Yesterday I visited an exhibit at Portland’s Pittlock Mansion, A Golden Age of Poster Design: Magazine Posters from the 1890s. This locally owned collection features lithographic posters created to promote magazines like Harper’s Monthly, The Century and Lippencotts.
Before the 1890’s posters were expensive to produce. But new lithographic printing methods made color printing affordable for magazine publishers.
These posters were placed in bookseller’s windows to promote magazine sales. Publishers soon discovered that people were interested in the posters for their artistic appeal. Thus a poster collecting fad began.
This exhibit features posters created by Maxfield Parrish, Edward Potthast, J.J. Gould Jr. and others. Some of these illustrators were employed by the publishers and others were “winners” of poster competitions.
Artists were influenced by Art Nouveau, Japanese prints, Arts and Crafts movement. The design of the posters usually used fluid lines, flat colors areas and simple typography — usually only the magazine title and issue were shown.
I remember studying and loving these artists’ works while taking Art History classes in college. I know they’ve influenced my illustration style on some of the projects I’ve worked on.
Visit this poster exhibit at the Pittlock Mansion
3229 NW Pittock Dr
Portland, Oregon 97210
A design that needs study is not a poster no matter how well it is executed.”
— Edward Penfield
On a recent trip to the library, I ran across Art Chantry Speaks, by Art Chantry. After almost putting the book back on the shelf, I decided to take it home and read it. I’m so glad… I really enjoyed this book.
I moved to Seattle in 1991 and by then Art Chantry was celebrated for his rock posters, rock magazines and album covers. While I didn’t personally know Art, I had heard him talk at the SPGA (Society of Graphic Designers) meetings and knew other designers who shared studio space with him. But I really didn’t connect with him as a person or as a designer.
In reading Art Chantry Speaks, I learned about his love of the history of Graphic Design — the one NOT taught to students in design school. Art traces back many graphic design trends, styles and influences back to the designers who really created them rather than the designers who took the credit. Art also looks back on how the graphic design business evolved from a profession populated by mostly self-taught sign painters to the current “art form” that it is considered today.
Having a clear idea of who your target audience is helps you to create artwork that will resonate with them and be more effective. However, what if the targeted audience changes right before the artwork is due to be printed?
This happened while I was working on a design project at the Seattle Art Museum. Diwali Ball was a fundraising event created to raise money for the upcoming Gardens and Cosmos exhibit. Diwali, the “festival of lights”, is celebrated in many Indian communities and was the perfect theme. For this event, the museum was planning on having a DJ playing Bollywood music to accompany dancing, henna tattoos, drinks and Indian food. The original target audience for this event was young adults, 21 and over.
To create artwork for this event, I was inspired by henna tattoos and the bright colors that are traditionally used in Indian artwork. Since the DJ music was going to be a large part of this event, I decided to design artwork that combined all of these elements to create a fun poster, postcard and other marketing materials.
The clients loved it.
However, a few days before these pieces were supposed to go to press there was a big change in focus. Since young adults typically did not contribute much money to previous fundraising campaigns, it was decided that the campaign should feature a more traditional design that might appeal more to an older audience.