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Defacement (vandalism)

Defacement is a type of vandalism that involves damaging the appearance or surface of something. The object of damage may be architecture, books, paintings, sculpture or other forms of art.

Examples of defacement include:

Iconoclasm led to the defacement of many religious artworks.

Defacing could also be one of the techniques that many graphic designers use, by applying their own hand writing on a graphic itself. “For designer who want a non-modernist and individual portfolio, an illegible grunge typeface becomes a seductive method of self-identity” (T Fre-Jones in M Bieut et al. 1997). A lot of Stefan Sagmeister work demonstrate this technique very well. The Lou Reed CD cover by Stefan, Having a photo of Reed himself as a background for the designer to start writing the note along with Reed face. As the user use handwriting note and sketching through the existing work, it’s giving the work itself become more unique and personal feel.

Sometimes the use of this technique might be mistaken as vandalism to the original work, like the Adbuster no.37 cover by Mike Simons. Where the designer scribble over the cover image with a black marker pen, so it looks like someone has vandalized the image. Another unique using of defacement technique is the CD cover for APC by Jean Touitou, where the designer wrote the title, volume number, and date with her own hand writing on the pre-print blank CD. Not only about writing and sketching is in the form of vandalism, but also the spraying on the KPIST album Golden coat for MNW Records by Sweden graphic. The cover using the spray of gold color is not considered an act of vandalism at all but the customer may also sense the personal unique of each cover that had been spray gold in different way(Odling-Smee Anne, 2002).

Most of these style like the vandalism, could also be seen as a form of graffiti art work. According to Susan A. Phillips (2016), an idea originally refer from the Greek word “graphien"(to write), graffiti could mean drawing or scribbling on a flat surface. Which could relate to how defacing work. An example of this can is in the work of an artist group called Bank created a work Fax-bak in 1990. The artist collects the gallery press release and then make a marking as this was an essay of student, then they faxed it back to the gallery.

Odling-Smee Anne (2002) the new handmade graphics: Beyond digital design. RotoVision SA

  • Marking or removing the part of an object (especially images, be they on the page, in illustrative art or as a sculpture) designed to hold the viewers' attention
  • Scoring a book cover with a blade
  • Splashing paint over a painting in a gallery
  • Smashing the nose of a sculpted bust
  • Altering the content of web sites and publicly editable repositories to include nonsensical or whimsical references.


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