Art is all around us and graffiti art is moving into the mainstream world. Below is an article posted on the Art Institute website that goes further into how this once unacceptable form of art has evolved from vandalism to artistic masterpieces seen all over the graphic design industry.

Strolling along an inner-city street isn’t the only way to experience the urban aesthetic anymore. Graffiti-inspired design can be found almost everywhere now – in advertising and living rooms, and on clothing and toys. The free-flowing and spontaneous styles used in the public space have caught on in the mainstream, and graphic designers are fanning the flames.

Graffiti has colored the urban landscape for decades and has actually been traced to ancient times. The objectives of graffiti writers and street artists vary; some use their public art to voice a specific message or political view, while others just see the urban space as a big platform to showcase their work.

Although graffiti is considered vandalism when applied without the property owner’s consent, its style is finding a legitimate place in advertising, magazines, billboards, television graphics, and even corporate logos. A few of the world’s top brands like Pepsi, Sony, and Nike have sought street cred by using graffiti-style art in marketing efforts.


Graphic artists and designers have also incorporated the style in non-marketing materials. Miami-based Graff Toyz produces interactive graffiti-inspired toys and art objects. The company is the brainchild of designer Jay Bellicchi, who was a graffiti artist as a youth in Boston from the mid-1980s through early 1990s. Known then as “REMOTE” in his graffiti circuit, Bellicchi eventually started using computer graphics programs to create graffiti-style lettering. That’s also when he realized the potential of incorporating graffiti elements into other mediums.

“I found myself doing graffiti on paper and realized that I could use all my techniques to do design,” he says.

The idea would resurface a decade later when Bellicchi became a Web Design student at The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. It was at the art school that he met fellow student and web designer Josh Hughes, with whom he would share his idea for creating toys inspired by graffiti. Hughes supported Bellicchi’s idea and set out to help him turn it into reality. After a few more years of developing their business plan, the pair founded Graff Toyz in 2009.

“Art school was valuable for me in the sense that I made connections there,” he says. “I met Josh there and networked with other artists.”

Graff Toyz products include printed and hand-painted dry erase boards made of heavy-duty Plexiglas showing iconic symbols of graffiti culture – the “Hello my name is” tag, word cloud, and subway train.

“The erase board is just one product line and the first we put out,” Bellicchi tells. “We also have puzzles with graffiti-styled letters.”


The visual appeal of graffiti, especially to young people, is something not only acknowledged by Bellicchi. Shirley Yee, chairperson of the Graphic Design department at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh, says it takes a lot to grab the attention of younger people, and the bold styles of graffiti and street art do just that.

“Kids learn how to use Photoshop in junior high now,” she says. “They are more visually sophisticated and expect more.”

Yee has started to see the street art influence in a few of her students’ work, and has especially seen popularity grow in the use of handscript and graffiti-like fonts. But in general, she says contemporary graphic design is influenced by many trends both past and present.

“Street art is certainly a trend that is getting a lot of notice,” she says. “For so long, graphic design has been influenced by a kind of militant-looking style. There are also other movements that have influenced design such as Russian Constructivism and propaganda art.”

Graffiti and street art’s handmade style, and maybe their hints of rebelliousness and activism, can offer something for people of all ages.

“It is a new creative outlet for a child or an adult,” Bellicchi says of the Graff Toyz products. “It is a hip thing to have in the home and something adults can enjoy with their children.”

Graff Toyz are meant to stir creativity and art-making activity, not promote vandalism, Bellicchi says.

“In doing graffiti, you learn a lot on your own,” he says. “You are self taught; you learn about handscript, color use, and shapes.”

A few interior designers have even used graffiti designs in their work. For example, Brooklyn, New York, design studio Re-Surface produces a variety of handcrafted lighting and interior decor objects with graffiti designs. According to owner and designer Donna Brady, the studio’s “Brooklyn Light Siding” collection “transforms the multi-layered surfaces of urban decay into beautiful and unique interior designs.”

Graffiti is now in the mainstream. It has moved uptown to Madison Avenue and caught the attention of advertisers seeking to appeal to a hip and youthful audience. But, some say it still has far to go in being accepted as a valid artform.

“Many people appreciate how graffiti looks, but I hope they can also appreciate what it is as a form of expression,” Bellicchi says.

Graffiti without consent of a property owner is against the law and is considered vandalism.

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