The Development of Poster Design
Posters were used to promote various political parties, recruit soldiers, advertise products and spread ideas to the general public. Posters still serve similar purposes in the 21st century, and can be found in a variety of contexts everywhere in the world. The artists of the international typographic style of design believed that it was the most effective tool for communication and their contributions to the field of design arose from the effort to perfect the poster. Even with the popularity of the internet posters are still being created every single day for all sorts of reasons, they are extremely relevant to the modern world.
The Poster was one of the earliest forms of advertisement and began to develop as a medium for visual communication in the early 19th century. They influenced the development of typography because they were meant to be read from a distance and required larger type to be produced, usually from wood rather than metal. The poster quickly spread around the world and became a staple of the graphic design trade. Many artists as well, such as Henry Toulouse-Latrec and Henry van de Velde, created posters.
Early Poster Design:
Henry Toulouse-Latrec and Henry van de Velde today would be referred to as 'Graphic Artists', because their work involved the use of many mediums, techniques and processes used by artists of the time. The term graphic design was only coined in print in the 1922 essay "New Kind of Printing Calls for New Design" by William Addison Dwiggins, an American book designer in the early 20th century. Early poster design is some of the earliest and most equisite graphic design in the world. Latrec was a French painter, printmaker, draughtsman and illustrator whose immersion in the colourful and theatrical life of Paris in the late 1800s yielded a collection of exciting, elegant and provocative images of the modern and sometimes decadent life of those times. Van de Velde was a Belgian painter, architect and interior designer. Together with Victor Horta and Paul Hankar he could be considered as one of the main founders and representatives of Art Nouveau in Belgium. Van de Velde spent the most important part of his career in Germany and had a decisive influence on German architecture and design at the beginning of the 20th century.
Examples of their work:
Ambassadeurs – Aristide Bruant (1892)
This poster advertises an event with the singer Aristide Bruant at the Ambassadeurs nightclub in Paris, 1892. Bruant, a satirical singer and a friend of the French artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, insisted that Lautrec design this poster. The director of the Ambassadeurs disliked its dramatic and uncompromising style, but since Bruant said he would not perform unless the poster remained, it was used both outside the theatre and inside to decorate the proscenium arch.
Avril (Jane Avril) (1893)
Jane Avril, a lifelong friend of Toulouse-Lautrec, commissioned this poster to advertise her cabaret show at the Jardin de Paris in 1893. Through his innovative composition, Lautrec contrasts Avril's aloof and emotionally vacant expression with the erotic nature of her performance.
Moulin Rouge: La Goulue (1891)
Moulin Rouge: La Goulue is a bold, four-colour lithograph depicting the famous cancan dancer La Goulue and her flexible partner Valentine le désossé made to advertise the popular French club, Moulin Rouge. Their audience is reduced to silhouettes in order to focus attention on the performers. The triple repetition of the club's name draws the focus down to the central figure of the poster, La Goulue herself. The stark white of her petticoats, depicted with just a few lines on the white paper, epitomizes Toulouse-Lautrec's boldly simplistic style, a sharp break from the text-heavy posters of the day.
With the introduction of chromolithography during the late 19th century, a major shift in advertising form and content altered the way graphic design was practised. The ability to reproduce colour images gave rise to a new popular art form that not only persuaded but entertained. Posters were like grand canvases filled with fanciful figures, mirthful metaphors, cool colors, and artful letters. But artists, being artists, were not content to use one method alone, and their visual approaches evolved into numerous complex graphic styles. As a reaction to this complexity, a more simplified style emerged that was easy to "read" by passers by on crowded boulevards. In Germany this technique, known as Sachplakat or "object poster," took the advertising and design worlds by storm. It was the method of choice for the Plakatstil, or poster style movement.
