Dezeen Magazine

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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