[caption id="attachment_288" align="alignright" width="196" caption="Barack 'HOPE' poster"][/caption]
One of the most influential pieces of art to be made in the last decade would have to be the illustrated 'Hope' portrait of Barrack Obama by extraordinary illustrator Shepard Fairey. A superb addition to a long and rich history of propaganda posters, it's interesting to note that the most famous from this history came from communist countries - the Soviet Union, China and Cuba.
This latest addition is certainly in the realm of some of the great pieces of political postering, and it has come from a country so blasted by media you'd think they were well immune to it by now.
Now I've always loved the art of the poster - penciling style and form and type to inform in a large format - and when it's socially charged and politically inclined, it adds that certain power that can live in a persons mind forever - far longer than what they're feeding us on television.
So what is it that makes an illustrators depiction of an idea or ideal so much more powerful than a photo?
There's many reasons that work for the poster artist, but looking through some of my favorites, there's a few which stand out time and again.
The obvious angle is that a good copywriter can emotionally charge the work with a single word, immediately tying the posters subject to an ideal. The illustrator as a designer chooses a typeface that will assist in rendering the work revolutionary, edgy, new, classic, powerful, even groovy (see some of these Cuban posters).
You'll often notice the use of the triangle in political postering. The central figure extends to the top centre of the composition, with the wide base towards the bottom of the composition. That's the choice of an artist arranging within the given space which adds stability to the composition. Make's it strong, often how the poster should be read.
Through time visual styles change, but one thing that doesn't is the ability for an artist to enhance a subject through his individual style. There's no question that Barack Obama is a black man, and you hardly notice that he's been illustrated in 2 blues and a red. That's part of Shepard's style.
I think where the quality illustrator makes his mark above the photographer in political postering, is that he takes it's subject and put's it into a historical capsule. It is no longer a snapshot of reality, but a statement of the times and depiction of what is visually happenning right now.
Illustrators are effective in this way, and after a week where Creative Suite have seen a few increadible illustrators work first hand, we'd like to see it making more inroads into commercial design. It's happening a lot in the UK and the US, but Australia hasn't taken to spending their dollars on illustrators as much - it may be a direction you'll think about because the delivery and the message can be exceptionally strong - it worked for one of the most successful brands the world has ever seen - Barrack Obama.
Some great illustrations from the history of political postering.
Thanks for the International Institute of Social History