From the Paleolithic cave paintings at Lascaux to Super Bowl commercials today, the human race clearly knows the value of visual communication. Since the beginning of time, humans have related thoughts and ideas by visual means to inform or educate the public, and among the most universally successful methods of achieving this communication is the printed poster. Though its roots can be traced back to stone carvings on tablets, the form of the poster that is familiar today originated in the early 1800s due to the invention of new woodblock printing techniques. This study follows the poster from around 1820 through contemporary design. Specifically, it focuses on eight stylistic design movements: the wood type poster, Art Nouveau, the Glasgow School, Sach Plakat, Art Deco, International Style, the Psychedelic Poster, and Contemporary design. In exploring these styles, I have created a poster for a current Maryville College event using the representative techniques and methods from each. For each poster, a brief description of the time period is given in addition to a discussion about the poster and the design decisions based on the particular style of reference. The study evaluates elements and principles of design, techniques, materials, typefaces, and color selections used by designers from each period. Furthermore, the discussion of the social context of the movement allows the study to address the question of why certain styles have been historically associated with particular events and what has caused this to happen.
Stephani Richardson '10
Hometown: Corryton, TN
Senior Study Title: “Posters from Past and Present”
Advisor: Adrienne Schwarte, assistant professor of Art
The poster is a crucial part of the history of graphic design. Although its roots can be traced back to stone carvings on tablets, the form of the poster that we know today originated in the early 1800s due to the invention of new woodblock printing techniques.
Stephani Richardson, a 2010 Maryville College alumna, has always been drawn to the printed poster, because it is “such a wonderful work of art that communicates a specific and understandable message.”
“I very much identify with the idea of ‘form follows function,’ a crucial principle adopted by architects and designers of the Bauhaus and International Style,” Richardson said. “Basically, the art will reflect its purpose – they are one.”
It made sense that Richardson, who majored in art, decided to study the printed poster for her Senior Study.
For her thesis, titled “Posters from Past and Present,” Richardson examined the history of the poster in art and graphic design from the mid-1800s through today.
She researched artistic trends, common themes, technology, styles, use of type and social movements – all crucial influences in the development of the poster around the world, Richardson said.
After researching and studying the techniques of artists and groups specifically involved in a certain movement, she then created posters in the style of eight influential art and design movements: the wood type poster, Art Nouveau, the Glasgow School, Sach Plakat, Art Deco, International Style, the Psychedelic Poster and Contemporary design (postmodernism). All of the posters, which Richardson created using Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop software, were used to advertise actual Maryville College events, basing each poster design choice on the event itself and which style lent itself to that event.
Richardson had been involved with the College’s Student Programming Board since she was a freshman, so she already had a passion for student programming and events.
At the end of the semester, Richardson’s eight posters were displayed during her senior art show, called “Paint.Post.Print,” a combined show with two other art students.
“Her work presents a visual walk through design history, but with contemporary and familiar content, showcasing Maryville College events represented in visual form that is uniquely tied to different design history periods,” said Adrienne Schwarte, assistant professor of art and Richardson’s advisor. “Stephani's work reminds us of the poster's value in society – to inform and engage the viewer, but to also provide a decorated surface that becomes so personal to each individual who attends or shares an affinity with the event it advertises that it becomes a central part of our landscapes.”
Schwarte’s “History of Graphic Design” class was particularly influential for Richardson, because it exposed her to many of the design movements for the first time.
Richardson said the most challenging aspect of her study was the amount of limitations she was given.
“All of the clubs and organizations I worked with at MC were very willing to help and excited about my project, but they all had various ideas and visions for their specific events,” said Richardson, who now works as an Appalachia CARES/AmeriCorps Program Assistant at Clinch-Powell RC&D Council in Rutledge. “As a designer, it is hard to find that perfect balance between your own artistic expression and the guidelines of the client, but I tried to reach a happy medium in all cases, and I think it worked out just fine.”