The simplest ideas take on a life of their own

In your Voxpop (DW 27 March), my ex-fellow student Greg Quinton recalls that our head of graphics claimed to have designed the iconic Che Guevara image.

I’d since discovered that Jim Fitzpatrick takes credit for creating this iconic graphic in 1968 as an art student. The previous week I’d visited the Weapons of Mass Communication exhibition at the Imperial War Museum which displayed hundreds of the most arresting iconic war posters.

I was eager to see the Che Guevara poster there and who might be credited with it, but surprisingly it did not feature at all. However, two other iconic posters did and were displayed side-by-side.

The James Montgomery Flagg poster was created in 1917 to encourage recruitment in the United States Army during World War I, which shows Uncle Sam pointing at the viewer. Next to it, the earlier poster by Alfred Leete, 1914, a British recruitment poster showing Lord Kitchener in a similar pose which inspired the US version. And, nearby, a third ‘skeletal’ version that was produced in 1972.

Used as a powerful political tool, the idea was re-used and evolved. Designs in the political sphere can become a kind of ‘public property’, carrying messages to make people work harder, be better citizens and somehow stronger patriots. The designs and messages can then be built upon, evolved, shifted and even made to shock.

Zuleika Burnett, Creative director, Medibrand, by e-mail

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