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Wiktor Górka: Kabaret/Cabaret, Waldemar Swierzy: Nocny Kowboj/Midnight Cowboy, Felix Pfäffli: Weltformat Poster Festival (Photos by Matt Flynn, copyright Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum)

Work / Graphic Design

New show at Cooper Hewitt examines How Posters Work

We feature a fair amount of poster deign here on It’s Nice That but in the pell-mell rush for aesthetic appreciation it’s rare to take time out to consider how this particular design discipline works. Luckily the Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York has forced our hand with its new show How Posters Work. Displaying 125 of the museum’s 4,000-strong collection, the aim of the exhibition is to illustrate how poster designers go about maximising the potential of the medium.

To this end the show is organised in 14 subsections with relevant examples demonstrating each theme, which are focus the eye; overwhelm the eye; use text as image; overlap; cut and paste; assault the surface; simplify; tell a story; amplify; double the meaning; manipulate scale; activate the diagonal; make eye contact and make a system.

Those featured range from classic designers of the early 20th Century to some of today’s leading practitioners and the museum’s director Caroline Baumann calls it “a true visual feast.” She continues: “This exhibition reveals the design techniques behind some of the most iconic and beloved posters in the museum’s collection, from the hard-edged designs of Ladislav Sutnar to the ever popular psychedelic posters of the 1960s, which epitomise sensory overload.”

How Posters Work runs from 8 May to 15 November.

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Lucian Bernhard: Adler (Photo by Matt Flynn, copyright Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum)

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Jacques Delisle: l’initiation (Photo by Matt Flynn, copyright Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum)

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Waldemar Swierzy: Nocny Kowboj/Midnight Cowboy (Photo by Matt Flynn, copyright Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum)

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Frederick Siebel: Someone Talked (Photo by Matt Flynn, copyright Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum)

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Victor Moscoso: Junior Wells (Photo by Matt Flynn, copyright Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum)

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Ladislav Sutnar: A B Addo (Photo by Matt Flynn, copyright Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum)

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Wiktor Górka: Kabaret/Cabaret (Photo by Matt Flynn, copyright Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum)

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Paula Scher: Him – Public Theater (Photo by Matt Flynn, copyright Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum)

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Felix Pfäffli: Weltformat Poster Festival (Photo by Matt Flynn, copyright Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum)

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Experimental Jetset: Paradiso (Photo by Matt Flynn, copyright Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum)

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Michael Bierut: Architectural League of New York (Photo by Matt Flynn, copyright Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum)