What Would A City Look Like Without Ads?

Curators’ Corner

What Would A City Look Like Without Ads?

Every city is filled with advertisements. In smaller towns and mid-sized cities, it’s easy to consume brand messaging without realizing the visual impact that it has on the world around us. But when you visit a major city like New York, LA, Shanghai or Tokyo, the bombardment of ads is impossible to miss; it can be overwhelming, hypnotizing and literally dizzying. The biggest and boldest messages capture your eyes just as they were designed to, and yet it all blends to a sea of color and light.

French graphic designer Nicolas Damiens illustrates how integrated large-scale advertising has become with the modern metropolis by stripping Tokyo of its endless ads in a series aptly titled, “Tokyo No Ads.” Billboards, signs, screens, fixtures and even handheld posters become blank spaces, and the bustling metropolis of 13 million people begins to feel like a ghost town.

Take a look:

Tokyo No Ads Tokyo No Ads shot 2 Tokyo No Ads Building Top Tokyo No Ads people

It’s amazing how disconcerting these adless images are. It’s not like Damiens took away structures or even people. He didn’t take away the atmosphere or the Earth’s core; he just took away graphic displays.

For us, the feeling of emptiness in “Tokyo No Ads” is a humbling validation of our role in creating the essential “city” experience around the world. A city is a place for embracing culture and the human spirit. We’re not creating banners or signs; we’re conveying messages. And while some may argue that ad-centric districts like Times Square are repulsive, advertising is really the art of commerce. Businesses are seeing the contemporary cityscape as a blank canvas, and we find that inspiring.

Though Damiens’ work will be widely misinterpreted as an attack on advertising, the designer insists that it is not.

“My work is absolutely not anti-ads,” Damiens told the Huffington Post in an email. “Signs are Tokyo’s appeal and charm, it’s very graphic and I like it! I was just curious to see Tokyo from another point of view.”

Naturally, we can’t help but wonder what NYC would look like under Damiens’ experiment. But then again, we love New York just the way it is.