Remix as a design method

13 november 2017

Remix= Language+Ideology

To remix means to combine or edit existing materials to produce something new. However, in this post we are not only looking at the re-mix as a tool for referring to existing knowledges, visual styles and languages, but also as a design strategy. Let’s have a good look at this advertisement of Mc Donalds Garlic Mayo Chicken Wrap of the Day.
What is sampled here? And why?

Take a close look at the colors, the ‘ransom-note-copy-paste-style’ of the typography, the use of composition (random). The advertisement undoubtedly refers to the artwork of the classic punk album ‘Never mind the Bollocks, here’s is the Sex Pistols’ designed by Jamie Reid. This ‘original’ is a remix in itself: Reid -as a artist/designer who is affiliated with anti-capitalistic-don’t-call-it-an-art movement Situationism International- here makes use of the ‘détournement’ in order to disrupt the Society of the Spectacle. Seemingly without any professional skills and knowledge of ruling design conventions, the letters are cut-out of newspaper-headings, glued in another order to create new words and sentences and photocopied. Then Reid scatters the words or sentences on the paper in a ‘random-like’ fashion. All choices are made to disrupt ruling systems, traditions and establishment: royalty, capitalism, government, bourgeoisie, music, art, aesthetics, design professionalism.

So punk is the language that is sampled by McDonalds. But which message is sampled? Of anti-establishment? Anti-capitalism? Anti-ruling-powers. McDonalds? The fast food emperor? The symbol of capitalism, consumption and waste? Anarchy would be a strange strategy to use for McDonalds.

What do we know about the branding of McDonalds?

In recent years Mc Donalds has obtained a negative image. McDonald has used everything in its power to change this image of a earth consuming fast food chain to a corporation who cares about the earth and the quality of food. This is seen in the rebranding of the restaurants from a red and yellow (that screams “cheap and leave a.s.a.p.”) to a wood and green, relating to a more relaxed and qualitative eating experience in a establishment that cares for the world. However, as we all know, the concept of McDonalds and fastfood is not sustainable. We all rationally know that the image McDonalds constructs is false. McDonald here makes use of the language of ‘sustainability‘ so that we -customers- feel a bit better about our consumption.

This advertisement does not mimic ‘sustainability’, it mimics ’70’s punk from UK’. But perhaps it uses the same strategy of ‘parasitising’ on an existing ‘authentic’ language.

What do we know about the context of this advertisement?

I took this picture of the billboard on October 2017 at King’s Cross Station, in the center of London, United Kingdom. So the setting is London, England, Great Brittain. Is this style of advertisement only used in UK? A quick online search, shows that this specific visual language is only used in UK and Ireland. What if we imagine this advertisement in Singapore, Belgium or the Netherlands would it still be effective? Will it still work? By the choice of visual language we can assume not.

McD is tapping into a specific feeling that lives in the UK, that is the feeling of Britishness, of a national pride. The Sex Pistols and the British Punk-style are part of the history of Great Britain and therefor can work as a sign of nationalism. Here we see the Society of the Spectacle at play. Every protest against the regime of the Spectacle, will become a spectacle in itself and thus incorporated by the Spectacle.