They say in art the greatest compliment is to be copied, and the greatest compliment for poster design is when your poster gets stolen.
It seems that print posters are dying. Now we have digital screens that cycle – for the most part – commercials. Should we care? Are posters merely something arty people and graphic designers care about? Is it a historic subject fit for museums and galleries – divorced from the actual idea of influencing people to see a play, a film; think about something? Pure anachronisms?
Commercial products and their ads aim at giving a sense of abundance. You will never run out of your favourite, shiny, sparkly FUN toothpaste. This toilet brush is MAGNIFICENT! Events and travel posters are focused on the unique: see a play, a film, an exhibition; or aim to influence you to think about something – join the army, traffic safety. Or some might just be simply bizarre: I have written on hysterically funny WPA posters in another article.
These are iconic posters that we all presumably know. Graphically strong. Classics:
Guinness seems to have an endless stream of old-school and indeed old graphic posters. The message is clear: Guinness is good for you. But they are also absurdly entertaining (and you can be four sheets to the wind and still read and recognise them. I speak from experience).
Movie posters sometimes used the same strong graphic languages, before the industry made all sorts of rules for how large the name of this actor or that actor had to be, in relation to the title, each other.. and before any idiot could arse around in photoshop.
The Eye magazine hypothesises that the poster is dying, it has moved into galleries, special interest and are primarily every graphic designers wet dream and not much more. As they move into galleries or museums, the whole point dies. They are made to make you do something. The function, the “call to action”, evaporates, but also the surprise element when you walk around a city and comes upon one. In contextless context, the poster “call to action” becomes art, and it becomes subject to the same criteria for critique as art. There they often fail for obvious reasons.
There is something wrong with a framed poster with a pretty passepartout and a tasteful frame. They are fundamentally urban objects, sometimes subversive, obscure and very, very strongly connected to their context of time and space.
Here are some posters I would steal if I came upon them, and they would go nowhere near a frame.
What posters would you steal?