Posters

from The New Book of Knowledge®

ART HISTORY ON DEMAND > Types of Art >

Posters are signs, usually displayed in public, that inform people about events, products, or services. Billboards, safety campaign signs, advertisements on buses—all are posters. To be effective, a poster must deliver a clearly understandable message that can be grasped at a glance.

The history of posters is unclear. Leaflets, handbills, and posted notices informed and persuaded people wherever there was written language. From these the poster gradually developed. Posters as we know them were probably first used by theater companies to advertise their plays.

Modern posters—with the fewest possible words and greatest visual effect—came into widespread use late in the 1800's. The Industrial Revolution brought about an age in which competing companies began to advertise consumer products. These companies were able to make wide use of the poster because of the invention of color lithography, a method of printing. French artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), in his beautiful posters for Paris cafés, demonstrated how effective printed posters could be.

Most commercial posters are printed in great quantity. Schools and clubs, however, display handmade posters to advertise plays, athletic events, or dances. Handmade posters are much more economical than printed ones and can be just as effective.

To make a poster, first decide on your text and how to match it with an effective and expressive picture. The colors and lettering should fit the purpose. Whatever design you use, remember that good posters must make people stop and look.

Reviewed by Rafael Fernandez
Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute

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