Stark realities

Posters for charities must walk the difficult line between grabbing the attention of information-overloaded passers-by while avoiding looking like a significant chunk of the charity’s funds has been spent on flashy posters. Recently, a number of designers have negotiated this challenge by turning to a stark, pared-back aesthetic. They are achieving this through the use of heavily typographic concepts and high-impact simple portraiture.

Last month, Hat-Trick Design revealed its new identity for Action on Hearing Loss, formerly the Royal National Institute for Deaf People. The posters created to accompany the new identity are themed on the charity’s typographic marque, which shows the ’Action’ underlined and the ’Loss’ struck through. Focusing on the idea of miscommunication and lip-reading, humour adds a human touch to soften the bold, pared-back aesthetic, according to Hat-Trick creative director Jim Sutherland. Says Sutherland, ’White space is absolutely key. So many posters have so much information on them that you just see it as wallpaper and don’t read anything.’

Hat-Trick’s posters for children’s mentoring charity Friendship Works also play on the charity’s identity, featuring pairs of upperand lower-case letters to spell out words like ’society’ and ’together’. The posters were created using a one-colour print on Colorset 270gsm, supplied by Fenner Paper. Sutherland says, ’Perhaps it is partly because when times are tight, doing things typographically and editorially is cheaper, as you don’t have to commission photography. But also, when the big consumer brands are using lots of full-colour photography, you stand out if you’ve just used a oneor two-colour print.’

Similarly, Build’s poster for the Designers for Japan appeal, which raised money for the Red Cross and Shelter Box post-quake, features strong mono-spaced type on a strict grid of three letters on three decks, with a series of dashes occupying the remaining spaces.

Pentagram partner Harry Pearce’s fundraising poster for Doctors Without Borders, created for The Haiti Poster Project, also plays with type and the white space around it. Printed on 170gsm Phoenix Motion, the poster shows letterforms shrouded in a simple white cloth and small type stating the facts of what happened. Pearce says, ’Nothing’s extraneous, to capture the solemnity and enormity of what happened.’

But gaining standout and simplicity don’t necessarily preclude the use of imagery. Three recent poster campaigns Asperger East Anglia by The Click Design Consultants, Cardboard Citizens by Interabang and The National Brain Appeal by Radford Wallis all feature stark portraits, each of which interact with the typographic logos or campaign messages of the charities.

Interabang’s poster for homelessness charity Cardboard Citizens’ theatrical production Or Am I Alone? features portraits of the three main characters overlapped so that they share a middle set of eyes. The poster was printed on 250gsm Satin, but the concept was then developed to create three banners printed on clear acetate backed with frosted vinyl from Colorset UVI, which, when overlapped, created a similar effect.

Similarly, The Click Design Consultants captured the gaze of Asperger East Anglia’s clients, using portraiture that aims to dispel the myths surrounding Asperger syndrome. The group’s Callum Liddle says, ’The photographs are natural and honest with little post-processing. We did not provide any guidelines for attire, and we used a neutral backdrop.’

Radford Wallis painstakingly sourced royalty-free stock photography from Think Stock and used minimalist, close-up portraiture each subject in profile and turned to the left to echo The National Brain Appeal’s logo. Radford Wallis creative director Stuart Radford says, ’We’d like to get to a point where The National Brain Appeal owns that so that you see a profile and immediately you think of the charity.’

Latest articles