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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


New Masters of Poster Design: Poster Design for the Next Century by John Foster (Rockport Publishers) In much the way that the CD replaced the album, the poster has waned as a messaging vehicle. The poster has now become a postcard and e-mail blast, leaving many to long for the lost age when posters were not only major promotional vehicles, but also artwork worthy of framing.

Some of the world's best designers just could not stand idle while the poster fell by the wayside. They turned to the poster for personal expression and as an outlet from more restrictive mediums.

This book showcases their breathtaking artwork, which has proven that the poster can still serve as a worthy communications tool. In doing so, they've brought the poster back to prominence. In this book, the author has compiled the world's finest new work at the height of this rebirth. There is currently no book on the market that can claim it features a "definitive" poster collection.

Excerpt: What you are about to see in this book must be considered unexpected at best. As clients found success with other forms of marketing, and communities in general became hostile to the papering of their neighborhoods, tie poster wanes as a messaging vehicle throughout the 1980s and 1990s. In much tie way that the album was replaced by the CD, the poster became a postcard or an email blast ─sad days indeed.

Some designers could not just stand by and let this happen. The loss of a storied and majestic medium that had served as a perfect canvas for so long could not be tolerated. Some of the world's best designers turned to the poster as a means of personal expression and as an outlet from more restrictive media. They also set out to prove that the poster could still serve as a powerful tool in communicating a client's message. Breathtaking work from Pentagram, Niklaus Troxler, Michael Schwab, Alain Le Ouernec, and many others who plied their trade commercially began to appear. Art Chantry, Alejandro Magallanes, Frank Kozik, Yee-Haw Industries, Ames Bros., Charles S. Anderson, and others taking a more subversive role converged with aboveground and ongoing efforts in music and theater as well as an American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) literacy effort to bring the poster back to prominence.

One project encapsulates this effort: Paula Scher's work for the Public Theater in New York City. Her Bring in Da Funk series is probably the best known, but the entire collection of posters is awe-inspiring from one production to the next. A number of people I have spoken to in connection with this book felt the same way I did when they saw these posters in the design annuals (almost a full year after Scher designed them.) The poster is alive. It is powerful, vibrant, and—most important--artful.

The perfect melding of design and marketing power, the theater needed the scale and the scale needed the designers. As Scher stated, posters are her favorite projects to design, and that affection is obvious in every placement of type and selection of art. The audience quickly noted that this was not a one-off labor of love, as Scher was doing it again and again. This was big-time work for a big-time client.

As clients saw this amazing Jrevival, they came to reconsider the poster as a forum. Currently employed by giants such as Target and Starbucks as their main in-store promotion, the poster has reemerged, and I would argue that it is better employed than ever before. It is true that Europe and the United States have very different ideas as to its vitality, and I admit that the days of poster-lined city streets in international capitals are gone. However, the poster has emerged, phoenix-like, in new places and in new ways. We no longer paint the sides of barns—we hang twenty-story banners in downtown New York City. It makes me miss the quaint past, but even more so, it makes me excited for the future.

The future of the poster is now. I give you a few familiar faces and many you should know more about; from the silkscreen guerrillas in the United States to the technology-entranced Europeans to artists from every other continent. This collection showcases the work of the world's finest poster designers at the moment of this medium's rebirth.

On the other hand, this book is just a snapshot of what is going on in the design world. I have never encountered a more difficult task than narrowing my initial list of "new masters" from more than one thousand to just thirty. To say this could have been a collection of volumes rather than profiles is an understatement. The interesting part is that few of these designers were aware of what the others were doing. They may know a few creatives in their genre of work, but they have little knowledge of the state of the poster globally. So pure is their drive that they only know that they are personally fighting to keep this medium alive. They can now enjoy seeing their brothers and sisters in arms.


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