The Bubble Project by Ji Lee



Twenty-first century icons: The Bubble Project is an on-going project that involves placing speech-bubble stickers on advertising posters around the world and then returning to photograph the comments people have scrawled on them.


Initiated by New York art director Ji Lee in 2002, the project features in the book Twenty-First Century Design by dezeen editor-in-chief Marcus Fairs.


The text below is from the book:


The Bubble Project

Date 2002

Designer Ji Lee


Above: "My motherfuckin’ career is goin’ down the toilet! This movie is nothing but vomit, and I know it but I refuse to care."
In 2002, New York advertising art director Ji Lee was getting frustrated with the advertising industry. He felt that conservative clients and agencies were killing off the most creative ideas and instead over-running the city with bad advertising. Walls, bus stops, phone booths, subways and other spaces once considered the public realm were gradually being taken over by corporations trying to sell things that people didn’t really need.


In response, he devised the Bubble Project – a way of allowing citizens to strike back at the adverts that surrounded them. Lee printed 15,000 stickers in the shape of speech bubbles and travelled around New York adhering them to adverts.


This act of creative vandalism – defacing adverts is against the law – turned a corporate monologue into a potential public dialogue, and people soon started adding their thoughts to the bubbles. It took Lee two years to use up all 15,000 stickers; he then printed 15,000 more.


He revisited all his stickering sites to photograph people’s comments. To date he has collected over 1,000 photos, the best of which he displays on his website,, and in a book published in 2006 called Talk Back – The Bubble Project.


Above: "Cremastercard"

The Bubble Project is an example of the recent explosion of subversive graphic design initiatives in which designers use stencilling, stickering or postering and which combine the visual sophistication of advertising with the immediacy – and illegality – of graffiti to get across messages that cannot be expressed using conventional design techniques. Graffiti artist Banksy (see page 376) and Jonathan Barnbrook’s billboard (see page 392) are also examples of this trend.


Above: "I am concerned that my CD will not sell more than 200,000 units and that, as a result, my recoupable advance from my label will be taken from me, after which my contract will be canceled, and I’ll be back singing Journey covers on Bleeker Street. Love, Glenn Lewis"


Lee was born in Korea and brought up in Brazil before moving to New York, where he studied Communication Design at Parsons School of Design. He has worked on advertising campaigns for brands including Nike, Coca-Cola and Samsung.


Text taken from Twenty-First Century Design by Marcus Fairs.

Read more sample chapters here.


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Posted on Sunday September 9th 2007 at 5:46 pm by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • rondell meeks


    what fun! i did this 10 years ago. i called it “fr–sp–ch” and secured the website and posted pictures of my speech bubbles which i photographed all over brooklyn. i still have all of my original documentation, images and speech bubbles.

    my idea was to distribute them for free (free speech) and photograph all the places people posted the bubbles. i didn’t have any money at the time so the idea didn’t go far beyond me posting them all over brooklyn and photographing a few of them. most of them just got tagged and scribbled on. ruined basically.

    don’t worry, i’m not going to sue you for stealing the idea.

    but i do find it amusing how many people consider this an original idea. there was another guy in nyc doing it a couple of years ago. he made the news and i got “holy shit!” emails from many of my friends.

    and i’m sure someone did it long before i thought to do it too.

    good luck.

  • hey meeks ever hear of “postmodernism”?

    its all been done buddy, context is everything.

  • Tom

    Yeah well said xtiaan!
    Way to miss the point of it all meeks!