Milton Glaser and Paula Scher among the graphic designers making PSA posters for New York’s billboards

The city's finest creatives have turned out for the mega campaign hoping to clarify communications around the crisis.

Date
20 April 2020
Reading Time
3 minute read

A huge campaign by New York gallery Poster House and Print magazine is bringing together some of the finest and best known graphic designers from the city, to help communicate messaging during the Covid-10 crisis more clearly. Milton Glaser, Paula Scher, Seymour Chwast, Matt Dorfman, Debbie Milman, Edel Rodriguez, Maira Kalman, Jessica Hische, Emily Oberman and Klaas Verplancke are among those creating posters that will act as PSA (public safety advice) campaigns, broadcasting in Times Square as well as 1,774 digital advertising spaces across New York's five boroughs.

The project was inspired by Steven Heller's article in Print magazine (where Heller is co-editorial director) about posters commissioned during the polio epidemic. “Posters are tools of mass public communication, so in a time like this when there is an urgent need for correct information and community messaging, posters are the perfect tool,” Poster House museum director Julia Knight tells Print magazine.

“His piece on posters... squared a problem I was reading about: government messaging released at the onset was too obtuse and hard to understand," Knight continues in the article. "Designers could solve that problem as long as we could get their work seen publicly. Steve’s piece was a reminder that posters have always played a role in public health emergencies, from STIs in wartime to the Spanish Flu epidemic to HIV activism and awareness.”

Poster House museum – the first US gallery to focus on poster design – closed on 10 March as part of the lockdown, yet was looking for ways to "continue its mission". Together with Print magazine, it asked the esteemed group of designers to contribute pieces that addressed clear public safety advice, gave support to the local community, and thanked those on the frontline: doctors, MTA workers, grocery store workers, shippers, food banks and more.

The mission was then to get the posters seen by as many as possible. The organisers therefore contacted out-of-home advertisers willing to donate their screens to the cause. Silvercast donated a billboard at the Lincoln Tunnel used specifically for messages of gratitude to essential workers coming to resupply and support the city. LinkNYC offered their 1,700-odd screens in all five boroughs. Times Square Arts, which was simultaneously working on a similar project, offered its world-famous screens. Following this series, Times Square Arts will also work with a collection of contemporary artists on a campaign with the For Freedoms initiative.

The results range from the bold to the humorous and provocative, and demonstrate one of the largest scale graphic design projects we've yet seen in response to the pandemic.

“Posters are designed first and foremost to convey messages. To catch viewers' eyes, to draw those eyes into information and often demand action,” says Steven Heller. “These particular public service announcements serve another goal. They are celebrations of the first responders and myriad essential workers who courageously enable the city function.”

The full list of designers also includes Ola Baldych, Pablo Delcan, Joe Hollier, Mirko Ilić, Ross MacDonald, Bobby Martin and Jennifer Kinon, Richard McGuire, Gemma O’Brien, Paul Sahre, Strick&Williams and Zipeng Zhu. More posters will be released soon.

GalleryCombat Covid campaign by Poster House and Print magazine

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Paula Scher

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Seymour Chwast

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Matt Dorfman

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Klaas Verplancke

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Joe Hollier

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Strick&Williams

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Edel Rodriguez

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Jessica Hische

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Ola Baldych

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Debbie Milman

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Maira Kalman

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Emily Oberman and Lorenzo Fanton: Combat Covid by Poster House and Print magazine

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About the Author

Jenny Brewer

Jenny joined the editorial team as It’s Nice That’s first news editor in April 2016. Having studied 3D Design, she has spent the last ten years working in design journalism. Contact her with news stories relating to the creative industries on news@itsnicethat.com.

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