Whilst the poster in advertising has become little more than a blown-up version of a press-ad, in the cultural sector, the transit or ‘tube' poster is still a critical way to tell customers what's on and what's coming up. They can plant powerful messages about what an organisation is doing, or how it's changing.
So when we re-branded the Science Museum, from the earliest layouts it was critical to check that ideas would work powerfully on posters, whether as simple branding exercises for the museum (as at the top of this page) to encourage lapsed visitors to think again. Or as part of a hard-hitting campaign to attract visitors to a revamped gallery on genetics and identity.
This isn’t the first time we’ve used posters as a key ‘channel’ for cultural messages – as lead designers for the famous Parc de la Villette cultural park in Paris, we produced hundreds of Metro posters during a productive eight-year-long relationship with the client.
All of the posters broadly conformed to our overall graphic guidelines, all used our revised identity palette and strong typography. But each campaign utilised powerful imagery to ‘stop’ passers-by on the streets of Paris.
We’ve also been able to roll several of our other cultural schemes out in a similar way: here’s one of a series of season posters that we produced as part of our new identity for the BFI (British Film Institute). This is for a season of films featuring Marlon Brando.
This for a re-issue of the noir classic, The Asphalt Jungle, which features an early cameo by a then up-and-coming actress, Marilyn Monroe.
Sometimes one-off posters are important to show, early in a scheme’s development, the breadth of an approach. So as we debated ‘kinetic’ and dynamic typography with a leisure client, the Pleasure Beach in Blackpool, this early design was important to show exactly how far the idea could go to brand their amusement park with type.
For certain clients, we’ve been mostly active as poster designers. Our work for the V&A began on the William Morris exhibition in 1996, but it was probably a series of posters to attract more summer visitors to the permanent collection that made most impact as we combined the famous logo with one word headlines.
Poster projects for the V&A continued with a series to mark the opening of the British Galleries, then the advent of free admission to the museum in the early noughties.
This formed part of a series to promote an exhibition on architecture inspired by animal forms that imagined what animals would look like if drawn as architectural pieces.
For some of our clients, posters provide a key strategic service. For example, the Art Fund donates millions to UK galleries to help purchase art. By designing one-off gallery-specific posters we can highlight exactly what in each museum was funded by the charity to show their work in a direct and understandable way.
All others might need is a ‘stopper' poster. So for this design for a late nineties exhibition at the Imperial War Museum we just knotted a poppy stem to be remembered.
For our charity clients, posters have to communicate fast, to justify themselves. So the realignment of Save the Children‘s brand was accompanied by a set of posters designed around past achievements and future aims. They were done to galvanise internal interest in the rebrand, but to show what the new identity assets could do as well.
These posters, for a drug advisory organisation in Angel, Islington, drew on their name by creating images and symbols constructed out of white feathers. They were designed for doctors’ surgery noticeboards, to stand out as much as possible.
This design was part of a set for Time Out magazine who wanted to promote a special edition that imagined the creation of a republic of London (so concentrate on the ‘yolk' and forget the white of the egg).
Back in the first decade of johnson banks' history, we designed a poster series for the British Council about the fact that Britain was changing (OK, it was 1997, there was change and quite a bit of optimism in the air). Rather than denigrating ‘old Britain', we simply designed a set of split screen posters that contrasted what was then with what was now, so in this example, a George Stubbs horse becomes one of Damien Hirst's famous formaldehyde sheep.
For the same client, we also designed a large set of language mini-posters for their classrooms which were designed to unpick some of the intricacies of the English language.
Sometimes we've used the power of the poster to make a point. This ‘map' style design was printed and die-cut to demonstrate our lack of belief in then US President George Bush's stance on the ozone layer.
But sometimes we can just use a poster to communicate in the swiftest way, with the bare minimum of means. This design advertises a lecture about poster design with just a one-colour design.
This lecture poster about the crossover between Advertising and Design simply shows the two words merging into one another.
We're often asked to contribute ideas, designs, and sometimes posters, to group exhibitions. This poster was featured in the British Library as part of an exhibition called 26 letters - our design recreates a noir scene where detectives try to find out who stole our hero letter ‘R'.
Last, but not least, this is probably our most well-known design. Originally designed as a generic lecture poster about the many possible career paths of a graphic designer from school to college and then to work, it was featured in the Communicate show at the Barbican and has sold steadily ever since – it’s currently in its third reprint.