The Poster Debate

Last week, I noticed a debate happening on Facebook:

I weighed in on the discussion with my two cents about Posters, and then I emailed Adam, and asked him if he would write a blog post about it, and suggested he interview or collaborate with Ryan Mooney on it. Ryan had what I thought was a brilliant idea for RENT: he put a number on the bottom of the poster, and asked people to text it if they wanted more information. The number was for his own cel phone, and he had a message ready to copy and paste every time he got a request. Low cost, and effective.

Here’s an excerpt from Adam’s blog post:

Now, I’m a graphic designer by trade so when I speak to issues of visual communication, I speak from experience. And I know that while posters need visual impact to succeed, a strong visual without content and meaning behind it is an empty vessel. The primary meaning of even the most beautiful, eye-catching poster is to communicate a message. And while this may be a matter of taste, I tend to find the more abstract and obscure approaches less preferable to one that tangibly represents the themes and reaches out to try and draw in the viewer.

I thought that this whole approach might possibly be due to some kind of resistance to the perceived reductivism of the all-too-familiar movie tagline, perhaps maybe even an aversion to what’s perceived as a populist or even crass approach better suited to a mass-market medium than the (in theory) more rarified world of live performance.

Read the entire post here.

Epilogue: I found out after that the poster Adam was talking about was for a show I am doing publicty for: Scorched. The producers are reprinting the posters with more details, and have offered Adam tickets to opening night, which he accepted.

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Rebecca Coleman

Social Media Marketing Strategist, Blogger, Author, Teacher, Trainer. Passionate foodie, mom to Michael, fueled by Americanos. I love my bike. Soon-to-be cookbook author. Localvore with a wanderlust.

Comments 9

  1. Thanks for this post Rebecca. I think that posters definitely still have their place, and they’ve often been the reason I’ve remembered to actually buy tickets for a show. Posters with too much info do deter people, but just enough info to intrigue someone can be effective. If it’s a well known show, then I don’t think you need much text at all. If people want to come to Les Mis, they will and all they need is the name. But I think it’s important to keep posters innovative and relevant as well. Thanks!

  2. Several years ago, I designed a poster for a festival in Louisville, KY. The focus was on local playwrights, actors and directors, all given a basic abstract set and no fancy lighting. The words and the people saying them were what mattered.

    So I went counter-intuitive and designed a text-heavy campaign. Posters, cards, print ads, each with their own story, each meant to be read. They were still visually distinctive from a distance, but they stood out from a field of abstract posters and made you stop to read them.

    Lucky for us, the festival sold out and people were talking about that campaign for months.

    I wouldn’t do that all the time, but with my own theatre company, I try to design art that’s visually arresting matched with a tagline that gives a hint about the show’s story and tone, fit into a house style that makes the poster recognizable as one of ours’ from a distance.

    Like Adam, I’m not big on the more abstract and obscure posters; they don’t connect to the audience in the same way. Sure, you might intrigue them, but it’s easy to lose them, easy for them to forget.

    If you’re curious about the playwrights fest card, one of them is here: http://djloehr.posterous.com

    Also there is one for our next production, which we did previously in Washington, DC last summer. It also has a lot of words, but it’s fitting in that it’s a one-woman show made up of several monologues, all titled with “A.D.” titles, ie Afternoon Delight, Antic Disposition, etc.

    So, depending, words can be our friends. Sometimes, I look at posters and wonder if the designers have bothered to read or see the play in question…but that’s another blog post entirely…

  3. I think we are generally mimicking larger marketing campaigns that are not as effective on a small scale.

    Posters are Outdoor Advertising which is intended to make quick impressions for brand awareness or as part of a multi-layered compaign.

  4. I love posters more than I can say, but I’m not alone in believing their reach is very limited unless your target audience is under 30. Or – if you can afford a bus shelter campaign for the drive by. Posters are meant to be a quick hit for anyone over 30 – something seen on the fly.

    I’m convinced that the best poster is always an arresting photo of a human being or body part (“faces look at faces” is a basic law of marketing) and I’ve seen the box office receipts to back it up.

    A picture will always be worth a thousand words but an evocative tag line or media quote, dates, ticket price, venue, box office ph# and website are indispensable.

    Posters must stop the viewing public in their tracks in order to be worth printing – period. Our latest is coming on strong http://www.theatre.ubc.ca/romeo_and_juliet/index.shtml

    Deb

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