Posters are inherently persuasive. Their sole purpose is to communicate a message, inspire a movement, educate the masses, sell an idea. Whether fully textual or wholly graphical, posters have been around through the ages in all their various realms — from politics to pop — to make a point in print. In this digital age, it’s refreshing that 2D still has a place. As well as being simple and persuasive, posters can also be designed for good. Here are five examples how.
COMPETITIVE: Core77, the industrial design magazine and online resource, is hosting a poster competition, “Sustainable Refrainables,” asking participants to “create a poster that communicates the phrases that move people toward sustainable design and business solutions.” The five winning designers will receive $14,000 worth of prizes and their posters will be displayed as transit shelters in San Francisco for one week before and during Design Week in June 2011.
SOCIAL: The annual Good 50 X 70 poster competition, led by Associazione Culturale Good Design in Milan, Italy, asks designers to submit a 50- by 70-centimeter poster that demonstrates “social communication” on a variety of issues. Themes for this year’s contest included Africa, HIV+ discrimination, legality, Mediterranean marine reserves, migrants healthcare, poverty or tiger extinction. The purpose of the contest is two-fold: to create a database of free communication tools available to any charity or NGO, like Amnesty International or Greenpeace, and also to mobilize the creative community for social change.
CURATED: Posters for Good, a simple Tumblr blog, collects “posters and pictures showing the importance of saving the environment.” The broad and disparate collection highlights a range of environmental issues, from sustainable transport to climate change.
NEWSWORTHY: In September 2010, San Francisco-based designer Jonny Selman started a project to design a poster every day for 365 days in reaction to a BBC News headline. He wakes up two hours early before heading to art school to imagine ways to visually describe the day’s top story. The purpose of his online graphic design project, known as BBCX365, is “to bridge the knowledge gap between global current events and the American public.” He says he wants to be a “catalyst for change” by compelling his audience to take interest in current global events. The headlines that serve as the inspiration for his posters range from the geeky (“iPhone Alarms Hit By New Year Glitch”) to the gory (“Pakistan Drone Attack ‘Kills 18 Militants’”). On December 17, Selman displayed the first 100 days of his poster-making in storefront windows along Valencia in San Francisco. No word, yet, on whether he plans to sell his creations. For updates, follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
POWERFUL: If you can’t make a poster yourself, consider downloading any of these 11- by 17-inch PDFs from Power to the Poster and plaster them in highly trafficked areas where you want your message to be heard. Call it what you want (“DIY-style guerilla poster propaganda” comes to mind), these posters pack a punch.
PATRIOTIC: Looking like something out of World War II, Green Patriot Posters aim to mobilize the American public to fight against the crisis of climate change, just as generations before us fought against other enemies. The collection of posters, created by renowned artists/activists like Shepard Fairey and Michael Bierut, as well as not-so-famous graphic designers, is part of a larger communications and advocacy campaign that encourages U.S. citizens to “build a sustainable economy.” (As a sustainable transport advocate, I was happy to see Michael Bierut design posters for buses in Cleveland, Ohio, calling people’s attention to combat climate change by taking mass transit and creating green jobs.) You can buy a book of 50 Green Patriot Poster reproductions here. Or submit your own design for distribution on the Web. ”We felt the sustainability movement needs better images and messages to connect with people,” co-editor Edward Morris from The Canary Project told Wired.com. “It needs more positivity and urgency, and a better connection to values that aren’t simply about nature and conservation, which not everybody cares about, but also jobs and a better future.”
VOCAL: The Say Something Poster Project gives designers a chance to create posters that will “inspire, motivate and educate teenage kids.” The winning posters of this year’s call for entries will be donated to the Home for Little Wanderers, where they’ll help kids to engage in counseling and educational activities. The 25 semifinalists’ full size prints will be on display at “The Poster Show,” a gallery event in Boston.