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Graphic Design Festival Breda Blog #4: Ji Lee

Artist and art director Ji Lee, known for the 'Bubble Project' is attending the Graphic Design Festival, Breda. He took time out to write a blog for design.nl

By Editor Design.nl / 13-06-2008

Artist and art director Ji Lee, known for the 'Bubble Project' is attending the Graphic Design Festival, Breda. He took time out to write a blog for design.nl

Advertising is practically everywhere we look. It’s spreading faster and faster to every corner of every street. Public spaces, and the public in general, are victims in this aggressive invasion.


Cities around the world have strict laws against sound pollutions. Honking or playing loud music in certain areas at certain time are considered illegal and subject for fine. When it comes to one of the main visual pollutions: advertising, not many cities have regulations to control it because unlike the sound pollution, advertising is a source of great revenue for the media companies.


A few years ago, I was working as an art director at a global advertising agency in New York. The agency offered a good salary, easy hours and great benefits. I even had my own window office with a view, yet I was deeply frustrated. Even though I came up with innovative advertising ideas, which I believed could engage the consumers and promote the brand, the ideas always ended up being killed because of the conservative mentality that pervaded the corporate culture.


After four years of trying to make good ideas see the light of the day, I realized I shouldn’t depend on others to make a great idea happen. The only way was to do everything on my own: creation, funding, production and distribution. I wanted to create a simple device that would instantly transform the way people see ads, giving them the power to respond. The speech-bubble sticker was the solution.


I financed the printing 20,000 bubble stickers and started carrying them with me all the time. Whenever I saw a street ad with a face—BANG!— I placed a blank bubble sticker next to it waiting to be filled by any anonymous passersby. I placed empty bubble stickers on ads everywhere: bus stops, telephone booths, subways, construction sites and building walls. Surprisingly, bubbles were filled in very quickly. To my delight, a lot of responses were smart and hilarious, so I started taking pictures of the results. Soon, I had thousands of filled-in-bubble photos.


Soon afterwards, TheBubbleProject.com was launched, where people can find the pictures of the collected bubbles and the downloadable bubble templates so anyone can make their own bubbles, for free. People around the world are connecting with this project and are bubbling their own towns and setting up their own Bubble sites: Italy (progettobolla.com) and Argentina (proyectoburbuja.com) are some of them.


The bubbles instantly transform the million-dollar corporate monologues into free public dialogues. As my mentor and friend Stefan Sagmeister pointed out, “everybody wins with the Bubble Project.” The advertiser benefits because more people to look at their ads when they’re bubbled, and the public finally gets a chance to talk back and express themselves.


I’m very happy to come to Breda and help spread the bubbles because I heard the streets of Breda, like other cities around the world, is filled with ads. And wherever there’s an ad, there’s a place for a bubble to bring fun and joy to everyone.

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