Personality in the world of poster
Who is the first one you think of when talking about poster or poster design? Is there anybody in the world of poster to whom you have a special relation? What is his/her place in the international or domestic context?
As a boy growing up in South Africa, I was constantly exposed to the surrounding visual landscape of a country in the grips of Apartheid. My reference was the visual expression of the oppressed and disenfranchised people who could only speak through the then-illegal medium of the popular poster. Liberation posters, or “protest posters” as they have become known as, acted as a social commentary on the political state of the nation. As an impressionable teenager I was moved by these honest statements that encouraged me to try and make a change to the political environment. I therefore retain a strong connection to the medium of the poster – as a form of expression, as an agent of change, and as a voice of the people.
So poster design has always meant a mechanism to enable change for me. To pick an individual, I cannot do, but prefer mentioning a movement that best for me, sums up what real poster design can accomplish. Cause, Resistance and Anti-Apartheid movement posters from the world over resonate deeply within my being.
Jozef Dóka Jr.
I was a just a student at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava, when I was intrigued and creatively influenced by the Polish poster school (at that time renowned in the world of art).
In the 1970’s, during the time of normalisation of cultural diversity and content, the work of Polish affichists had a “pleasant scent” of liberty. Their work was inspiring and visually remarkable. As if by magic, the Poles managed to produce posters that were not subjected to censorship.
In 1980, my posters were exhibited at the Poster Biennale in Warsaw with great success. My presence at this important event together with the fact that I was unexpectedly awarded a prize influenced my future work to a great extent. Established on my instigation, this experience proved crucial also for the event today known as the Trnava Poster Triennial.
Alain Le Quernec
From 1900 to 1960 poster was a very popular art, it existed in the streets, often connected with advertising. Today’s biennials and triennials present images, which are disconnected from advertising and therefore seldom seen in the streets,… These images are more and more often a self-centred exercise of graphic designers who wish to show and demonstrate their talent… They become increasingly more decorative, politically correct as they try not to stir discussions… Although I try not to think of it, I suppose that I am also a member of this self-centred generation, assigning more emphasis to my own art than to the efficiency of communication… I would like to remove myself from this preoccupation, I want my posters to communicate, and one such example is also my work “Baby does not like smoking”…*
In my cultural posters, I like to mix the extreme simplicity with the extreme complexity, the extreme simplicity of the image and its many possible interpretations; when one meaning can reveal another…. I do not find this kind of preoccupation in works of many graphic designers … Exception may be Uwe Loesh who has developed this art with extreme refinement… Although our works are from different cultures and even look very different, I feel that they are close in some aspects…….and that they are distant from the new and brilliant tendencies that prefer the decorative aspect to that of the addressed message… C’est la vie…
* Editor’s Note: The poster “Baby does not like smoking” was granted by the Andy Warhol Award in the Trnava Poster Triennial 2003.
For me, the term poster is unambiguously connected with Henryk Tomaszewski. After WW II, he gave the poster a new dimension and his approach and work greatly influenced graphic design and what is today called visual communication in general. He focused on the author’s creative authenticity, which in turn helped the poster to develop quickly and to take its place in the richness of the world’s culture.
A charismatic teacher, he was able to arouse in his students incessant creative inquiry and a passion for work, and respect for creative personalities, talents and cultural diversity.”
My first teacher in poster design at the University of Wuppertal in Germany was Günther Kieser. He is the one who introduced me to poster design. His lectures in the history of poster design included the poster’s development leading to advertisement, definition of formal categories, and trends. I also remember him talking of the importance of images and typography.
However, Günther Kieser is much more than just my ”first influential lecturer“. He is the most committed and energetic designer I have ever met. Though not very tall, he is a sportsman of strength. I remember him as a man with grey hair and a funny full beard working all the time on new designs, concepts or corrections, etc.
His manner of speaking is very fast and I had to learn to catch each word and to understand its meaning. And, of course, when speaking of Günther Kieser, everything he says is important. He has never been afraid to articulate his opinion! I have never seen him in a situation that would leave him speechless: He has never had a problem to immediately communicate his statements on students’ works, themes or the works of others. This is a work of great quality! (This goes for me as well. Maybe I learnt it from him, in any case, my students appreciate it).
However, there is always something that makes me think of him (for instance, when asked to write this article). Let me tell you a short story that describes my first experience working on my very first (!) project while studying visual communication. It was the third term of my basic studies. Needless to say, I was too young, uncertain and absolutely inexperienced in graphic design. Once, we were assigned a very interesting theme which, as usual, proved to be enormously complex. I had intensively investigated the theme and reflected on it until I had clear idea of what I was going to do. I developed my concept with the first layout, main-motif, headlines and, of course, its variations. The day of my first presentation arrived. I was so nervous! Oh-la-la …
Günther Kieser paid attention to my concept and was interested in my work! He understood everything I had done and scribbled. And what was even more important: My work and my idea convinced him! (I felt like I had grown at least two centimetres.) But then it came: ”And now, Mrs. Gertrud, what about the remaining motifs? Your description was very precise and correct, and as you already said, a story consisting of four or five motifs would explain your intention in full. What do the motifs look like? What are the main objects? Do they resemble this one? … “ – I was so frightened, speechless. I had nothing to show him. ”It’s easy to develop an idea, but a good concept and visual design proves its quality when finished. So, Ms Gertrud: Here and now, do it! I will sit beside you and observe your work in silence“, were his words. – Can you imagine how horrible I felt?! Günther Kieser sitting right there, next to me, my fingers were trembling and my head spinning from exertion and fear. However, he liked my idea and accepted it! That made me proud and helped me to overcome this extreme situation: He was right! It was my turn and I had to do it there and then. Needless to say, I succeeded. I developed the remaining four motifs.
– This ”happening“ was the greatest and my most important experience in designing. – Günther Kieser showed me that designing is hard work: Handiwork that comes after a good portion of brain work!
Today, I tell this story to my students … and I hope they understand…
My next teacher was Uwe Loesch, but that is another story…