Mosaic Books - History of Advertising Books

Posters & Graphics Series

Graphics are man's oldest form of illustrative communication. There is evidence going back literally thousands of years when using mainly pictographic form, primitive man notified others of good hunting or danger.

As time passed, commercial enterprises produced posters or signs which carried illustrations showing what they did, for the benefit of illiterate populations. We still see this on shipping cartons showing ‘up or down' using pictogams of glassware or simply arrows.

Later when man became more educated, and printing techniques became more common, the world drifted away from the illustrative to the ‘word' form, and often became stiflingly boring and uninteresting except possibly for the information being put forward.

However, companies and commercial properties still maintain image forms and we see evidence today in corporate logos, and of course British public house signs.

From here we develop the rationale for posters and indeed all advertising, which is first to be seen, and secondly to inform. This has not changed throughout the centuries. It is only comparatively recently that we have considered two other factors as being essential to all forms of publicity.

These have been a) to create desire, and b) generate action, both working to create a sale, either immediately or at some time in the future (brand awareness as this is called).

In today's advertising, we have created the AIDA formula, which has nothing to do with the opera, but everything to do with simplification:

A - Attract - the attention.
I - Interest - the observer/target.
D - Desire - create the want.
A - Action - to buy the product.

Posters have been subject to change in one main sense, as being static, i.e. in one location and with a passing audience, the development of faster forms of transport has meant ‘Attracting attention' becoming more important than ever. With shorter attention time available from passers-by, the information has to be specific and to the point, or it will be missed.

Naturally, this has been an evolving process, and most of the works shown in this book are from more leisurely times than our own. However, the AIDA principle stays the same and has been the basis on which comments and judgements have been made in this book.

Clever practitioners will always try to find ways of appealing to a target audience. Looking at works of other generations in most instances, we can assume certain things about these groups, but in others the posters were produced under unknown circumstances, which could render some judgements as unfair. Mostly this cannot be avoided, except where extraneous circumstances are known, such as War or social upheaval, these have been included where felt particularly relevant.

The poster and other signage e.g. neon, have been subject to far more social criticism than any other form of advertising. This is mainly because outdoor advertising is intended to catch the eye, and has been remarkably successful in doing that over many hundreds of years. Yet, it would be foolish to try and defend some truly awful visual pollution.

The books contain both good and poor works with explanations as to why they qualify for the descriptions. The intention is to educate as well as entertain. As tastes vary, then the judgements are always open to debate, and the Editor, Norman Clark welcomes such input via the 'Blog' page.