The poster is a form of visual media that has been used by society for hundreds of years. However, despite it’s age the poster has adapted to various changes in the world and it has evolved, making it still very relevant to today’s society. A poster is a large printed picture, notice or advertisement displayed in a public area (Oxford Dictionary, 2018). Posters are a form of graphic art. They were one of the first forms of advertisements. Before radio, television and social media, posters provided people with the means to inform and entice viewers. Posters helped to sell products and services, recruit soldiers, spread ideas and to promote political parties (Flask, 2017). Both social and technological factors have influenced the development of the poster over time. Despite the changes in technology and society, basic characteristics of the poster have stayed the same over time. Posters in general are simple and direct with their message. The font must be legible, Ariel and Times New Roman are often chosen. They use catchy slogans and colour to grab and hold the viewers’ attention. If images are included they are striking and controversial. This helps to play on the viewers hearts and on their minds. Overall, they are simple, short and to the point.
How the poster was printed over time has changed due to technological factors, these factors have increasing helped make poster easier and cheaper to produce. The first posters were Woodblock printed. This technique is known as xylography. It involved the transferal of an image and or text by relief, onto the slab of wood. Meaning anything in the image that was white, was cut out and anything black such as text was let be and remained at surface level in order to be seen when printed. This was extremely difficult to produce and took an awful lot of time and dedication from various specialist craftsmen (Farwell, 2018). Then in 1440 a huge development was made by the German Johannes Gutenberg with the invention of the printing press. This invention drastically improved the cost of printing and made printing more accessible. By 1500, printing presses were in approximately 2500 European cities. With this invention people became more literate and informed (Kreis, 2016). Then in 1796 another German man, Alois Senefelder invented a new printing method, lithography. It uses a chemical process and follows the basis that water and oil do not mix. Originally the print plate would have been limestone. The image was drawn onto the print plate in grease or oil. Then a solution of gum arabic and nitric acid would have been poured onto the image, creating water-receptive and oil-receptive areas. While wet, a roller covered in oil-based ink was rolled over the print plate, the ink only sticking to the oil-receptive area. Finally, the paper was lain over the printing plate and ran through a press to produce the image. This new method of printing allowed for graphic designers to explore various tones within their work, creating more interesting posters (Tate, no date).
Poster making in today’s world has benefited greatly from technological factors. It has become increasingly digitalized. This is thanks to investment in and progression of computer technology. Digital printing emerged in 1991 and it is what we still use today. It involves the printing of a document from a computer or another digital device via a printing substrate such as an ink jet printer. It uses binary code to achieve this transfer of data. Digital Printing has almost completely replaced lithography in both business and personal use due to it’s ease of access and relatively cheap costs (Rouse, 2010). People now also have easy access to fantastic programs such as Photoshop and Illustrator, these programs make poster making even faster and more cost effective. They allow for endless possibilities; the designer can experiment without the fear of not being able to fix mistakes. It is quite natural for poster development to improve with technological developments, so more than likely they will only continue to improve.
Society has shaped the way posters are designed and produced. Over time, styles have changed in poster making due to various social factors such as War, unemployment and popular trends.
In the mid to late 1800s the artistic movement known as Art Nouveau began to emerge. It was this artistic style and time period that society saw a rise in popularity of both graphic design and posters. By the end of the century, the poster was considered a serious art form, in a period known as Lá Belle Époque. In 1891 Toulouse-Lautrec’s poster ‘Moulin Rouge’ was realised. Society was extremely impressed, and it gave status to the poster. It also started a craze of poster making across Europe, each country producing posters in uniquely identifiable styles. By 1900 Plakatstil was just beginning to emerge, society were bored of the ornate Art Nouveau and Lá Belle Époque styles and now were focusing on simple geometric design. This style prompted a new and more modern outlook on posters (International Poster Gallery, 2017).
World War One and World War Two dominated society and poster making in the early to mid 20th century. Propaganda posters were seen by those in power as a brilliant tool to provide striking visual messages to the public. They aimed to recruit soldiers and to invoke a nationalist spirit. T (Flask, 2018). Posters were once again used in the Soviet War and a main source of communication between those in power and the public. The US also used posters as a form of communication between government and the people. President Roosevelt, following the Great Depression introduced a Federal Art Project which produced posters as a means of public communication. Ideas in graphic art at the time were focused on idealistic domesticity, they were very optimistic in times of great unemployment and poverty (Dr Tanya Lokot, Weeks 6-9 Lecture Notes).
By the 1950’s America was in an economic boom, money was available to pump into graphic design. America had a new consumer society. Advertising had become a huge business and graphic designers in these ad agencies were considered vital to the advertising process. They moved on from the graphics of domesticity, artists were greatly influenced by the Bauhaus movement and poster style become much more minimalistic with a ‘less is more’ approach. Posters of this time period used vivid colours and playful motifs to gain attention from a wide range of audience. (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2018)