Designer of the Week Scott Laserow is helping to advance many social and environmental causes through his poster design work. Chances are you’ve seen his posters—if not on a wall or a screen, then in the pages of both PRINT magazine and HOW magazine, where his work has been recognized with many an award.
Below, you’ll learn why Laserow has focused on poster design for the past 12 years, where he finds inspiration for his visual storytelling, and what he’s working on now.
Name: Scott Laserow
Name of Studio: Scott Laserow Posters
Location: Wyncote PA
Design school attended: Tyler school of Art, Temple University
How would you describe your poster design work?
This is a difficult question. As a social and environmental designer, I hope people find my work engaging, [and that it] makes them think and encourages open dialogue to effect change.
You say you discovered the power of the poster in 2004 and have been focusing on poster design as an instrument of social change ever since. Can you tell us about what you experienced that year that plled you to begin on this path?
A friend of mine and fellow poster designer, Joe Scorsone, urged me to get involved and produce work that made a difference. I found once I started, I simply didn’t want to stop. It’s one of the most rewarding and creative outlets I have experienced.
Not only have you won more than 75 prestigious awards—with your work has being described as both “exquisite” and “breathtakingly on the mark”—but you are also involved in many social and environmental causes by the very nature of your work. Can you share with us a specific example of how you’ve seen one of your projects make an impact?
The first time I saw a real impact was when I participated in the Hurricane Poster Project in 2005. The hurricane poster project was an international collaboration of designers who came together to raise money and awareness for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. It wasn’t so much that my poster alone made the impact, but rather the collective force of graphic designers and image-makers from around the world uniting together for one purpose. Even today my poster Epitaph #1, designed for the Hurricane Poster Project, remains one of my favorite images.
Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration everywhere. Conceptual inspiration comes from research and experiences. I really must understand the situation before I can start to tell my visual story.
My aesthetic varies from poster to poster. My main source of visual inspiration is ephemera. I particularly like old matchbox labels.
I really love the typography, the simple shapes, the rich black line, even the way the ink touches the paper. In my opinion, they’re some of the most beautiful posters ever created, just on a very small scale.
Who are some of your favorite designers or artists?
Of course Saul Bass—I think anyone who sees my work can easily spot Bass’ influences. I’m also a big fan of Art Chantry for his guts, typography and wicked use of color. More recently, I’ve been following illustrators like Gary Taxali, John Krause and Mario Zucca.
Do you have a favorite among all the posters you’ve worked on?
This is another very difficult question. It’s like asking which one is your favorite child. Is it a favorite because it had great commercial success? A big part of the reason I design posters is to reach as many people as possible. Or, is a favorite something I really enjoyed working on? If I had to choose, it would be between Epitaph#1 (my Hurricane Katrina poster) and Plastic Fish (the poster I created on the topic that I’m most passionate about)/
Is there a project that stands out to you as having been the biggest challenge so far?
Certainly one of the biggest challenges I had designing a poster was for AntiAIDs Ukraine. This was difficult because the topic was abstinence, which I don’t believe works. So the challenge for me was to send a message without it appearing preachy. Zip Up & Button Up might be another one of my favorites because I met this challenge with humor. These also were the quickest images I’ve ever created as they were nothing more than small pencil sketches on the back of an envelope. I love happy accidents.
What are you currently working on?
Currently I’m working on a project with a fellow collaborator, Dermot Mac Cormack, to raise awareness and funds for the tragedy in Nepal. It is a collaboration of designers from all over the world. We created a website (www.PostersForNepal.com) and have put out a call to poster designers to donate posters to help the people of Nepal rebuild. We’re still accepting submissions.
Additionally, I’m working on two posters for human rights. One is specifically about the Syrian refugees and the other is about the atrocities in Iran.
What’s next? What do you hope to accomplish in the future?
For a number of years I have been experimenting with the motion graphics. I would like to incorporate some of the concepts that I’ve created in print and produce them in motion.
What’s a piece of advice or something else you find yourself repeatedly saying to your students at Tyler School of Art?
Since I’m lucky enough to teach in a school of fine arts, I encourage all of my students to take advantage of all the resources and talent around them. I believe exposing themselves to the riches of Tyler will ultimately make them stronger graphic designers. My other advice to my students is to have fun, because if you’re not having fun you need to ask yourself, why are you doing this?
Additional work by Laserow: