Reisig-High and Low Art


In a world where every single object that one come into contact with is designed. It is hard for some people to truly comprehend the innate value of each individual piece. No mater what the object is big or small, valuable or invaluable, vital or insignificant; there is a designer and a design process to go along with it. Although not every piece is created equally in the eyes of society, there is something to be said about the time and effort spent designing it. There is good design and bad design. Design that serves a practical means to get through every day life, and design that makes the world a “prettier place”. The basis of all design is to solve some sort of problem. Whether it is the car that drives you to work each morning or the mug that holds your coffee that helps you get through the day. The central essence of each of these to objects is to solve some sort of problem or need.

Traffic signs are a perfect example of solving a design problem. There are various types of signs needed in order to conduct traffic in a safe and orderly way. These signs communicate with pedestrians and drivers, telling them what is allowed and what is not allowed in various traffic situations. Although this is not a very glamorous design job it is an essential part of what keeps an orderly society. Much thought goes into the general design of each type of sign. The goal of these signs is to communicate. Form follows function. Most traffic signs have to be viewed at either a great distance or at a very quick glance. As a result it is designed in a way that helps aide in the recognition of the information being presented. For example, the majority of signs for different exits and roads on expressways and turnpikes have a solid green background, with a stark white bold sans serif font. Sans serif typefaces are known to have the ability to be read easily from a distance. A solid darker background will starkly contrast the white type, making it more visible and legible, especially at night or in low light situations. One will also notice that there is a great deal of consistency between signs. All stop signs in the United States are red octagons. So every time a driver sees a red octagon, from whatever distance, they recognize that it is telling them to stop. This consistency in design aids in the communication of the information trying to be expressed. The US government as well as each state has set a strict set of guidelines dictating the specific signs and their usage. Much like how a company would set the rules for the use of their corporate identity. As a result these signs become very recognizable and in many cases they become iconic.

The iconic nature of road signs have made many artists turn to them as a tool to express their ideas. TrustoCorp is a perfect example of an artist using this iconic signage to express their ideas. TrustoCorp is a New York based artist collective which on a national level expresses themselves and their political opinions through the use of illegally installed street signs. The Opera gallery describes them best by saying; “TrustoCorp targets areas in the public domain typically reserved for messages of trust and authority and subverts them with messages of mayhem and absurdity hijacked from the visual style of our authorities” (“Opera”). These rather humorous protests of authority rely heavily on the simple design structure that is dictated by the US government. They combine simple yet bold illustrations along with corporate logos and other iconic imagery with ordinary looking but witty remarks, or social commentary. The design is well though out and striking. They are also constructed out of similar materials to that of real signs. However, an integral part of the artwork is its placement. Most of these pieces are put in situations where they comment on its surroundings as well as in places where a sign of its nature would normally be found. The success of these protests comes as a result of their ability to blend into everyday life. One of the biggest issues when it comes to street is the life span of each individual piece. Since the majority of street art is installed illegally, the authoritative force in that area tries to remove it as quickly as possible. Resulting in a lot of risk for the artist with sometimes a very limited exposure to the public. TrustoCorp uses the idea of camouflage as a way to help naturally extend the life of each piece. Thus making each concept or idea presented in each sign more powerful. Like many other street artists, they also us a great deal of social media to promote themselves and to immortalize their work. The combination of these two forces also has exponentially increased the reach that each individual sign has. Resulting in the increased notoriety of TrustoCorp. Elevating the monetary, and cultural value that each of these signs has. Transforming it from a simple road sign to a piece of fine art. TrustoCorp is not the only street artist to utilize this tactic. Probably one of the most famous and sought after street artist Banksy has done several pieces like this. Although he does them in a slightly different manner all of the same principles apply. However these pieces are worth significantly more money than equivalent pieces by TrustoCorp, solely because of the name associated with it. Banksy’s name alone carries a significantly higher price tag than any other street artist, when it comes to selling his work. This just reinforces the idea in the art world that name carries value above all else. This does not take away the brilliance of his work, but in some ways a persons name can take precedence over the product that they create.

The design world and the fine art world are completely intertwined. When people think of value, they think in the sense of what apiece will go for in a fine arts auction. Although some pieces are highly sought after, the much of the time the origin of these pieces can be found in lower forms of art ort design. TrustoCorp and Banksy are perfect examples of this idea. Both take standard, everyday pieces of design such as street signs and turn them into pieces of fine art by adding personal touches to them, along with their name in order to increase their value.



“Opera Gallery.” Opera Gallery. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Dec. 2013.

“TRUSTOCORP.” TRUSTOCORP. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Dec. 2013.

“United States Road Symbol Signs.” United States Road Symbol Signs. N.p., n.d. Web.    18 Dec. 2013.



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