In the street there are no rules, there is no profession and anything flies. The world of street art is one of equal opportunity. While the term may bring to mind spray paint, graffiti and murals, it’s always evolving—and one of the latest trends we’ve seen on the urban landscape is sticker art.
Like traditional street art, sticker art is usually not sanctioned (or legal, for that matter). It’s boundary-pushing and plays with the environment in unique and clever ways that can invoke creativity anyplace, anywhere. So what can you learn from these sticker bombers? We’ve pulled together five ways this medium can empower you to think beyond the expected.
1. Being bizarre can make you stand out
In the example above, we see a slightly wonky looking cat rendered in psychedelic colors. While it wouldn’t win any graphic design awards, it certainly grabs our attention. More people are probably likely to smile and react to this sticker than, say, a simple tag.
What can be learned from this is this silly cat is that sticker design is not always a competition of technical skill, but rather of the bizarre, the humorous, the strange—a competition of who can push the envelope further. Stickers are meant to capture attention. And a good sticker designer must think how to twist the mind in a way that makes a passerby stop in their tracks and question reality itself.
2. You are part of something bigger
Sticker art almost never stand alone. A good sticker designer must remember that their work will inevitably become a part of a much larger “piece.” With that in mind, the designer should consider how their contribution can bring a strong and concise flavor to the overall piece, rather than adding more noise.
In the image above, the “SOLVE” sticker brings that dimension to the whole by pushing a style that is very computerized and geometric—a lesser seen style on the streets. On the other side of things, the skull with antlers is flat at the bottom and dye cut on the top, making it feel like it’s growing out of the physical environment.
For non-street sticker designs, think about where your designs might be stuck: on a laptop, a bike, a skateboard or a water bottle. Is it a bumpersticker or a window decal for a car? Will kids put it on their bed posts or school desks? Or on their school binders? Will it be handed out at night clubs (and then stuck on the bathroom walls)? How can you make your sticker design stand out (or creatively blend in) with that location?
3. Don’t be afraid to be yourself
Many street stickers are individual expressions of an artist’s personality or emotions. This contrasts with a lot of standard graphic design work that exists today, which can often constrain the individual or the personality of the designer.
When designing stickers, it’s important to break through that constraint to let some of your character show through. Stickers help others express their own personality: they put stickers on objects to help claim them as their own. If you design with a little bit of yourself, it will make it easier for viewers to connect.
4. Size matters
Out of all the stickers in the example above, there is one that stands out—the huge “ZOLTRON” sticker. I wouldn’t say it’s the best design on this stop sign, the most colorful, or even the most provocative, but it is the biggest. If you need to make a sticker that will dominate a sticker landscape, don’t be afraid to break out of the ~5 inch “safe zone.”
Unlike say, billboards, stickers aren’t created for the mainstream audience. Sticker art is for the curious among us, the people with wandering eyes and imaginations, people who look behind the road sign or up a light pole, and can appreciate the fun and quirky things in life.
It’s important to acknowledge that you are not designing for a space that is built to be looked at or framed to draw in the eye. Rather, stickers are added to the unexpected. They create visual interest by contrasting with the things they are stuck on.
Design your stickers knowing that viewers will connect with them in a personal, imaginative and intellectual way. Design them for urban explorers, who are looking for the magic and fun in the everyday. Check out that sticker above depicting an astronaut made out of hamburgers—enough said.
Sticker art has always been subversive. Whether you’re putting them on your wall and messing up mom’s favorite wallpaper or slapping them on public buildings to express a political idea, they manipulate the landscape around them.
Even if you’re designing more traditional stickers for a restaurant or a tech company, it’s important to think about how they will be used. Don’t be afraid to be a bit quirky or personal with your stickers—it’s a design medium that stands far apart from any other and should be treated as such.