Itsy Bitsy Posters

Posted inThe Daily Heller
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Between the turn of the century and the late 1920s when the so-called “Object Poster” had reached a peak, the most effective posters were those that could be printed in both enlarged and reduced formats without sacrificing any essential visual information. Lucian Bernhard, father of the Object Poster (sachplakat) in Germany, was associated with the printing firm and selling agent of Hollerbaum & Schmidt, which realized the business potential in not just printing large but very very small ads. And so the Poster Stamp, an adhesive backed mini-poster, was offered as a service to customers.

The term “Poster Stamp” is a contradiction. But semantics aside (and later it was also called “Product Stamp”), what began as a means to earn greater printing revenues became a popular collectible. This fact increased its value as an advertising vehicle. A wide range of products and messages were promoted on these perforated manifesti. Everything from shoe manufacturers to travel agents. The aesthetic quality was surprisingly high because many of the stamps began in a more monumental form – and often by known artists. But there was another plus: Even trite ideas were made special. By miniaturizing the image the most cliched image was curiously transformed. Tiny veils a lot of sins.

Writing in a 1937 issue of The Printing Art Quarterly, the logo designer and graphic-historian-in-waiting Clarence P. Hornung, said: “Recent developments in the advertising arts bring to light the revival of one of the most intimate forms of printed propaganda – the poster stamp – so popular here and Europe about twenty years ago.” But the revival, he noted, “remained for a few of the country’s leading oil producers to really splash the message of the all-but-forgotten poster stamp across the advertising horizon.” That’s one spill-over that helped rather than hindered.

Stickers today have replaced the stamp. But the concept is the same. Make a startling graphic that comes into the home in the most itsy bitsy way.