Since its conception in the 1840s, the modern poster as we know it has catapulted the evolution of visual communication. From acts of civil disobedience in the 1900s to iconic political campaigns, take a dive through history with these 9 classic poster designs.
1. The Women's Suffrage Movement – 1907
In the late nineteen and early twentieth centuries, making a political statement wasn't as easy as simply resharing an Instagram post, especially for women. Prints and posters were a relatively new form of mass propaganda and mass communication. Women's previously silenced voices saw the opportunity to deliver their political ideas through posters, like this 1907 poster created by the Women's Suffrage Movement.
2. World War I recruitment – 1914
A true classic of vintage propaganda, this infamous 1914 image is possibly the most well-known war poster from WWI. It depicts the famed Field Marshal Lord Kitchener urging people to join the British army.
3. Pin-Up Girls – 1940
More 'scandalous' than the intended use of mass commercial posters, the 1940s saw the rise of 'the pin-up girl' poster. Risqué but never explicit, posters of beautiful women in various degrees of undress began to decorate bars and restaurants to win the adoration of men across America.
4. We Can Do It! – 1943
One of the most infamous cultural icons of World War II, Rosie the Riveter, is a symbol of female empowerment that has long been adorned throughout the decades. Today, she can be found on a host of consumer goods like mugs and magnets, Beyonce's Instagram, and Hilary Clinton's presidential campaigns.
5. The Health Education Council – 1970
Beyond its years for the 70s, this poster for the Health Education Council was risk-taking, groundbreaking and proved the power of visual communication to create a clear and confronting message. Cramer Saatchi's design forced viewers to think about sex and gender roles and encouraged men to take responsibility for contraception.
6. Guerrilla Girls – 1990s
In the 1990s, a group of anonymous American female artists known as the Guerrilla Girls took the world by storm, exposing sexual and racial discrimination in the art world, particularly in New York. This is one of thirty posters that gained worldwide attention published in a portfolio entitled Guerrilla Girls Talk Back.
7. Barack Obama 'Hope' Poster – 2008
Iconic is one word to describe Shepard Faireys 2008 graphic poster as part of Obama's 2008 US Presidential election campaign. The poster was created in a day and featured a four-colour portrait of the then-Senator in red, beige, light and dark blue, with the words 'Hope', 'Change' and 'Progress' varieties.
8. Carlsberg Poster In Brick Lane – 2015
In 2015, Carlsberg created #ProbablyTheBest poster in the world. Not just your usual poster, the billboard-sized poster spouted beer from a pump enabling visitors to pull themselves a free pint. What more could you want? As part of its 'If Carlsberg Did' campaign, the supplier of beer and lager has released a self-service billboard allowing punters to grab a taste of the brand's beer while on the go.
9. Eye-Catching COVID-19 Posters – 2020
During the pandemic's peak in 2020, the Viral Art Project invited graphic designers and artists to submit original poster designs that responded visually to the Covid-19 pandemic. The initiative resulted in an ever-growing collection that showcased the power of typography and graphic design.
From voicing women's rights to forms of vintage propaganda and eye-catching COVID-19 posters that spoke to a society in need, the evolution of the poster has showcased the power of visual communication throughout centuries. One thing to wonder is in a digitally-controlled world, will posters have the same impact on society in the future?