Self-spun campaigns assert poster power

Politics has its uses to the creative industries. Campaigns designed to reach the hearts and minds of the people have, over the years, given us some of the most memorable examples of communication design, especially through posters.

Take the war work of legends like the late Abram Games, whose stunning 1940s posters for the War Office on the theme “Grow your own food” and 1960s work for the then Ministry of Housing for the Keep Britain Tidy campaign have become design classics. More recently, we’ve had the knocking billboard campaign of the Tories when they were still in power, with ads by Saatchi & Saatchi claiming “Labour isn’t working”, with images of a dole queue.

It was with this in mind that we invited a group of designers, British-based, but not all UK-born, to come up with ideas to promote one or other of the main political parties in the run up to the General Election. Time was tight and the brief very open, but all involved have given it their best shot.

What comes through a couple of the designs is the influence branding has had on communication. Garrick Hamm at Williams Murray Hamm and the team at C21 led by Franco Bonadio (who designed the Liberal Democrats identity when he was at Fitch) have both taken a blatantly fmcg route, while Pierre Vermeir at HGV has portrayed New Labour as a brand.

Interestingly, no one opted to create a website. Even digital star Malcolm Garrett of AMX cited “Go to work on an egg” as a great slogan to be borrowed, presumably in the context of celebrated egg-head William Hague, but didn’t suggest a radical method of delivering the message (and was unable to create a visual of his idea due to work pressures). Do people feel the majority of voters don’t have Internet access? More likely it reinforces the role of the poster as a powerful way to get a message across.

Over the past couple of years we’ve seen a decline in the volume and overall quality of posters entered for the Design Week Awards. Meanwhile, as we go to press Lippa Pearce is the only design group holding out for a yellow pencil for a poster design – for its Children at War posters — in tonight’s D&AD Awards.

Posters often sit awkwardly within a communication brief, often falling into the ad agency’s remit, rather than with design. But they provide the opportunity to create something of great style and wit, combining craft skills like illustration and typography, and deserve a bigger place in the design mix. The best posters are ideas-based, mixing great words with intriguing images. What better way to put across the power of design?

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