I'll admit, I missed the point of OBEY completely at first. There's a subtle irony to the slogans and pictures that went right over my head, and I suspect that happened to a good amount of the tough-guy boys in my high school, too. Shepard Fairey founded the company in 2001, and I've always seen the bold red-and-white logo peppered around in crowds of teenagers. However, it turns out that Fairey's designs are a lot more interesting than you can tell at first glance.
Fairey started designing anti-corporate art around 1989, later emulating artists like Banksy and Barbara Kruger, as well as brands like Supreme. Street art was a huge inspiration, with Fairey's "Andre The Giant" showing up in spray paint or stickers around urban areas. Nowadays OBEY's art is commissioned to be displayed on buildings, so the sneaky graffiti aspect isn't as big as it was back then. Fairey's OBEY brand is almost a household name, now: he works with a diverse range of artists to produce new art, the most recent being the Amplifier Foundation, who helped produce posters that became very popular at the Women's March this year. OBEY has also designed album art, skateboards, and just about any other kind of street-worthy merch you can think of. The striking contrast of the colors is instantly recognizable, like a 21st-century version of wartime propaganda posters.
According to the OBEY "manifesto," the brand's purpose is to catch your attention through the concept of phenomenology: "The obey sticker attempts to stimulate curiosity and bring people to question both the sticker and their relationship with their surroundings." In other words, it's meant to make you stop and think for a while. It's beautiful art and has catchy slogans, but Fairey's designs also tackle important social issues with laser precision. From the Standing Rock protests to police brutality, OBEY directly challenges our prejudices and stereotypes on these topics. And looks very stylish while doing so.