6 Posters That Changed the World

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Be they COVID-related, in response to police brutality or on numerous issues of critical importance in between, 2020 has been a historic year of poignant posters.

So now is as good a time as ever to look back on hallmarks of the history of the form with 100 Posters That Changed the World.

The PRINT Book Club celebrates new design books we love via excerpts and imagery. Here are six posters from the collection, plus some info about each.

The book comes out Oct. 13. Preorder a copy here.

From the Publisher:

“Every poster’s principle message is ‘look at me!’ Until it has caught your eye, nothing else matters. Only once it has grabbed attention can it proceed to sell you whatever it is selling—ideas or goods … a plea for morality or a temptation to sin.” —From the introduction

This collection of 100 influential examples charts the history of poster design, from the time when paper was first affordable in the 18th century, through developments in print technology, to the more subtle visual communication of the 21st century. Along the way, it showcases the most impactful designs of the last 300 years and tells the story of how the artform took off in the late 19th century with the introduction of litho printing and the influence of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Alphonse Mucha, who became stars in this medium. There are posters for events, auctions, public meetings, political rallies, sports games, lectures and theatrical performances.

Some convey political messages, such as the iconic Keep Calm and Carry On poster produced at the dawn of the Second World War, and Shepard Fairey’s iconic Obama presidential campaign “Hope” post seven decades later. In between are page after page of fascinating historical ephemera and dozens of contemporary examples created to advertise the latest must-see movies, including classic designs for ET and Jaws, sure to elicit delighted recognitions from both design aficionados and casual consumers of pop culture.

“It was in 1909, in her Ladies Home Journal comic strip, that [Rose] O’Neill introduced the cherubic Kewpie characters, their name deriving from Cupid and resonating with ‘cute’ in name and appearance. Soon, her Kewpie strips were appearing in The Woman’s Home Companion and Good Housekeeping too, and within four years the Kewpies were being manufactured and mass marketed as toys. But as well as being a visual artist (she was the highest-paid female illustrator in America in 1914) and a shrewd businesswoman, Rose O’Neill was a committed suffragist, and enlisted her Kewpies to the cause.” Image: Alamy
“The United States’ entry into [World War I] after two years of neutrality left many citizens unconvinced of the need to intervene, hence [James Montgomery] Flagg’s call to ‘Wake Up, America!’” Image: Alamy
“FDR’s New Deal was designed to nurture a sense of unity and community in an America brought low by the Great Depression. Posters promoting the country’s scenic beauty contributed to these nation-building aims by affirming a shared natural and cultural heritage.” Image: Library of Congress
“The first poster to depict [Rosie the Riveter] was designed by artist J. Howard Miller in 1943 for display at the Westinghouse Electric plant, to encourage its wartime workforce to work harder. It was only on display for two weeks, one of over 40 inspiration wartime posters used by the company, few of which displayed women. … It wasn’t until the 1980s that Miller’s image reemerged, when a nostalgic interest in the fortieth anniversary of the war persuaded the U.S. National Archives to license it for use in merchandise.” Image: Alamy
“One of the defining moments in the struggle for civil rights in America began as a sanitation workers’ strike against appalling conditions in February 1968. Fighting the injustice of racial inequality and poor working conditions, strikers in Memphis, Tenn., created placards which demanded dignity based on nothing more—or less—than their humanity.” Image: Alamy
“The U.K. response to the AIDS epidemic included posters, and a TV advert directed by Nic Roeg; the Royal Mail even marked mail with the slogan.” Image: Alamy

Text and images from 100 Posters That Changed the World by Colin Salter © Pavilion, 2020


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