Research Point: Posters

The one thing this course does is open your mind to new ideas and concepts, and whilst the way in which visual information is relayed to us. Be it official announcement or marketing and promotion purposes, the poster remains that bridge between the informative elements of Graphic Design and illustration. The Victorians and Edwardians were great one for providing wonderfully illustrated posters that were almost artworks in themselves, often featuring fantastical motifs and themes. Alluding that the properties of products were somehow magical, patriotic in some cases, but always superior by virtue of the standard of artwork commissioned. By the start of the Great War these posters had morphed into celebrations of nationalistic pride, of women urging men to advance into the crucible of the Western Front.

The post-war world had changed beyond all recognition and by the 1920’s the artistic freedom that many designers were experiencing in the new world of post imperial Russia and Germany were influencing the work of artists in Great Britain and USA. Palette colours were simplified and styles from the Bauhaus and Art Deco Schools were making themselves felt in popular advertising. This was now torn between connecting the consumers personal preferences to a product and new ways of radical thinking and governance, such as communism and fascism, rather than chasing the nationalistic ideals of Exceptionalism and turning goods into a celebration of Empire.

As the period progressed there was a drive to place the consumer at the heart of the image; famers, families, men, and women. There was also a return to selling the ideal, but not as an extension of the body politic (outside of Central and Eastern Europe aside), but as a means to introduce the consumer to the world. The age of the holiday was upon the masses, given rise by cheaper transportation, and an ever increasing globalisation of information. The use of photography, which first appeared mainly in post war political posters, was becoming more popular with advertisers and manufacturers, especially the automotive industry. Though illustrations were still being used, it was more simplistic and suited to cheaper mass and rapid turn over printing rather than the more expensive and complex painterly styles.

The onset of war and mass propaganda introduced once again more complex and dynamic use of colour, composition and theme. Posters followed the same formulas of personal engagement with the viewer seen with contemporary advertising, promoting personal responsibility and collective aims.

Post war adverting and poster production was miles away from the still rigid forms of the inter war years. Many of the designers returned from fighting eager to experiment and use their post war education credits to gain the necessary qualifications in design and illustration. New theories from Switzerland, especially those penned by Müller – Brockmann and Tschichold, introduced a new form and visual direction to the poster, which was easier to fulfil with the development of print technolgy. There was also the chance to completely tear-up the rule book and introduce more informal form in their work. The seriousness of wartime messaging was now replaced with a looser, freer form of expression where comedy and whimsicality was welcomed, especially in film and travel posters.

For me this was the golden era of the poster, from holidays to military recruitment, clothing to cars this period not only helped to sell ideas, good and experiences, but also, for a fleeting moment, showed that all was still good with the world. Colours and artistic flare worked together to give the viewer an experience and insight in what was out there, a welcoming splash of colour and life for all to enjoy.

All the while Type and Font has developed with posters, becoming more sophisticated and less decorative whilst improving accessibility. Though it has to be noted that as the decades progressed the decorative fonts were used, but often sparingly, as part of logos for example, and often in Black or Bold styles.

My Pinterest collection of posters and similar can be found here: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/Benjskipper/inspired-graphic-design/

Resources Used

Inglis, T. (2019) Mid-Century Modern Graphic Design, Batsford, London

Clark, T. (1997) Art and Propaganda, Everyman Art Library, London