Poster design directs the way
Poster design for ‘The Gates – Christo and Jeanne-Claude’
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Ever since I started this business, we’ve come back to one key genre of project time and time again – poster design. I thought this would make a good topic for a blog post as we are working on a new retail project at the moment which is going to require a lot of large-format visuals and I’ve been reviewing our poster design work over the years.
Typically when we work on a project of this kind, we end up raking through books and magazines, random Pinterest boards and even photos taken during holidays or the odd iPhone snapshot or two here in London.
The visual research for this particular project has turned up some really fun stuff. While I don’t often have a chance to share this sort of backup work to a project, I thought I’d cherrypick some highlights and include them here. In particular while I was on holiday in the Middle East in May I felt that there was this amazing burgeoning street-poster design scene which really caught my imagination. So much of what we do is digital – banner ads for websites or tiny little panels that appear on smartphones somewhere – that to have the luxury of a really large, beautiful poster which people see right away is a treat.
Poster design I particularly admired in Tel Aviv this May
What makes a good poster design?
That most immediate of art forms, A poster’s subject can be anything from the most ephemeral and featherlight of happenings to weighty artistic statement or even at the extreme end of the scale no less than political revolution. Some are legendary and stand the test of time, considered classic visuals, design gold. What is that magic element that captures the eye and stands out against the competition?
A couple of posters which we’ve loved recently have been for London museum shows. These have increasingly taken the form of huge blockbuster spectacles and it’s been incredible and inspiring to see tens of thousands of people flock to these iconic and legendary cultural centres.
Three recent posters that I think have worked particularly well have been these;
Poster design for ‘The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier’ at the Barbican
Poster design for ‘Summer Exhibition 2015’ at the Royal Academy
Poster design for ‘Alexander McQueen – Savage Beauty’ at the V&A
There’s an immediacy here, a distinctive sense of an exhibition being a huge, epic event which one simply must attend. Proclamations to ‘book now’ as though this was a soon-t0-be-sold-out concert have reimagined these once-staid events as must-see events, and the posters have played a significant part in this. Another aspect I enjoy about these is that while the event may be a stand-alone moment in the story of a museum’s year, they maintain, in a very bold way, the overall visual look of the museum. The museum becomes the brand.
Favourite poster design projects we’ve worked on
In the course of the past thirteen years, we’ve designed many posters for all manner of things. Admittedly given the nature of our work these have tend to be promotional or artistic, rather than encouraging the subversive or anarchic, but they hold no less artistic enjoyment for me.
To get a poster right is by no means straightforward. Whomever is commissioning them inevitably has a whole lot of ‘stuff’ they want included and (speaking candidly) for the designer this can be rather frustrating. Times, dates, locations, promoters/sponsors (usually with ugly promoters’ logos), not to mention photography credits, special times on different days… By the time you’re finished the end product can look structured, but rammed with information.
That said, balancing this information so there are clear levels of typography can result in a really clear piece of graphic design. But generally the over-riding logic is that the simpler the poster, the clearer the message.
Poster design for ‘Chris Cox – Everything Happens for a Reason’ at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe
Poster design for Oddbins’ ‘Beers with Passion’ campaign
Poster design for the Oddbins Wine Fair 2012