Poster-Art: Innovation in Poster Design

Photography-Based Poster Design

Adapted from Poster-Art: Innovation in Poster Design (RotoVision)

By Charlotte Rivers

Posters have a long and rich history, and much of what has made them such an effective form over the centuries is the memorable artwork that has gone into their designs. As one of the foremost examples of modern art and design today, posters are displayed publicly throughout the world, so becoming part of our cultural heritage. As a result, poster artwork often goes on to become iconic, defining eras, movements and visual trends.

From photography to illustration, the artwork used on posters must represent, or be relevant to, the subject being communicated. Where this artwork or imagery comes from is dependent on the poster. For instance, when promoting a photography exhibit, it is comon for the image on the poster to be taken from the show it's advertising, and for CD releases or concerts, posters will often feature images of the band or artist in question. However, this is not a hard and fast rule. Many designers take inspirations from the poster's subject matter, but it is the ways they interpret this visually that makes for truly interesting designs.



These two posters were created in 2006 by Copenhagen-based designer Andreas Emenius to promote the fall and winter 2007 show of fashion collective Könrøg. Emenius, who had previously created the collective’s identity, was given a fairly open brief, but he was asked to design something that was surprising and energetic, and relevant to the collection.

“I wanted to create something abstract and without text,” he explains. “Something with movement, colors, strength, and something instant that communicates the emotions behind the Könrøg fashion show. The main shape on both posters is based on the Könrøg logo. I then added lots of shapes that symbolize the vitality of the collective, and while one poster is made mostly out of graphic elements, the other juxtaposes graphics with a photograph of one of the outfits.”

A basic paper stock and printing method were used to give the posters a “naive” feel and let the designs speak for themselves. They were sent, along with invitations, to magazines and selected people in the fashion industry. The poster graphics were carried through to brand advertising, projections during the show, and T-shirts.


Günter Grass

French designer Philippe Apeloig designed this poster to publicize the appearance of German writer Günter Grass at the 2005 Fête du Livre, an annual foreign-literature festival in Aix-en-Provence, France. At the time of the festival Grass had recently published My Century, a book that explores the history of Germany in the 20th century, a century that was full of major social and political events that transformed not only Germany, but also Europe and the wider world.

“His dense prose is like a testament to the great tradition of German culture,” explains Apeloig. “Inspired by this, I wanted to create a poster that made full use of the size and format, filling it up and making a powerful and grand image.”

A photograph of Grass’s face appears within the letterforms, making him seem totally immersed in his writing and art. The design is punctuated with a series of 100 dates from 1900 to 1999.


Game Over/The Presence of Things

The first poster here was created for the international competition Children Are the Rhythm of the World, which was organized by the German Poster Museum in Essen. The poster shows a child-soldier with a machine gun. Loesch has changed the color and surface of the photo to give it a camouflage effect. The main text on the poster is based on a German nursery rhyme.

The second poster was one of a series created to mark the centenary of the Ruhrlandmuseum in Essen. As part of the program for its centenary celebrations, the museum asked the inhabitants of the city of Essen to supply “objects of memory” to be exhibited at the museum as well as the stories associated with them. These objects were also used by Loesch on the posters he created to promote the show. Shown on this poster is a glass jar that was used by a mother of two during the Second World War to take water with her when she went to the air-raid shelter. “I added the fly on the glass as an expression of life,” explains Loesch. The poster was awarded the Gold Medal at the International Poster Biennial in Warsaw 2006, and was included in “The 100 Best Posters 2005” competition in Berlin.


Den Sista Hunden i Rwanda

Den Sista Hunden i Rwanda (The Last Dog in Rwanda) is the debut movie by Swedish photographer and director Jens Assur. This poster was designed to promote its release. Based on Assur’s own experiences and feelings, the movie is about two journalists who travel through the shattered country. The director’s brief for the poster, designed by Jonas Banker at BankerWessel, was not to give too much away about the movie, and to create a “graphic” look, using black and red.

“We wanted the poster to look ‘cool,’ but not in a clichéd kind of way—to be ‘neutral’ and not to give away anything of the film,” explains Wessel. “We also wanted it to stand out from other posters in approach, format, and paper.”

The poster was printed on white newspaper stock, and the typeface is Franklin. “It worked very well with the theme,” adds Wessel. “It made it stand apart from other posters, and could also be easily folded and distributed.” In addition, a limited number of posters were printed on better-quality stock for archiving. The poster artwork was also used on the cover of the DVD release, which, in addition to the movie, features an interview with the director and a documentary about Rwanda.


In-House Trolls/Trollofon 05

The In-House Trolls poster was created for an exhibit celebrating the launch of Varoom magazine, the journal of the London-based Association of Illustrators. Contributors to the magazine were each invited to exhibit a new artwork at the event. Grandpeople designed this poster, which combines details of previous jobs to create this “dripping” image. It was limited to one copy only.

Trollofon is an annual festival of contemporary experimental music in Bergen, Norway. The 2005 festival had a natural science theme which had to come across in the poster design. “The organizers collected various items and displayed them around the festival premises,” explains designer Magnus Voll Mathiassen. “We found our own object, a root with lopped branches.”

The root image is a mosaic of 15 close-up photographs. This was done to ensure crispness, richness, and detail, and to add an element of quirkiness. Event details have been repeated to resemble a periodic table and to enable the posters to be cut into flyers with each retaining all the relevant information.


The Greatest Show on Earth

This series of posters was designed by John Glasgow and Jonathan Kenyon of New York–based Vault49 for an exhibit titled “The Greatest Show on Earth,” held at the Coningsby Gallery in London. It showcased Vault49’s partnership with some of the best photographic, illustrative, and typographic talent around, including Daryl Waller, Si Scott, Rinze van Brug, Michael Creigh, and Stephan Langmanis.

Each image is different, yet together they form a great series of posters. “The show was inspired by a world of questionable morality and alternative pastimes, and influenced by the lives and performances of early-20th-century traveling entertainers,” explains Kenyon. To achieve this, the combination of illustration and photography continues the theme of much of Vault49’s work, which challenges us to reimagine the world in which we live.

The posters shown here were all designed by Vault49 in collaboration with Daryl Waller, with the exception of Stand and Deliver, which was by Vault49 alone. The photographers whose work features on these posters are: Michael Creigh on Stand and Deliver, and Rinze van Brug and Michael Creigh on Bear Tamer.

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Excerpted with permission from Poster-Art: Innovation in Poster Design (Rotovision) by Charlotte Rivers Copyright © 2007 Rotovision.