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6 Graphic Design Posters That Made A Lasting Impression

A successfully designed poster can say more than thousands of words. Not only is it a beautiful artwork, but the right poster design is an invaluable marketing tool. An impactful visual image captures the imagination and becomes a talking point, so the message is spread organically.

The poster format is a tried and tested method that has been in use for 150 years, but in the era of online marketing the right image has the power to reach a wider audience than ever before. Here’s a look at some of the most memorable posters in history.

Rosie the Riveter

The “We Can Do It!” World War II propaganda poster featuring Rosie the Riveter has taken on a life beyond its original purpose, a sure sign of a successful poster. It was designed in 1943 by J Howard Miller, as part of the campaign to encourage American women to go to work.

This was necessary to keep the country and economy going, as so many men of working age were occupied in the armed forces. Rosie was a real person who was a housewife before she went to work in a factory, and her image has since been adopted as a symbol of female empowerment.

The bold bright colour scheme of yellow, blue, and red and the strong and defiant stance of Rosie is instantly recognisable to most of us nearly 80 years later.

The Jaws film poster

The poster for the classic 1975 film Jaws is considered to be one of the most iconic of all time. Instead of the conventional approach of having the star of the film on the poster, the designer Roger Kastel went with a storytelling approach.

The terrifying sharp teeth of the shark occupy the lower two thirds of the poster, while the vulnerable semi-submerged skinny dipper is poised worryingly above it in the top third. It’s a short step for the viewer to imagine what happens next, making the image immediately recognisable and compelling.

In the white space of the top third of the poster, the red all caps title jumps out. It’s a classic example of simple but effective storytelling that designers still try to emulate to this day.

Keep Calm and Carry on

The original Keep Calm and Carry on poster was designed by the Department of Information as part of the war effort in 1939. It has now become ubiquitous, printed on mugs, T-shirts, and countless other products; perhaps a reflection of the times we are living through. However, there is more to the story of this poster than meets the eye.

The morale-boosting slogan was intended as a piece of propaganda as the UK stood poised on the brink of WWII, but in fact it was never widely seen by the general public at this time. Although 2.45 million copies were printed, the majority ended up being recycled to address a paper shortage.

When one of the few surviving copies was discovered in 2000, the pithy slogan and stark red and white colour scheme hit a chord. The crown at the top of the poster adds just a touch of decorative detail and a stamp of authenticity. It is now a cultural phenomenon to the point of oversaturation.

Le Chat Noir

Le Chat Noir (the Black Cat) poster was designed in 1896 to advertise a cabaret nightclub of the same name in the Montmartre district of Paris. It is a striking image of a slightly cartoonish but imperial looking black cat on an orange and red background, with hand drawn lettering. It’s at once fun but commanding, full of personality and yet simple.

It’s a classic example of the Art Nouveau style, designed by the Swiss artist Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen. This ornamental international art movement flourished between 1890 and 1910, and favoured flowing organic lines that were elegant but also highly expressive.

The Coca-Cola Santa Claus

The Coca-Cola company will always be linked to Santa Claus and the commercialism of Christmas, thanks to a clever marketing poster that forever associated the red Santa outfit with the red of the Coca Cola logo. The cheerful image of a rotund Father Christmas was designed in 1931 by Haddon Sundblom.

See America

The See America poster was designed by Dux Alexander in the 1930s, as part of a series of prints intended to attract tourists to America’s National Parks. It is a classic example of the genre, with perfect use of composition, colour, and storytelling.

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