Designers tell us about their favourite political posters of all time

Last week it was announced that an original version of the Keep Calm and Carry on poster is expected to sell for more than £20,000 at auction. We asked designers about the political posters they find most captivating.

Olly Guise_A
Olly Guise, independent creative director and designer

“I’m probably not alone in my irrational hatred of the Keep Calm poster thanks to all the naff parodies, so I’ll probably hang on to my £20,000 a bit longer. I’d have to choose from two great war-inspired pieces from two different eras.

Abram Games’ Grow Your Own Food (1942) masterfully fuses a spade and a ship in support of Britain’s Dig for Victory campaign, but arguably it’s more advisory than political.

So I’m going for Noma Bar’s debut Saddam Hussein image (1991), because it makes a statement so powerfully without using a single word (and it’s topical).”

pali palavathanan
Pali Palavathanan, founder, Templo

“When I visit the London headquarters of our client Amnesty International, I’m always struck by the iconic posters hanging in the meeting rooms.

Posters like Football Yes, Torture No, which encouraged a revolt against the Argentina Junta in 1976; Pablo Picasso’s iconic La Colombe et le Prisonnier image; or Israeli designer Yossi Lemel’s Reach image encapsulate a time in history and inspired people to engage with a problem.

You can ignore words but it’s so much harder to stop the power of an iconic image. I’m intrigued by how these examples convey powerful ideology and create empathy.”

Jon Daniel, independent creative director

“This is such a tough question as political posters, and in fact poster design in general, was my first love in terms of graphic design.

There is a long list of designers that I have been inspired by, such as Emory Douglas, Shigeo Fukuda, Milton Glaser and Herb Lubalin, whose works could easily top this list several times over.

But the one I am going to choose – for the fact that it was one of the first posters that had a real impact on me, and of course for its utter brilliance, simplicity, potency and playfulness – is Black Power, White Power, designed by the one and only, Tomi Ungerer in 1967.”

Marksteen Adamson, partner, ArthurSteenHorneAdamson

“I know this is an obvious choice, but the Obama Hope Poster designed and printed by Shepard Fairey speaks volumes. I like the fact that it transcends politics and stands alone as a statement of achieving the seemingly impossible.

I also like the fact that it wasn’t designed by a traditional advertising agency. It felt very back street when it was originally produced, and the poster I have framed on our wall in the studio is an original silk screen – you can still smell the ink.

For me, everything about this poster represents the biggest challenge for designers to do better. It will forever be a modern classic.”

Heidi Lightfoot, founder, Together Design

“There’s no way I could pick a favourite! Political propaganda and an agenda of social welfare has been a rich source of inspiration for so many amazing designers.

Tom Eckersley and Abram Games are two of my favourite masters of poster design, working in Britain during and after the Second World War.

An inspiring designer continuing that tradition is Alejandro Magallanes, based in Mexico City. Alejandro is a founding member of several activist poster groups.

His arresting, provocative and often humorous work is as comfortable promoting human rights and peace as it is illustrating a children’s book.”

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