BA Graphic & Media Design
It is important to remember that the world-wide web, a tool which is now essential for everyday life, was only invented by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989. Due to the global connectivity given to us by internet we find ourselves living in an ever increasingly fast-paced, ocular-centric world, dominated by temporary trends. Subjects are being quickly forgotten and waiting to be swallowed up by the next ‘big thing’, especially driven in more recent times by the rise of screens and social media. So how are creatives tackling this and reverting to methods which carry a more permanent message in times of uncertainty?
Printmaking has existed in Europe since the 14th century, and has even been recorded in china as early as 105 AD (Beedenbender, 2003). It continues to carry the same purpose today as it always has, to portray a message through a combination text and/or image and to be shared with others. Alongside their usual practise a vast mix of artists and designers create work to express their opinions on matters such as politics or in support of social causes. Through this I will be exploring some of the more prominent examples of how a printed poster can convey these messages.
Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution Will Bring Us Victory /
Freedom is in Peril, Defend it With All Your Might / Keep Calm and Carry On.
Available at: https://literaryames.wordpress.com/2014/11/02/the-story-behind-keep-calm-and-carry-on/
When looking back on World War Two, the British people like to remember the camaraderie of wartime spirit and a ‘can do’ attitude. A lot of these messages were initially produced and spread across the nation by the Ministry of Information, through printed posters. The three posters above are some of the most infamous from produced in the wartime period, spread across the country to generate that war-time spirit and boost morale. However, the ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ poster which has become such an iconic image in the 21st century wasn’t officially shared in World War Two, despite 2.5 million copies being printed, as it was to be kept until times of invasion or grave peril in the nation (BarterBooksLtd, 2012).
One of the most prominent causes of recent times has been that of Extinction Rebellion in their fight against global warming. Their occupation of London, including Waterloo Bridge and Oxford Circus was all over the media in April 2019, and more recently than this Extinction Rebellion occupied Trafalgar square in October 2019 for a two-week long peaceful protest. During this time, graphic artist Anthony Burrill conducted a workshop with participating activists and printed some large banners in his typical typographic style alongside a smaller scale print workshop which took place in Trafalgar Square during the peaceful protest.
No Safe Place — Anthony Burrill.
Available at: https://www.instagram.com/p/B98IjhWoPN-/
Burrill also contributed work towards Rise Exhibition, an auction in aid of the recent wildfires in Australia. A collection of artists was each given charcoal created by the fires in Australia and asked to use it as a medium in their work, Burrill chose to create a screen-print which featured the phrase ‘No Safe Place’ in his quoined bold typographic style, stemming from his practise which predominantly lies in Letterpress printing.
Why Iraq? Why Now? Alan Kitching.
Available at: https://www.wemadethis.co.uk/blog/2016/05/alan-kitching-a-life-in-letterpress/
Tying in to Burrill’s typographic work is Alan Kitching, known for being one of the forefront global practitioners of Letterpress printing, creating a vast mix of typographic Letterpress work over a long career. In 2003 Kitching designed a dual-purpose poster and protest for The Guardian Newspaper, ‘Why Iraq? Why Now?’. Despite the poster being printed into a newspaper, it was designed to be cut out from the newspaper and used as a protest poster for the anti-Iraq war rally which took place on 15th February 2003 (We Made This, 2016).
For *U*K’s Sake Stop Brexit
Hersey, T. 2020. For *U*K’s Sake Stop Brexit [photograph of artwork by Alan Kitching]. London.
The above poster, again printed by Kitching, is another example of the more political side of his practise. Created to use whilst in attendance of the more recent anti-Brexit protests which took place in central London. Both posters, along with Anthony Burrill’s work, display a fine example of how traditional printing techniques can still be translated into posters to spread messages in the face of difficult times.
“What I do I, consider to be ‘Extreme typography’. Done at a risk. But the modular system of wood block type body sizes come to the rescue. Pure chance plays its part.” — Alan Kitching, 2020.
