Incredible artists often come from the most far-removed backgrounds possible. Born to Slovak immigrant parents in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1928, Andy Warhol was a prime example. Considered a creative genius who escaped the coal mines, he produced some of the world’s most recognisable artworks over his relatively short career.

Warhol started out as a Commercial Illustrator, switching from Pittsburgh University and a degree in Art Education to enrollment at Carnegie Mellon and studies in Commercial Art. It’s believed that this unorthodox career path into art kickstarted his initial obsession with Americana and iconic American objects. By the 1960s, Warhol was already producing the famous artworks around this subject matter that made him an art icon to millions worldwide.

Warhol embraces business – business embraces Warhol

From tins of Campbell’s Soup and Coke bottles, to mushroom clouds and electric chairs, Warhol’s subject matter was either magnificent or mundane - but always bold, different and designed to last. Amongst his most famous works are a set of silk screen prints, of which the most famous is definitely the Marilyn Diptych, a repeated image of actress Marilyn Monroe featuring extremely vivid colours. This became not only one of Warhol’s most famous works, but also one of the most famous examples of the genre that Warhol is almost synonymous with: Pop Art.

Pop Art was not so much developed, but revolutionised by Warhol and fellow artists at ‘the Factory’, Warhol’s loft studio in New York City. Taking bold, comic strip-style imagery, Warhol’s prints, such as the ‘100 cans’ piece - which features the now world-famous repetitive printing of red and white soup cans - really took the Pop Art concept to the next level.

These works are the basis of tribute, homage and even parody, with the fundamentally boring, yet iconic Campbell’s Soup tins piece becoming one of the most recognisable artworks of the 20th century. This has led to hundreds of artists and organisations ‘borrowing’ the bold themes and colours associated with Pop Art and applying them in either new ways, or taking cues directly from the work to generate almost carbon copies of Warhol’s famous works.

How companies use Warhol for their advertising

With its roots firmly in the capitalist, commercial world of post-war America, Pop Art lends itself perfectly to advertising. As more and more businesses begin to understand the importance of user experience and website design, Warhol’s and business seem to go hand-in-hand. The bold colours and deep black outlines provide contrast, with text able to fit perfectly over imagery - without getting lost.

A prime example is the poster for DKNY’s Be Delicious perfume range. It’s 100% Pop Art, with cues from Lichtenstein’s Drowning Girl, along with the clashing colours seen in Warhol works. It isn’t subtle at all and can probably be classed in the ‘homage’ category, over being a complete imitation. After all, DKNY share their New York roots with Warhol, so there are clear links and common ground between the advert and Pop Art works created in the Loft.

Pepsi on the other hand, have imitated Warhol’s Marilyn Diptych artwork almost exactly in their marketing. A series of adverts featuring singer superstar Beyoncé draw striking parallels between the original artwork. The imagery is practically identical, even down to the over-saturated makeup and facial features, along with the bold, blonde hair.

The same goes for Ray-Ban sunglass, who have been paying tribute to Warhol in their advertising since the 1990s. The banal everyday items, mixed in with overdriven hue photographs, imitate the Warhol style. This illustrates how relevant his work can still be. Indeed there are hundreds of posters, adverts, web banners and campaigns almost every year with elements of these non-standard colours being applied where they shouldn’t.

How Warhol’s style uses colour

It could be argued that the Warhol legacy is as much about colour as it is about style. Taking advantage of Pop Art’s flourishing and contrasting use of colour for marketing purposes is a masterstroke. This style helps to make images stand out from the typical colours we see on the sides of buildings and on television screens. Therefore, it’s fantastic at making a product or service the centre of attention.

Shepard Fairey’s 2008 campaign poster that emerged during the election of Barack Obama is a prime example of how far-reaching Pop Art can be. The dark areas used to outline features and provide shadow are straight out of a Warhol silk screen print, but it is the colours that truly make the image – only 2, in a couple of different shades, providing real definition and real impression. A much subtler take on Warhol’s legacy, the Hope poster shows Pop Art being done properly.

Away from the advertising and campaigning, Andy Warhol and Pop Art are providing inspiration elsewhere. In some cases, companies have geared their website design towards the styles seen not just in Warhol works, but also those from other Pop Art masters.

Wink Bingo, one of the leading online bingo providers in the UK, re-branded their entire website to take on a Pop Art theme - with plenty of nods to Warhol’s works. Instead of the plain backgrounds and clean lines seen on hundreds of other gambling websites, Wink Bingo uses comic-book style effects straight from a Lichtenstein drawing, mixed with deep pinks, light blues and aggressive oranges that you’d see in a Mao Zedong or Prince portrait.

Then there are the fonts; images feature the same upper-case, drop shadow characters that dominate early Pop Art, providing contrast from the bright background and creating words that draw the reader’s eye to them and the online bingo games they offer. It’s a fantastic example of an entire businesses aesthetic revolving around Warhol’s long-lasting legacy.

Even as we enter the next generation of art, we’re still going to see plenty of Warhol and wider Pop Art replicas and tributes. The style, colours and essence are so good - and ever more ubiquitous - that they could be applied to almost any product or service. Their ease of creation makes them attractive to designers and visual artists.

Despite being long gone, Warhol will continue to inspire works and be a big feature of both art and advertising for a long time yet; something he’d probably be quite happy about.