Recently we toured through the Adman: Warhol Before Pop exhibition at the NSW Art Gallery, to be inspired by one of the first pioneers in setting a Challenger Mindset for brands.

When we adopt a challenger mindset it is about strategically understanding the purpose and space that a brand plays – especially when it is striving to differentiate from competition and stand out on its own. Disruption occurs when a brand fully understands and accepts this mindset. Andy Warhol encompassed this mindset, adopting it in an era that was before his time.

It’s 1949 in New York, think Mad Men, post war positivity and social conformity. The mass marketing of the time pictured perfect worlds and conformist gender roles.

Enter Andy Warhol, an outsider that didn’t conform to the abstract expressionism art of the time. A commercial artist that did things his own way. He was awarded for his bravery in his work, much to the disdain and envy of his peers.

Warhol’s Adman era pushed the boundaries of New York’s commercial world. He followed his own rules and in doing so became a strong influence in the commercial art world.

In his work from this period, Warhol showed us that he was not afraid of taking risks. He had a vision to create in a new space that wasn’t yet explored nor accepted by his peers. His success came from understanding his own unique skill, combined with pushing his art into a space where he felt he would succeed. It was always different and it was always bold.

Perhaps one of the most interesting components of Warhol’s journey for commercial designers today is the statement he made with his work. Unlike other artists at the time, Warhol was un-ashamed and signed his commercial work disregarding the boundaries between fine and commercial art.

One of the other things that strikes you about his work is that Warhol had an ability to elegantly bring to life and highlight a product. His commercial works always had a clear focus and the product was always center to the communication. Given that these ads were drawn by hand, the simplicity of message, yet attention to detail is something to be admired.

There is so much that we can learn from Warhol in how we approach our commercial design for brands to lead them to commercial success. Being bold, pushing the boundaries, disrupting markets and simplicity of message are themes we continue to champion today.