• Steven Brower

War! What Is It Good For?: Antiwar Images of the 20th Century

Recently Seymour Chwast launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund his illustrated book, War on War: An Illustrated Timeline of 5000 Years of Conquests, Invasions, and Terrorist Attacks, a publication showcasing the culmination of his six-decades-long obsession with man’s 5,000 year history of self-destruction. Examples of Chwast’s conflict-related work go back as far as 1958, to the Push Pin Graphic no. 16, entitled “Peace and War.” Other items in the Push Pin Graphic series include 1963’s “War Yes, Sex No,” and 1979’s “Food and Violence.” Chwast has created several famed anti-war posters since then, and his politically minded work continues to this day with his ongoing publication, The Nose.

Seymour Chwast, 1967

Seymour Chwast, 1968

Seymour Chwast, Push Pin Graphic no. 16. 1958

Seymour Chwast, Push Pin Graphic, “Food and Violence” , 1979

Seymour Chwast, 1982

Seymour Chwast, 1986

Seymour Chwast, 1998

In the early half of the 20th Century, Americans strongly supported both World Wars, as exemplified by Montgomery Flagg’s iconic “I Want You Poster.” As the modernist esthetic traveled across the ocean from Europe to the states it was employed for the second world war effort, which include Joseph Binder’s posters for the U.S. Navy.

Joseph Binder

Joseph Binder

Attitudes began to change during the Vietnam War. Design/illustration stalwarts such as Chwast and Tomi Ungerer contributed to the movement. Likewise Herb Lubalin’s anti-war poster call for entries No More War appeared in Avant Garde in 1968. But more often than not graphics were created anonymously.

Tomi Ungerer

Tomi Ungerer

Herb Lubalin, 1968



Many have taken up the mantel since. Poster designer Luba Lukova has several examples, including “War Crime,” 1994, and “War Is Not the Answer,” 2002. Likewise Ronald J. Cala II, including “Capital of War,” 2006 and “Peace Over War” and “Hope For Peace”, both from 2007. Woody Pirtle contributed to the effort with his 1999 poster for Amnesty International, “Caution: Children at War”, likewise Ivan Chermayeff with 1986’s “Peace: Beauty Overcomes the Beasts”.

Woody Pirtle, 1999

Luba Lukova, 2001

Luba Lukova, “War Is Not the Answer”, 2002

Ronald J. Cala II, “Capital of War”, 2006

Ronald J. Cala II, “Hope For Peace”, 2007

With a presumptive presidential candidate promoting nuclear proliferation, the time could not be more appropriate for remembering these efforts. Or contributing to them.

Ronald J. Cala II, “Peace Over War”, 2007

Ronald J. Cala II, “Peace Over War”, 2007

To read more on this subject matter there is Thomas W. Benson’s comprehensive book, Posters for Peace: Visual Rhetoric and Civic Action. http://Posters for Peace: Visual Rhetoric and Civic Action

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#AntiWar #design #designthinking #SeymourChwast #posterdesign

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About Steven Brower

Steven Brower is a graphic designer, writer, and educator and a former creative director/art director of Print. He is the author and designer of books on Louis Armstrong, Mort Meskin, Woody Guthrie and the history of mass-market paperbacks. He is director of the “Get Your Masters with the Masters” low-residency M.F.A. program for educators and working professionals at Marywood University in Scranton, Pennsylvania. You can follow him on Twitter: @stevenianbrower.

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