As of June 2018, Instagram has over one billion active monthly users (Chen, J. 2020), this combined with the social medias nature of being image based cements its reputation as an invaluable tool for promoting and sharing work amongst the creative industries. The ease of being able to quickly share work to such a vast global audience is something which would have been unimaginable before the invention of the internet.
Creatives Against Covid-19. Homepage showing examples of posters for sale.
Available at: https://www.creativesagainstcovid19.com/
Creatives Against Covid-19 (CAC19) is a new creative initiative, conceived amid the current global pandemic, which utilises Instagram perfectly. Originated by the minds at RichardsDee agency, CAC19 set an open brief to create an A3 poster relating to the theme word ‘soon’. When asked for a comment about the rationale behind the concept, CAC19 replied:
“When we initially created the concept it stemmed from what we believed to be the innate power of the printed poster. Through-out periods of turmoil or uncertainty, messages of hope or optimism have often been created through the medium of the poster.”
— Alana Storm O’Sullivan, 2020.
Designers jumped at the idea, with over one thousand posters submitted in a week, from thirty different countries around the globe. Each selected poster is up for sale for €40 through their website with all proceeds going toward supporting two charitable causes, ISPCC ChildLine and Women’s Aid (Creatives Against Covid-19, 2020). The global connectivity achieved through this project is somewhat phenomenal. Under one overarching brief a vast mix of disciplines have been brought together by creatives whilst raising money for charity. CAC19 is a beautiful example of collaboration and self-expression amongst creatives in times of uncertainty, alongside the promising combination of social media and its support of print.
“There's something incredibly special in knowing that in 10, 20 or 50 years down the road there will be posters across the world which not only raised money for those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic but also provided a beacon of hope in troubling times.”
— Alana Storm O’Sullivan, 2020.
Even in the digital age that we live in today, the printed poster has secured itself as a continually essential element in society, as important today as it always has been since its inception. The human need for a physical, tangible item is something that will surely continue for many years to come, especially in uncertain times when humanity turns to messages of hope and support.
BarterBooksLtd (2012) The Story of Keep Calm and Carry On. 28th February. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FrHkKXFRbCI (Accessed: 05/05/2020).
Beedenbender, V. (2003) Beedenbender. Available at: http://washingtonprintmakers.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/PrintmakingIntroduction.pdf (Accessed: 05 May 2020).
Chenn, J. (2020) Important Instagram stats you need to know for 2020 Available at: https://sproutsocial.com/insights/instagram-stats/#ig-usage (Accessed: 05/05/2020).
Creatives Against Covid-19 (2020) About. Available at: https.//www.creativesagainstcovid19.com/pages/about (Accessed: 05/05/2020).
Hersey, T. 2020. For *U*K’s Sake Stop Brexit [photograph]. London.
Literary Ames (2014) The Story Behind ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ – its bookish roots. Available at: https://literaryames.wordpress.com/2014/11/02/the-story-behind-keep-calm-and-carry-on/(Accessed: 05/05/2020).
O’Sullivan, A S. (2020) E-mail to Theo Hersey, 6th May.
Risesocietyltd. (2020) 'On the auction site now: Anthony Burrill' [Instagram]. 20th March. Available at: https://www.instagram.com/p/B98IjhWoPN-/ (Accessed: 05/05/2020).
Steven, R. (2019) Anthony Burrill lends his support to Extinction Rebellion. Available at: https.//www.creativereview.co.uk/anthony-burrill-lends-his-support-to-extinction-rebellion/ (Accessed: 05 May 2020).
We Made This (2016) Alan Kitching: A life in Letterpress. Available at: https://www.wemadethis.co.uk/blog/2016/05/alan-kitching-a-life-in-letterpress/ (Accessed: 05/05/2020).
Kitching, A. (2020) E-mail to Theo Hersey, 10/05/2020.