Paul Atterbury, of Antiques Roadshow fame, spoke on ‘The Power of the Poster’ at Worthing Library and left me with greater knowledge of the history of brands as well as questions about the future and sustainability of our communications activities.
We’ve recently received the Midlands CIPR PRide Award for Integrated Communications for our work with Red Letter Design for Vale Retail and the Cornbow Shopping Centre. Are those posters still going to be around in 50/100 years’ time for another ‘antique specialist’ to analyse before a room full of people?
What about the winners of the CREAM Awards? Do we even still view posters in the same way? Or has digital communications taken over? Are today’s graphic designers set for the fame of Toulouse Lautrec who designed posters for the Paris theatres in the late nineteenth century?
Printed on cheap paper and designed to last a week before being replaced by the latest promotion, these posters were designed to be ephemeral – here one week and gone the next. It is only luck that means we are able to view some of those that survived.
For Atterbury, the development of the poster brought about the development of the advertising agency. Artists were brought together in groups to work on posters for clients. The poster really took off with the tourism and travel companies – railways, shipping companies – but soon progressed into all walks of life and was used effectively throughout Europe during the two World Wars.
These posters were fighting for brand recognition – to take one ship rather than another when crossing the Atlantic, to buy one bar of soap over another – and also to deliver powerful messages such as ‘dig for victory’ and ‘careless talk costs lives.’
Are posters still able to have the same impact? Is a projection of a naked semi-celebrity onto the Houses of Parliament a ‘poster’ of sorts? Do we see so many images now that they all blend into the background?
Do we even still treat our design work as art? Are the posters, leaflets and websites we commission art; the people who create them, artists? Or, has art been taken out of the promotions/communications/marketing mix?
The posters/art of the past – designed to fade away – now tell us a staggering amount about social history – the battles which took place between different brands, what people wore, ate, read, how they travelled, where they went.
They carry the values that we still use today when deciding on communications strategies – desire, aspiration and modernity.
So, when it comes to planning campaigns and commissioning design work, should we do so with the hope that our work will be gracing antiques roadshows in the next 50 years?