What is a poster, what is a good poster?

Put quite simply: a poster is an oversized piece of print material that is fixed or “posted” at several different places in public space and carries a specific client’s message. A good poster is not overly assertive – in the sense of superficial or with an offensive primitiveness that knocks you flat, even when you only look at it briefly. A good poster is one that doesn’t get on your nerves but delights you, makes you want to have more; something that attracts you to look at it one more time. A good poster allows you enter it, creates space for imagination through deliberate visual irritations and through a balance between visual wit and content. A good poster is, therefore, precisely the opposite of over-assertive; it is differentiated, comprehensive and complex.
A poster is not a rigid, static image but a scene that happens in a flash. The passers-by on the street are the auditorium, the stage is the surface of the poster, and the actors are the colours, forms, images and text. The most frequent mistake is to attempt to make everything visible all at once. Good posters derive their strength from concentrating on a strong basic effect and then gradually conveying other messages. And they live from the fact that, through good design, a special visual tone is achieved that appears attractive, not repulsive, striking and narrative, not annoying. The end of the poster as a medium has often been announced. Yet today it is, once more, experiencing a revival among young people. This may be due to the new flexibility of economical digital printing techniques or through its presence and analogous existence in times of digital obfuscation and virtual placelessness. And, you cannot simply switch off a poster – it remains there until it is removed or something else is pasted over it.

Reinhard Gassner