12 December 2019

Posters will stay bad unless we start building continuity of work

In six pages, Richard McGuire changed comics.

In 1989, McGuire created a six page experimental comic called “Here.” The gimmick was that each panel showed a single place, but sub-panels showed that place at different times.

(McGuire later expanded on the idea with a longer graphic novel.)

McGuire did something that nobody else had done before. The avant garde effect expanded the vocabulary of comics. Cartoonist Chris Ware said it blew his mind.

(McGuire) took the X-Y vectors of comics and added a Z axis to it. And he was the first cartoonist to suggest that you could overlap panels of time over the same point in space. And that strip, for lack of a more effective vernacular expression, truly blew my mind and really changed the way I thought both about comics and the world itself.

I bring this up because I’ve been thinking about why poster design continues to be so bad after fifty years.

Other visual media, like comics or movies, become more sophisticated over time. Compare comics and movies from the 1930s to their 1980s descendants, fifty years on. The 1930s works look stilted and turgid. The 1980s efforts are more dynamic and interesting.

This can happen partly because there is continuity of work and practitioners. When one person innovated, others imitated. McGuire influenced Ware and who knows how many others.

Posters haven’t had the benefit of that continuity. They will always stay bad unless there starts to be a recognized body of work that people can see and build on. More posters need to be archived in simple, convenient format. And we need to start curating the “best of the best” posters so people can see what is possible in the format.

Related posts

External links

Chris Ware and Chip Kidd interview
Here 1989
Here 2014
Here ebook
Richard McGuire: Here

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