An urgent appeal to the public
Using posters to attract the attention of passers-by to social issues is a particular challenge in a commercial advertising setting. Behind this selection stand committed designers – and a handful of commercial enterprises. The posters feature a broad range of objectives, visual rhetoric and argumentation strategies.
The communication of social messages in poster format often proves to be a balancing act between the dangers of minimisation, trivialisation, aestheticisation, shock and intellectual illegibility. That also reflects the way in which observers receive the message. As such, the posters presented here challenge us to reflect on our own habits of vision and thought, and to engage with new images.
In a brief interview, Nico Lazúla, archivist at the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, discusses the portrayal of social issues in posters.
When did social appeals through the medium of the poster become established?
Essentially, political and social posters are a product of the First World War. In the subsequent years, up to the world financial crisis of 1929, the poster was recognised as the perfect medium to put young, malleable nations on a shared course in working and private life.
Certainly by the 1980s, with knowledge about forest decline and Chernobyl, unstoppable globalisation, trans-national ‘development cooperation’, the first climate conferences, etc., the questions, concerns and need for action present in political thinking also appeared in the medium of the poster. Slogans like ‘Save the trees’, ‘Make peace without weapons’ and ‘Nuclear power? No thanks’ became embedded in public consciousness. Rhetorical appeals are produced and used by both state and non-state actors.
Which posters in the selection use subversive strategies?
The Foundation against racism and antisemitism took a different approach in its campaign ‘What do Thai women do when it gets dark?’ The posters, with their play of question-and-answer in a comic style, are so striking that the observer can’t help smiling. The text and image planes pick up on established codes and subversively modify them.
People generally don’t confuse advertising promises with reality. But political and social appeals explicitly strive to establish a reference to reality. The extent of this unspoken demarcation is best illustrated by the cases where this convention is shattered.
The most prominent example in this context is the advertising campaign that Oliviero Toscani developed for Benetton, which attracted attention worldwide. The controversy showed that the bold display of images of refugees, racism, the death penalty and so on violates this demarcation. Images that are business as usual in the evening news trigger an entirely unexpected confrontation in an advertising context, creating a visual shock and leading viewers to rethink their own attitudes.
Eine offene Schweiz, s.v.p.!
AI Amnesty International
DE, um 1985
U. G. Sato
Leere Dosen zurückgeben!
Kind und Verkehr
Danke, dass Sie Abfall am Bahnhof statt im Zug entsorgen.
Atelier Zeugin / Mark Zeugin
Jung bleiben – nicht rauchen
CH, um 1958
Menschenrechte für Alle
Sorgen – hinter jeder Wolke scheint die Sonne
Atelier Bundi / Stephan Bundi
Stoppt die Folter
Rettet den Wald
Wohin würden Sie fliehen?
Ruf Lanz Werbeagentur / Markus Ruf
Für Wildtiere ist es eine Qual, von Touristen betatscht zu werden.
Kein Alkohol am Steuer
Was machen Thailänderinnen, wenn es dunkel wird?
Anschlaege.de / Axel Watzke, Christian Lagé, Janneke De Rooij
"Mal ganz ehrlich, können Sie mit 100 Euro im Monat auskommen?"
cR Basel Werbeagentur
Niesen – Husten – Kein Aids‑Risiko
Keine Atomraketen – Krefelder Appell
Suunnittelutoimisto Both / Timo Berry
Foto: Timo Berry, Ida Pimenoff
United Colors of Benetton.
Terror – Error
Various & Gould
New York – Vladimir – Arbeitslos
Rich – Poor
Pierre Mendell Design Studio / Pierre Mendell, Annette Kröger
Mendell & Oberer / Pierre Mendell
Vor Gott sind alle Menschen gleich
Poster collection, Museum für Gestaltung Zürich
The poster collection at the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich is one of the most comprehensive and important archives of its kind in the world. It contains around 350,000 objects, with about 150,000 catalogued, all documenting the national and international history of the poster from its origins in the mid-19th century to the present day. The collection includes political, cultural and commercial posters. Their diversity of historical, thematic and geographic subjects results in both a panorama of poster art and a glimpse into a visual archive of day-to-day life. Some of the posters are available to view in the museum’s online database: www.emuseum.ch. This database is constantly being expanded.
The images in this online exhibition are part of the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich’s digital poster collection and are for illustration purposes only. Publication of the images or other commercial use for the benefit of third parties is not permitted without the permission of the copyright holders. For information on ordering image templates: firstname.lastname@example.org