Sachplakat's inventor, an 18-year-old German cartoonist who called himself Lucian Bernhard, entered a poster competition in 1906 sponsored by Berlin's Priester Match Company and Hollerbaum & Schmidt, Germany's leading poster printer/advertising agency. As the origin myth goes, Bernhard's first sketch was characteristically Art Nouveau/Jugendstil: It showed a cigar in an ashtray on a checked table cloth with dancing nymphets formed by the intertwining wafting tobacco smoke. Next to the ashtray were two wooden matches. When it was mistakenly taken for a cigar advertisement, Bernhard was forced him to rethink his composition and began eliminating the tablecloth, ashtray, cigar and smoke, leaving behind only two simple matches. He enlarged the matchsticks, made them red with yellow tips, and placed them against a maroon field. At the top of the image area he hand lettered in bold block letters the word "Priester." Voila! A new style!
The object poster was in vogue from 1906 to 1914 until the Great War in Europe brought commerce to a thundering halt. During the war, wordy slogans and complex renderings sold patriotism to the masses. After the war, advertising techniques shifted once again and new methods, including Art Deco, began to take hold. The Sachplakat lost its currency, but it was nonetheless influential. It prefigured the Pop Art celebratory parody of the consumed object. Eventually, it became just one of the tools in the advertising industry's kit along with more conceptual illustration and, later, photography.
Today's advertisements that feature one simple focal product are the descendants of Bernhard's invention. The ubiquitous Absolut Vodka campaign, which has gone through many iterations during the past two decades, has always maintained its object poster-ness. With the bottle as an anchor, many different yet tethered concepts—i.e. Absolut this and Absolut that—drive the mnemonic. Like with Priester, the title "Absolut" is key.
The advent of photomontage intersected with the introduction during the late teens and 1930s of German bildjournalismus (photojournalism) that gained adherents around the world. The French periodical VU, founded in 1928 and edited by Lucien Vogel, a photographer, was one of the most innovative in terms of the picture essay. Vogel was more interested in politics than fashion and used the power of photography to document and critique current events. Graphic design was essential to the success of his magazine. VU's logo was designed by French poster artist A.M Cassandre, and the leading commercial and experimental foundry Deberny & Peignot set the type. Irene Lidova, a Russian émigré, was the first art director, and in 1933 her layout assistant was Alexander Liberman, who was smitten by photomontage and introduced plenty of it to the magazine as a visual commentary. He later moved on to become chief of Conde Nast.
Propaganda is defined as; the systematic propagation of official government policies through manipulative communications to the public. The propaganda may provide true or false information, but the information is selectively presented in a provoking style to have its maximum emotional effect. The term “propaganda” apparently first came into common use in Europe as a result of the missionary activities of the Catholic church.
Propaganda posters appeared in earnest during World War One (1914-18) when each of the belligerent governments used them not only as a means of legitimizing their engagement to their people, but also as a means of enlisting men, and selling war bonds in order to finance the military campaign. With the outbreak of the First World War, advertising was used to attract volunteers. Posters in the early 20th century were blatant with their use of propaganda. Below is a selection of imagery demonstrating this: 'Your country needs YOU' and 'I want you for the U.S. army' are probably two of the most famous examples of propaganda use. They both employ similar tactics. The poster on the left depicts the British Secretary for War Lord Kitchener pointing directly at the observer of the poster. Similarly in the American poster, Uncle Sam, who is the embodiment of the American Dream is pointing at his audience in an equally stern way. Both posters are designed to install a sense of responsibility and fear within the target audience, who are male. Posters of this nature ensured governmental control over peoples thoughts and viewpoints concerning the war. Usually there was a greater sense of support for the war due to the propaganda used. It allowed people of the time to believe the war was worth fighting. These two posters ultimately recruited men to aid the war effort, unifying the nation.
Grow your own Food: Supply Your Own Cookhouse (1942) / Help the RAF, join the WAAF (1940) (Copyright: Estate of Abram Games). Both posters designed during WWII. The use of imperative and direct address speaks to the audience in an authoritative manner similar to the posters from WW1. However they are less imposing and stern. They also speak to a wider demographic; these posters are far more geared towards women, especially the poster on the left which aims to recruit women to join the Womens Auxiliary Air Force. A woman is shown smiling, it is a very positive design. they can still be classed as propaganda as they are communicating governmental ideologies and messages, but they do it in a different way to their predecessors.
Transport Posters - Art on the Underground
Visionary, modern, clear and to the point - iconic design, gives the London transport system a defined brand identity.
Boat Race, by Charles Paine, 1921