Dancin’ Jamaica

Not all “vernacular” signs are created equal. Indeed, most vernacular signs by virtue of the name should be different. They are often handmade by untutored hands. Some of the best of the ad hoc ads I’ve ever seen are collected in Serious Things a Go Happen: Three Decades of Jamaican Dancehall Signs (Hat & Beard, Los Angeles) by Maxine Walters (edited by J.C. Gabel and Vivien Goldman, with an introduction by Marlon James). This exceptional volume “brings together more than 100 original posters and signs from the early 1980s through today, drawn from the poster collection of Jamaican film and television producer and director Maxine Walters. Jamaican dancehall emerged out of reggae in the late 1970s and brought with it a new visual style characterized by bright colors and bold, hand-drawn lettering.”

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If you think you’ve seen enough of these un-designed designs, you’d be wrong. For one thing, this book is a handsome and intelligent history of indigenous sign painting, unique to the Jamaican music culture. Second, aside from some fascinating essays on reggae life and dancehall innovations, the images (as you’ll see below) are consistent yet rival similar graphic genres in parts of Africa and the Caribbean islands.

What’s more, this design isn’t naif folk art—it has become a graphic language that signals a worldwide phenomenon that is as savvy in its way as other popular music/design collaborations.

 

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The 2017 PRINT RDA Early Bird Deadline: TODAY!

Enter the most respected competition in graphic design—now open to both pros and students—for a chance to have your work published, win a pass to HOW Design Live, and more. 2017 Judges: Aaron Draplin / Jessica Hische / Pum Lefebure / Ellen LuptonEddie OparaPaula Scher. Student work judges: PRINT editorial & creative director Debbie Millman and PRINT editor-in-chief Zachary Petit.

Enter by the Early Bird Deadline of March 1 and save on all entry fees.

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