The history of graphic design is inherently linked to past socio-political and cultural movements. As a result, I’m always fascinated by the visual design language of historical events. It’s a pretty interesting perspective from which to study history.

Current events have me revisiting the DADA art movement.

TLDR version:

  1. The school of thought behind Dadaism aims to destroy old-fashioned values and the emptiness of bourgeois culture.
  2. The founding artists intended it as a moral instrument which serves as a beacon for social transformation.
  3. It promoted less formal use of typography, and relied on photomontage and collage in its foundational approach, where newspapers and magazine pages became important raw materials.
  4. It influenced the design of revolution and propaganda posters during following socio-economic periods in other parts of the world.

While it’s a challenge to cram loads of history into one easy post, I’ll expand on a few more salient points below, punched up with some visual references. I hope it provides insight and inspiration should you be thinking of creating some posters for rallies or marches.


Dadaism was born as a rebellious movement against the carnage of WWI (1914-18) and was aimed at challenging the socio-economic principles of capitalist interests that were behind the war efforts. Dada founders were typically angry and unsophisticated young, middle-class creators in Europe. In the beginning, it was not formally considered an art form, but rather an output of expression.


Dadaists created work around themes consisting of anti-war, anti-establishment, and anti-convention issues, often communicating a sense of disgust with all the restrictions/oppression, catalogued categories in society, and pathological wickedness of false prophets who are nothing but a front for the interests of money, pride, disease.

Their work rejected the formalities of skillful or mechanical executions and the traditional principles of ‘form and function’ that were being upheld by traditional art and design practices of the time.

Russia’s political revolution came soon after, where techniques influenced by the Dada art movement were used in poster designs. A new visual language for propaganda began to emerge. Many posters evolved to depict operatic visuals with collage style layouts and typography used as bold visual elements. It became a design trend adopted by governments and civilian groups within many other countries during times of social unrest.


Today, we see the commodification of this design style, most commonly associated with subcultural expressions (such as in the alternative music and skateboarding scenes) and counter culture media (think street zines and brands such as Supreme and Vice)

With the recent cultural events, will it be reclaimed by the masses again as the visual identity of their cause or will a new revolutionary style gradually emerge?