The Trend Towards Using Graffiti In Company Logos & Branding

graffiti trend company logo branding

When you hear the word “graffiti”, what type of images appear in your mind? For many, the term will undoubtedly have negative connotations; the traditional dictionary definition of graffiti is, after all, “Writing or drawing on a public surface; usually without authorization”. 

The Origins of Graffiti 

The original definition quoted above was supposedly added to Merriam Webster’s Dictionary in 1945. Interestingly, however, Darryl “Cornbread” McCray (widely considered to be the world’s first modern graffiti artist) was not born until 1953. This makes the “official” timeline seem a little sketchy at best. 

Casting that discrepancy aside for a moment, browsing the much more modern “Urban Dictionary” reveals a slightly different definition added in 2003: “A form of art and expression. The world is each one’s canvas”. Which definition do you like best? 

I asked around twenty people this question, and several of them pointed out that the two definitions were clearly not mutually exclusive. This is because there is nothing that stops unauthorized writing or drawing from also being a form of art or expression; perhaps even a great one. 

Of course, some graffiti is ugly and destructive. On the other hand, take a look at some of the work being created by Alec Monopoly, or better still perhaps Eduardo Kobra’s art, and few could fail to be impressed at the potential of these people who began their artistic careers by creating unauthorized graffiti art. 

Graffiti Leaves The Streets 

When historians look back at our current era some time in the future, it is possible – perhaps even likely – that our time will be judged as an era of urban art, and the style will come to be recognized as being just as valid and valuable as the renaissance, romanticism, and other kinds of modern and contemporary art. 

What began as an act of rebellion, often for the purpose of making anti-establishment or anti-political statements, has undeniably evolved massively during the last fifty years. One of the most interesting developments during that time has been the movement of graffiti from something seen exclusively on the street, to finding a place on the inside of our buildings. 

Art galleries are becoming increasingly interested in graffiti-style artwork, but the general public too has also taken a huge interest in the phenomenon of urban art. Some have even decorated the walls of their homes with graffiti-based artwork, whilst others have commissioned huge, wall-spanning pieces for the inside of their offices. 

In what some would say is an overwhelmingly ironic twist in the tale, graffiti style drawing and writing is quickly finding a home in a new place – a place where few would ever have imagined it would go… 

The Use Of Graffiti Art In Corporate Logos And Branding 

The trend of companies using graffiti-based art in their branding has probably been going on for some time, but a turning point seems to have occurred sometime around 2019. It was at this time that many large online news sites began to report on “luxury brands taking over street art”. 

The London borough of Hackney is famous for its urban art, particularly in and around the trendy neighborhood of Shoreditch. Tourists often flock to this part of London to admire the street art on display by graffiti artists such as Banksy, Stik, and Mr Cenz, but around 2019 new spray paintings began to appear. 

Advertising companies had picked up on the popularity of the area as a hub for all things street art, and the authentic pieces began to be joined by corporate logos for brands such as Christian Louboutin, Brewdog, Innocent Smoothies, and even watchmaker Swatch. 

As articles began to be published about the appearance of these logos on London streets, it soon turned out that the Brits were not alone. Similar artwork was also appearing around Los Angeles in the United States, and Sao Paulo in Brazil, as companies who were previously put off by graffiti’s association with vandalism, criminal damage, and trespassing discovered the uniquely powerful impact that graffiti-based art could have. 

Why The Graffiti Style Works So Well 

Companies spend enormous amounts on marketing and advertising and creating a viral social media campaign can easily cost many millions of dollars. For a business, the more marketing your customers can do for you, the lower your advertising budget needs to be. This is one reason why many companies love splashing huge logos on their products – a customer wearing a T-Shirt bearing your company logo is effectively a free walking billboard. 

The graffiti-based artworks commissioned for campaigns such as the one that took place in Shoreditch were so successful that people visiting the area would take pictures of themselves with the artworks and spread them on social media. The best street art would quickly go viral and spread around the world, sometimes in just a few hours. 

In some cases, companies decided that the graffiti-style artwork was now more widely associated with their brand than their actual logo - so they rebranded their entire business as a result. Are graffiti style corporate logo’s just another fad? Or will some survive long into the future? As they always say, only time will tell.

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