As I prepare materials for ‘Film History’, it seems a good time to go back to my thesis and access the section of the varying art movements leading to British graphic design styles as the Second World War broke out.
(c) Bex Lewis, 2004
This next section draws on the methodological framework outlined in chapter one to think about aspects of form and style. It sees poster design as an encoding through which ‘truths’ were produced, and form and style as social and political entities through which ‘power’ works. We will analyse the encoding of the visual in terms of the utilitarian, the disruption of traditional ideas, the political, and as a medium for transmitting ideas. Here, we will illustrate ways in which poster design disrupts notions of high art and images produced for the populace. This relates to one ‘contest’ between artists and designers over the power to define the poster and the way it later drew on older traditions of ‘high’ art. Here, we will trace the ‘institutionalisation’ of poster design in terms of groups’ power to produce posters. As the Introduction outlined, there is a wide ranging debate about the purpose of a poster, and indeed what constitutes a poster itself, is. This is partly dependent on the differing views as to what can be considered the predecessors and origins of the poster: ‘[i]n one sense the poster is a modern invention; in another it is as old as history.’ Some have identified forerunners and precedents for the poster. It ‘could be said that any pictorial representation publicly displayed has something of the poster in it, especially if the object is propaganda.’ This has led to diverse identifications such as cave paintings, biblical precedents, evidence from the previous ‘industrialised’ nations,  shop signs, printed notices, and political cartoons. Most of these, however, were produced singly. It can be argued that the poster only became a truly modern mass medium in the nineteenth century, having developed as societies and technologies evolved. Read the rest of this entry »