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An International Poster Biennial Winds up in Chicago

Within graphic design — or, more likely, outside of graphic design — posters belong in a special, enviable plateau that only a few practitioners have the opportunity to design and produce regularly and, even less, the ones that master it. Then, within poster design, there is the culture of the international poster biennial competitions… highly regarded, publicly visible, career defining juried events that select the best posters in the world, based on broad categories or specific themes. These biennials attract the most prominent poster designers from around the world, both to serve as judges and as entrants, to a richly diverse range of locations like Tehran, Mexico, and Warsaw. The former two, celebrated their 9th edition in 2007, the latter is now accepting entries for its 21st edition, and, it’s in contrast to the standards and legacy set by these (and other) biennials, that a brand new biennial will have to establish itself: The Chicago International Poster Biennial.

The Chicago International Poster Biennial Logo

This biennial is the first from The Chicago International Poster Biennial Association (CIPBA), a new not-for-profit organization established to “promote visual literacy, multiculturalism, and international cooperation through the poster work of artists from around the world.” The organization was initiated by Yann Legendre, a French designer working in Chicago and Lance Rutter, a graphic designer and former AIGA Chicago President. As far I am aware, I think this is the only international biennial in the U.S., at least in recent memory, making this a very important initiative that should help to broaden the scope of design that gets seen here, which can be painfully limited.

“We want posters to be seen as the quintessential public art form,” says Rutter “because they engage citizens at street level, requiring an emotional
and intellectual response. They also stimulate dialogue and articulation of important issues — social, political, and economic. As a part of the larger design community, we also want to help the City of Chicago craft its international reputation as a proponent of international cooperation and as a strong civic advocate of design.” CIPBA is trying to show the winners of the biennial at the Daley Bicentennial Plaza in the heart of the mesmerizing Millennium Park in Chicago — an effort that should enrich the visitors’ experience and provide a sense of what graphic design can do. Hopefully this Chicago biennial will come to be seen as influential, relevant and important as others around the world.

The Chicago International Poster Biennial Poster

Official poster for the biennial, designed by Yann Legendre.

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ARCHIVE ID 4661 FILED UNDER International
PUBLISHED ON Apr.10.2008 BY Armin
JonSel’s comment is:

As far I am aware, I think this is the only international biennial in the U.S.,

Colorado State University has been hosting a biennial poster exhibition for the past 30 years. This is the best link I could find.

On Apr.10.2008 at 10:15 AM
Armin’s comment is:

JonSel... I didn't know about that one. But it seems like it's by invitation only, "The first Colorado International Invitational Poster Exhibition [...]", as opposed to being open.

On Apr.10.2008 at 10:52 AM
Billy’s comment is:

My only comment, and I love Yann and Lance's work so much, but a fucking hotdog. ...I guess its better than the Sears Tower.

On Apr.10.2008 at 02:34 PM
Pesky’s comment is:

I love seeing international poster designs, but that hot dog poster looks suspiciously like a Pushpin design circa 1980...but maybe that's the point: Recycle.

On Apr.10.2008 at 03:48 PM
Kevin M. Scarbrough’s comment is:

Splendid news!

On Apr.11.2008 at 06:16 PM
agrayspace’s comment is:

This was good news. Got excited.

Then read this:
"Only printed posters by offset methods or silkscreen prints will be accepted."

That seems unnecessarily prohibitive. Especially considering the archival quality of inkjet and laser reproductions are damn fine and financially accessible by artists.

On Apr.14.2008 at 02:31 PM
Armin’s comment is:

My guess is that is one way of making sure that the posters were printed in quantities higher than, well, one. And that they were produced for something, not just a one-off poster to promote design coolness.

On Apr.14.2008 at 02:36 PM
agrayspace’s comment is:

I guess I take issue with the idea that only posters that were produced for something "real" count. In the dying world of poster art, it seems branching out beyond commercial work would be a necessary and wanted revision.

On Apr.15.2008 at 10:47 AM
Michelle French’s comment is:

I'm with agrayspace. We use other media far more often than traditional silkscreen and offset for posters. Shouldn't giclées be included, at least? They are good enough to be considered fine art prints, but not for posters?

And Pesky, that is exactly what I thought.

On Apr.15.2008 at 04:02 PM
primalman’s comment is:

Yeah, I agree, other reproduction has to be accepted in the end. Digital prints are often the only way to get a few copies made without spending hundreds and hundreds of dollars. Besides, they will hardly ever get socially based content, only commercial promotion and the seldom seen Lex Drewinski or something.

But, it is good to see more of these shows starting up, in fact, I think that all the shows like this would be improved if there were more, especially the invitationals.

Full disclaimer: I have been involved in a few CIIPE shows as an organizer.

On May.04.2008 at 11:15 PM
Andrew M.’s comment is:

>>"Only printed posters by offset methods or silkscreen prints will be accepted."

That seems unnecessarily prohibitive. Especially considering the archival quality of inkjet and laser reproductions are damn fine and financially accessible by artists.

What's even more prohibited (not to mention annoying) is the size requirements. The seemingly random decision to use "no smaller than 16.5 x 23.4 in. "

Posters come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and it's annoying that a lot of work I did this year was ONE - TWO to small to even get in the front door of this thing. I've seen some great rock concert screen printed works done 12x17 in.

The offset poster for an AIGA event Armin spoke at that we did that was 17x22 in. to gang up & fit on press sheets of our paper choice? Not good enough for this competition. Sorry for trying to save paper and money in our low budget.

Very limiting to the pool of applicants and who can even submit.

On May.23.2008 at 06:37 PM
Lance Rutter’s comment is:


The rules for this competition have not been established to be prohibitive toward the design community. Quite the opposite. They have been adopted from every major icograda-endorsed, open competition in the world, and they are meant to encourage clients, civic organizations, and the public at large to embrace posters as a viable communication art medium. If we accept as fact that no one has the desire or money to produce a quality poster for public display, then they will never be done again. They will be relegated to the dark hallways of bars and clubs or on the phone poles of urban enclaves. We should strive for more.

I fully expect the poster work of this Biennial to blow minds.

On May.25.2008 at 11:56 AM