Propaganda is the concept of propagating a message through visual, and textual narratives and was designed to manipulate, but not to venal. Propaganda is mostly known for spreading a ‘big lie’ either commercial, or political. At the start of the Twentieth Century, Edward Berney’s 1927 book ‘Propaganda’ ensured that the world became closely associated with publicity and advertising. In the 1930’s the term ‘Propaganda’ took on a more sinister meaning with the establishment of the Nazi Ministry of Propaganda and Enlightenment, making designers work for propaganda.

Propaganda was never seen as innocent, but was also seen as naive. One of the most widely known ideas of propaganda was the  Nazi branding of the Jews as less than human. Fearsome messages are not the only the only product of extremist groups through propaganda, and to produce, mass hostility towards the particular group it is objectifying must be stripped of all of its human characteristics. Politics is often known as a war of dueling propaganda, and whatever breaches the persons defenses, and sparks some kind of anger, is an ideal example of propaganda that has been successful.

Mostly these days, the idea of propaganda has has taken a turn for the better as advertising agencies convey commercial messages, and ads push ideas convincing one brand is better than another. Therefore propaganda can be a serious weapon to use in advertising, however not one that we should be fearful of. Visuals messages that introduce some sort of pride are what make propaganda successful in the markets today, but are just as necessary as those who trigger a negative response.

Arts and Crafts influence on Propaganda in Graphic Design

The arts and crafts movement was of a great influence to Graphic design and propaganda in Central Europe, along with Hermann Muthesius (1861-1927) The arts and crafts movement began in England in the second half of the nineteenth century. This movement was also taken up in America, where it was known as ‘Mission Style’. The Arts and Crafts Movement challenged the Victorian era, and was thought up by social reform thinkers such as Walter Crane and John Ruskin. They also used the ideas of William Morris. In this period of time, manufactured goods when generally seen as badly constructed in design and quality. It was the idea of Morris, Ruskin and the others that the worker was not brutalized by factory work but instead preferred to care about their skills and craftsmanship. They believed that mass production led to poor design, and had the idea that individual craftsmanship should be revived. This would lead to a happy customer, having a beautifully handcrafted design in their home, and a more employable worker, with their skills and products demonstrating their abilities. The result of this however, meant that only the wealthiest of customers could afford these handcrafted goods, as the cost of manufacturing in bulk loads kept the costs down, unlike individual craftsmanship.

Hermann Muthesius took great influence from this movement, as he believed that manufacturing and commerce contributed to the lives of the middle class society. At the start of the war designers had come up with the idea of a new, ‘scientific poster.’ This meant designers had to have a new approach to posters, and had to have good knowledge of the poster trade and the business the poster had to do, as well as the size and quality of the images they were using. Typographical elements were incredibly important to the new designs, and striking graphic titles were important to demonstrate the industrial production and ‘supremacy’ in war production. The designing of these posters took a lot of time, and with one campaign statistics of the letter ‘U’ were even looked into.

Posters beginning to become more and more industrialized showed key links to the arts and crafts movement, and how this was a key movement behind the start of propaganda. This showed a step up in Graphic Design in these periods of times as things started to become more professional, as measurements and statistics played a key part in poster production.

Propaganda Further research

‘Dawn of the 20th Century’

At the beginning of the 20th century, the world was marked with World War I and the Revolution of Russia. In this time frame, Edward Bernays published a book by the name of ‘Propaganda.’ This became the first book about Propaganda principles, and was the book that everyone was to refer to in the future. This is why propaganda posters began on a war based theme, and from then on made an impact to many peoples lives.

This then continued onto World War II, where Adolf Hitler began to pay particular attention to Propaganda and how its techniques were implemented and influenced many other people. Shortly during the start of WWII, the Ministry of Propaganda (which was headed by Joseph Gobbels) was created to manipulate he public’s opinion of the Germans. Posters were printed encouraging people to join the Germans side, and encouraged people to buy German goods. This is a way Propaganda was used as a manipulation, a sly technique of getting what they wanted.

