy Lichtenstein’s famous paintings; but also in that the style has fittingly been applied to a product that promotes consumption and materialism.

H7 Juice Up is fun and funky. Via Bēhance

Clean lines and sharp color are also evident in H 7’s(opens in a new tab or window) Juice Up. Each packaging unit is wrapped in a design that represents the flavor of contents of the juice itself, enlarging the fruit beyond its typical proportions.

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