The History of Posters

July 10, 2012 by  Filed under: Advertising 

Posters have had an eventful history since they were first used to advertise products at the dawn of the printing age. Although they are still used today to advertise anything from movies to music concerts and travel, they have also had an interesting brush with some of the most moment’s events in history…

Propaganda and Political Posters

During both the First World War (also known as the Great War) of 1914 – 1918 and the Second World War of 1935 – 1945 recruiting posters became very common, many of which have become part of the national consciousness of all of the participants in both wars. Examples of the posters are:

• Lord Kitchener Wants You (British and Commonwealth – World War 1)
• Uncle Sam Wants You (American – World Wars 1 and 2)
• The Winter Aid (Winterhilfswerk) Appeal (German – World War 2)
• Long live Red Army of workers and peasants – the true guard of the Soviet borders (Russian – World War 2)

During this time posters were also used to warn of foreign spies:

• Loose Lips Sink Ships (British and Commonwealth – World War 2)

And to exhort people to work harder for the war effort:

• Rosie The Riveter (British and Commonwealth – World War 2)

Later on, in 1989, during the democratic revolutions in Central and Eastern Europe propaganda posters once again played a part in motivating change and national fervor. These posters were often hand-made and were posted on political rally points such as the statue of St. Wenseslas in Prague, the Berlin Wall and the grave of Imre Nagy (a Hungarian communist politician who was brought down by the Soviet invasion during the failed Hungarian Revolution of 1956) in Budapest.

Movie Posters

The film and movie industry around the world also used the power of the poster to inform and entice patrons to watch their movies. Some of the most well know movie posters over the years have been:

• Metropolis (1927)
• The Mummy (1932)
• Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
• Star Wars, A New Hope (1977)
• Alien (1979)
• Back to the Future (1985)

Travel Posters

Since the introduction of public forms of transport such as trains, ships and planes posters have been used to promote holiday destinations both within a local environment and around the globe. One of the most well known forms of travel posters can be dated back to the 1920’s and 1930’s in which Art Deco style posters were used to advertise American beach resorts.

The Modern Use of Posters

In this day and age posters are more popular than ever and are still used to advertise anything from the latest blockbuster movies to comic book launches. This is because they are cost effective, vibrant and can be used to evoke an emotion from people that very few other advertising mediums can.

The author is a digital poster printing and digital book printing specialist who has worked in the South African Printing industry for over a decade.

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