Shepard Fairey was born Frank Shepard Fairey on February 15, 1970, in Charleston, South Carolina. In 1989, while an illustration student at Rhode Island School of Design, he first created the original Andre the Giant has a Posse sticker campaign and "liberated" his first billboard with the image.
While still in school, Fairey started his first business venture, Alternate Graphics, to showcase his emerging design and silkscreen printing talents. He created stickers, t-shirts, skateboards, and posters, which were all available via black and white mail order catalogs that he distributed. In 1994, Helen Stickler started working on a documentary film, Andre the Giant Has a Posse, that focused on Fairey and the growing phenomenon of his subversive stickers and posters. The film played at Sundance Film Festival in 1997.
In the mid-90s, Fairey created a small sister brand, Subliminal Projects, with Blaize Blouin, and released several skateboard and poster designs using this moniker. He also created a skateboard video, ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) that showcased the small group of skateboarders that he sponsored through Alternate Graphics.
In 1996, Fairey moved from Providence, RI, to San Diego, CA where he continued to work in design, branding and marketing. In 1999, Fairey formed the firm BLK/MRKT with Dave Kinsey and Phillip De Wolff, which specialized in guerilla marketing. Clients included Pepsi, Hasbro and Netscape. During this time, Fairey met his future wife, Amanda Ayala, who began working with him. They married in December of 2001 in Charleston, SC.
In 2001, the BLK/MRKT offices were moved from San Diego to Los Angeles and expanded to include a small art gallery. In 2003, Fairey split from his business partners and along with his wife, Amanda, founded design agency Studio Number One and art gallery Subliminal Projects. Studio Number One produced the cover work for the Black Eyed Peas' album Monkey Business and the poster for the film Walk the Line. Fairey has also designed the covers for The Smashing Pumpkins' album Zeitgeist, Flogging Molly's CD/DVD Whiskey on a Sunday, Led Zeppelin’s compilation Mothership and Anthrax's The Greater Of Two Evils.
In 2004, Fairey teamed up with long time friend Roger Gastman to create Swindle Magazine.
In 2006, Fairey released a comprehensive, hard cover monograph, Supply and Demand, that documents much of his personal and professional design work. In 2009, the book was released in a special edition entitled OBEY: Supply & Demand - The Art of Shepard Fairey - 20th Anniversary Edition.
In 2008, Fairey became widely known in mainstream media for independently creating the iconic “Hope” portrait of Barack Obama. He was contacted by the official Obama campaign and began working with them, distributing a staggering 300,000 stickers and 500,000 posters during the election campaign, funding his grassroots electioneering through poster and fine art sales. In January 2009, the “Hope” image was acquired by The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery and became part of the permanent collection.
Fairey also created the portrait of Barack Obama that TIME Magazine used as the cover art for its 2008 Person of the Year issue. The portrait is also used for the cover of Esquire Magazine's February 2009 issue. His influence, particularly with Obama's presidential campaign, contributed to him being named a Person of the Year 2008 by GQ Magazine.
In February 2009, The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston opened the first museum survey of Shepard Fairey’s work featuring over 80 works that trace the artist’s career over 20 years.
Fairey’s work is also included in permanent collections at The Smithsonian, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
Fairey currently lives in Los Angeles with his wife and their two daughters, Vivienne and Madeline.