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Graphic Design & Internet Propaganda with Aaron Wood

By David Michael Newstead.

As warfare moves online, perhaps it’s only natural that propaganda posters do the same. And at the forefront of this, you’ll find graphic designer Aaron Wood. A few years ago, Wood’s satirical posters turned social media into World War Two style propaganda. Now, it seems his satire is our reality. But Aaron’s work is far from the common meme on Facebook and today Aaron Wood joins me to discuss his career and propaganda.

David Newstead: So, how long have you been a graphic designer?

Aaron Wood: About 15 years. I’ve held design positions in a print shop, gift wrap company, and a copy shop. I also was a freelancer for a couple years, when it was my primary source of income.

David Newstead: What made you want to get into the field?

Aaron Wood: I’ve always loved art. I’ve got a background in drawing/illustration. When I was at the Art Institute of Boston in the mid-1990s, I picked up a real love of fonts and layout.

David Newstead: How would you describe a typical day?

Aaron Wood: Usually I’ll do research for a couple hours coming up with inspiration and ideas. Then I’ll spend an hour or so doing some rough sketching on paper. Then I just dive in and start creating until I’m satisfied. After that, it’s time to promote my work online, and list things in my Etsy shop.

David Newstead: What inspired the propaganda poster series? And what has the response been like?

Aaron Wood: This is a long answer. I wound up joining Google+ when it was in the beta. I quickly found that most people on there pretty much hated anything that wasn’t Google related. Facebook and Apple specifically. So I thought, “This is like an online war.” And then I remembered some of the classic WW2 propaganda. I didn’t want to just change out the type on some of the classics, so I went ahead and made some original posters. Twitter “Be Brief“, Facebook “Farms,” and Google+ “All Must Be Shared.”

The response was highly overwhelming. Some key people shared my work, including the Pete Cashmore from Mashable, and also Jaime Derringer from Design Milk. On a whim I listed them in my newly opened Etsy shop and couldn’t keep the posters in stock.

David Newstead: You’ve made a good number of propaganda posters for social media platforms and other things. Spotify, etc. Do you feel like your work was foreshadowing actual social media propaganda?

Aaron Wood: In some ways, yes. Privacy does play a huge part in people’s online dealings, and that aspect definitely comes into play in my posters. Also, how companies vie for how long people stay on their sites, and how often they’re used.

David Newstead: Out of curiosity, do you have any favorite posters from the Second World War?

Aaron Wood: Two of my favs are Loose Lips Might Sink Ships and We Can Do It (Rosie the Riveter).

David Newstead: What are some of your artistic influences? And do you have a favorite piece you’ve done?

Aaron Wood: I really love anything Art Deco, Pulp/Noir, and a lot of Allied WW2 propaganda, so that plays heavily into my more recent pieces. I’d have to say my Retro Planet posters, and also my Twitter Fail Whale and Apple War Bonds pieces.

David Newstead: What are you working on now and what’s your next big project?

Aaron Wood: I just wrapped up working on the art/design/layout for a card game. Robot Rise! Embrace Your Inner Mad Scientist is on Kickstarter and we hit our goal recently. About a week left on the campaign. View here. Not sure what’s next up!

Check out more of Aaron’s work on Etsy and Behance.

Return to the Salvador Dimension

By David Michael Newstead.

A short story based on paintings by Salvador Dali. Read Part One.

Sometimes in my dreams, I still saw that strange place. But all that was left were the fragments of a memory, dark and ghoulish, of a world that was not this one. In quick succession, those pictures flashed through the corridors of my mind as absurd as they were horrifying. Then in a panic, I woke up and I breathed heavy, having had the same nightmare again.

Years had passed and my time in that other dimension seemed so distant to me. Had I imagined it all, I often wondered. Had I hallucinated the whole thing and that old fool who took me there?

No! No, I told myself again and again. That place was real. I knew it had happened, because my mind would never, could never concoct the things I saw there. My fear then wasn’t for my own sanity. Even now, sitting up in bed, I was lucid and aware. Instead, I was afraid just how far this went – how deeply these abnormal truths burrowed into every corner of reality and if the monsters I found in that place would ever pull me back again.

I couldn’t sleep. In the day-to-day world, I felt numb and out of touch. Increasingly detached, I walked around like an automaton, not a person. I felt as if my life was slipping away according to the tyranny of some mundane clock. Or perhaps part of me realized I was always destined to return to that dimension I had left so long ago.

Time passed. Then one day, it happened. I was standing on a train platform checking my watch when suddenly it began to melt from my wrist. In an instant, stainless steel seemed to turn into liquid mercury that rolled off my skin like drops of rain. When I looked up, the rest of the world was falling away too, dissolving right in front of me. Then, something else came into view.

I stumbled forward at first. It was difficult to see, but once I could I wished I was blind to the horror. My eyes watered as smoke filled my nostrils. Then, I heard shots ring out in every direction. Just ahead, there were lines of riflemen and nameless legions, stretching into the distance leveling chaotic volleys of gunfire at each other. Dying men whaled in agony and I tried to run back, but our normal world had disappeared behind me. In its place, soldiers’ bodies littered the ground. Overhead, something shrieked and flew by me. Then, an explosion followed and knocked me down face first. Deafening and bright, flames erupted over the battlefield and, in shock, I covered my ears.

When I raised my head again, creatures not-quite-human were wandering by, wounded and disoriented from the blast. They made noises I can’t begin to describe. Then, the earth underneath my feet started to rumble with the sound of approaching cavalry. The victors had arrived it seemed, already finishing off the last of their opponents in a war without rhyme or reason. On my left flank, the first wave of them descended onto anything in their path, while another group encircled the few of us who survived. Desperate to escape the slaughter, I ran and crawled across the ground looking for cover, but there was nothing. Nothing, but pathetic twigs and pebbles that jutted out from the dirt and wouldn’t protect a man from so much as a sunburn. And when that galloping monstrosity appeared in front of me, I cringed and thought this must be the end!

A moment passed without death and I looked up, awestruck. After all, if the old man hadn’t intervened when he did I surely would have been trampled into oblivion. I was cowering in the middle of a field, dusty and helpless, when he strode out to protect me. Confident and possibly insane, he was disheveled and nude, driven mad by this dimension of oddities. The only thing more crazed and unruly than his eyes, I thought, was his facial hair. But it didn’t seem to matter. He projected all the authority of a thousand generals, screaming at the top of his lungs.

“Stay back!” The old man yelled to the horses and pack animals. “Back I say!”

And for reasons I won’t ever understand, they listened to him, rearing up with fright only inches away from crushing the both of us. Around me, the orgy of violence was fast subsiding. And this crazy old fool had stalled them for just long enough.

I was still trembling on the ground when the real world started to come back into view. While those beasts hesitated to charge forward, their dimension had gradually dissipated into a fog and then the fantasy as I laid there on that same train platform like a lunatic.

“No… No.” I muttered, now waving my hands at nothing. Back in our own dimension, other commuters ignored me the way you disregard anyone talking to themselves on public transit. But if they could only see! Stretched out there on the concrete, I watched the last shadows of that other place recede away forever, stranding me here and leaving that old man where he rightfully belonged.

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Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening (1944)

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The Face of War (1950)

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Girl at the Window (1925)

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Melting Watch (1954)

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Galacidalacidesoxyribonucleicacid (1963)

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The Burning Giraffe (1937)

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The Invention of the Monsters (1937)

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The Temptation of St. Anthony (1946)

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The Anthropomorphic Cabinet (1936)