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Posters, posters and more posters

After the heated discussion on Designspeak I thought I would try and make my first post in a while something memorably deep and theoretical. But in the process of working on a poster for an upcoming competition, I came across Rene Wanner’s poster page which completely blew me away. Hopefully some of you have seen it before, but for those that haven’t, it is quite a treat.

As graphic designers, poster design is often seen as the closest we can come to making “art”. For most of us (I presume) it is a rare opportunity that we delight in and strive for. It also tends to ask for quite a different approach from the minutiae of day to day design work. What have your experiences of designing posters been like and how have you approached the task? Does the difference of scale and added freedom result in work that you are generally more excited about, and in the end, are more pleased with? And finally, as we move away from the poster as the primary commercial/public interface, if it is an artform, is it a dying one?

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PUBLISHED ON Mar.11.2004 BY Kevin
marian’s comment is:

I think there is something about that one big piece of paper that is really freeing. And somehow it seems like clients are more willing to go with the creative process than with any other form. They seem to expect that we'll think differently for the poster--or at least that has been my experience.

I love posters, and I don't think it's a dying art form. When it comes to posters I have no defined preference for style. I love them when they're witty, simple, complicated, illustrated, illegible, readable, gratuitous, 1- 2- 13-colours. I don't know what it is, but I think I like more posters than I dislike. That's weird. Maybe I'm only noticing the ones I like. That's probably it.

On Mar.11.2004 at 09:55 PM
designNET’s comment is:

What is the Poster?

On Mar.11.2004 at 10:12 PM
ak’s comment is:

On Mar.12.2004 at 01:14 AM
Kevin Lo’s comment is:

What is the Poster?

designNet are you raising the issue of what separates a poster from other graphic design forms?

I hope ak's post has clarified that a bit :) Sweet poster!

This brings up another interesting aspect of poster design, one that is always personally interesting, is the role of the political poster. Often the only means availble for activist groups to communicate to a broad public. There is obviously a huge tradition of this (definitely moreso than the political letterhead).

Another special attribute of the poster(unless you're a billboard designer, but even so) is the context of its reception. On the street. I remember designing a poster once(I think I mentioned this here where someone had written back to me on it, saying that they loved me(awwww....). One of my best design experiences.

Up Against The Wall is an amazing poster design book written and designed by my profs here at LCP, Ian Noble and Russel Bestley. Reviewed here with some nice images.

A quick plug, and I'm out!

On Mar.12.2004 at 07:10 AM
Jen’s comment is:

I live in a wonderful little community (4,000 or so), rich with nationally recognized performing and visual arts. I have been lucky enough to work with a theatre company, a modern dance company, an mountain cultures festival, a newly developing art center and art galleries... all of them needing posters. I would say about 25 % of my business is poster design and it is so MUCH FUN!

And somehow it seems like clients are more willing to go with the creative process than with any other form. I am always surprised at how far my clients are willing to go. They seem to expect the unexpected, something that feels oddly strange and new and captivating.

I'm not sure how, as such a young designer, I have been lucky enough to do this job with so many fun projects...the faculty of my design program always seemed to be warning us that the projects, like poster design...you know the fun ones...are few and far between and more often than not the fork lift catalogues are what really pay the bills. I'm so glad they were wrong.

On Mar.12.2004 at 11:48 AM
Armin’s comment is:

> if it is an artform, is it a dying one?

Posters are indeed the artsiest projects we can work on, but they are still clearly a design venture.

I don't think it is a dying design/artform at all. Just look at the hugeness of gigposters.com, and that is only one fraction of the genres of poster design. Obviously, I'm a huge fan of Aesthetic Apparatus and they are doing an amazing job.

If you have some time I would say go visit the web site for Mexico's Poster Biennial — some of the best poster work I have seen is there. (Just click on each IBPM to see the winners of each biennial).

Graphis poster annuals never ceases to amaze.

On Mar.12.2004 at 02:07 PM
Armin’s comment is:

I took my own advice and spent some more time looking at the site and found this description of poster design by PushPin extraordinaire Seymour Chwast — a juror of the third biennial.

On Mar.12.2004 at 02:12 PM
Kevin Lo’s comment is:

wow, great links Armin, thanks. I shouldn't have implied that it was dying(as it is obviously not), I suppose I was just wondering if it was changing at all. Looking through the poster archive I just get such waves of "nostalgia" looking at some of the earlier work.

Also, I'm curious about people's working processes with posters. I'm working on one right now and it is proving to be a big challenge, definitely not something I'm used to.

On Mar.12.2004 at 02:45 PM
Jason’s comment is:

Making a poster seems so liberating compared to other design work. The last poster designer I heard lecture--Jean Benoit-Levy--talked about his process and ideals. Levy invests a great amount of personal energy. Although his posters were done for commercial purposes and high paying clients, he cited each one as "my poster." That level of ownership struck me as artistic in merit. Levy also discussed how his vision was carried from idea to execution on each and every project. In no way would his vision ever be compromised, his passion for creating was equally balanced by a passion for ownership. Rarely would he alter an idea. Is this the signature of an artist or a designer who owns the client?

On Mar.12.2004 at 04:59 PM
Dan’s comment is:

The Bird Machine

On Mar.12.2004 at 11:52 PM
Armin’s comment is:

I think that Kevin, besides cool links for posters, is also trying to address and find out our objective approach to designing posters. I haven't done many "real" posters but the few I have done have been very liberating, just the sheer size of it is inspiring. Obviously, it is all about impact. It all starts on the sketch pad (some projects I skip the sketching but not on posters) just like you did at school (remember?) and then it's just a matter of discovery: finding or doing the right illustration or the right photograph; a visual pun; the perfect color combination; the copy, for heaven's sake don't forget about the copy, without smart, compelling writing a poster is shit (unless of course it's a purely graphical poster, but most of the times you have something you need to write down).

After I have done a few more concise things in the computer and have a more "finished" poster I print it out full size in 11 x 17 pages, tile 'em up and hang it — you'd be surprised at how far 12 pt type goes on a poster. (Also, anyone who asks you for a "poster" and wants it printed on an 11 x 17 page at kinko's is not a poster).

I don't think I'm saying anything new though… posters are just cool projects.

On Mar.13.2004 at 09:18 AM
M Kingsley’s comment is:

Also, anyone who asks you for a "poster" and wants it printed on an 11 x 17 page at kinko's is not a poster.

Armin - I'm not sure, but are you suggesting that a poster can't be tabloid size? Because there's a current show in Chelsea of San Francisco Psychedelic-era posters -- many 11x17 or smaller.

Q : What size is a poster?

A : How many hairs make a beard?

On Mar.13.2004 at 01:34 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Well, you probably got me on a technicality Mark… but you know what I mean? Maybe not, right?

I guess I see a poster as a special form of design and when reduced to 11 x 17 they lose most if their appeal and impact.

On Mar.13.2004 at 02:26 PM