Flagg, Montogomery James ‘I WANT YOU FOR U.S. ARMY’

Many modern day propaganda posters still follow along with a shocking statement or image. However, less of the idea of taking sides is shown through these posters and instead they promote Helplines, encouraging people to ask for help. They use bold titles, usually in large fonts and aim to grab the attention of each individual personally through the use of their direct language.


Fairey, S (2008) HOPE [Poster] Available at:

This poster designed by Shepard Fairey is an independent expression of thought for Barack Obama’s presidential election campaign. It was designed in one day and was first printed as a poster. It was particularly popular, and sold over 200 copies on the streets within its first day. The designer has used the idea of propaganda to evoke a reaction, which this poster did, but of the wrong sort. Shepard got into trouble with the courts regarding this poster, and eventually pleaded guilty to fabricating documents regarding his poster. However, using propaganda to advertise Obama’s presidential election campaign was in fact quite a success. The bold typography ‘HOPE’ on this poster shows a huge link to propaganda, through the way it is enforcing a word that may evoke responses. This word has been used in a way to get people behind Obama’s campaign, and the concept of propaganda was one way of doing this.

The concept helps a lot in pushing forward its main message. It is simple and a clear example of propaganda. However, it is not insulting, nor does it plead for ‘hope’, it simply gives you one word of importance to Obama’s campaign. As a concept, propaganda proves to be quite successful at conveying messages due to the simplicity of the adverts and the simple power of the words that are used. This poster doesn’t leave you guessing as to what it is about, it clearly shows Obama, and the word hope making it quote a straight forward poster.

This is the main reason as to why the poster is successful, it is neither confusing nor complex, and the simple stencil colours add to this factor. The colours of the poster, red white and blue, have a strong link to the American flag, and represent Obama and his role within the country. Using these colours is also a very powerful technique, and makes Obama appear powerful and noticeable.

I am quite fond of this piece as it conveys a powerful message through simplicity, which I feel would be something difficult to produce as a designer. Rather than over complicating the poster, the lack of information intrigues people and enforces the single word that is on the poster boldly. This lack of information may also be something which draws people away from it however, as they may know nothing about Obama’s campaign, and therefore not understand what the poster is about. Despite this, I feel the poster is very successful and is an interesting way to give out a message, and perhaps evoke a response.


Hopps, H.R(1917-1918) DESTROY THIS MAD BRUTE ENLIST U.S. ARMY Available at:

This is a World War I propaganda poster that is encouraging people to enlist in the U.S. Army. The ape, which appears to have just landed on the shores of the U.S., is holding a club with the German word ‘KULTUR’ on it, and additionally, is carrying a young woman in his arms. This advert appears to dehumanize the Germans, and show them to be mistreating the women of America.

This is where the designer has used the idea of propaganda. The large text, and dehumanizing allusions shout ‘propaganda’ as this is what propaganda used to widely be known as.It was rude, unpleasant and sparked a reaction, which is exactly what this poster has aimed to do. To enforce the idea of Enlisting the U.S. Army, the poster has exaggerated everything on the poster, and made out the opponent to be some kind of animal. The whole poster shows how extreme propaganda could be, and how it was used in life changing matters, such as wars, and political arguments.

The concept helps convey the message in a variety of different ways. It firstly sparks attention from people, who may either agree with the presentation of the Germans, or in fact it may spark a large and unpleasant reaction. It conveys a message through the writing, on the poster and the violence the gorilla in it appears to have brought to the American shores. I feel that this concept is one of the strongest concepts for conveying messages, and is definitely the most powerful concept I have looked at so far. This is due to the extreme nature of the posters and the fact that some of them are designed in order to get an angry reaction.

The successes of this piece are the emotions it sparks, through the imagery used in the piece. The angry gorilla is very successful, as it clearly shows how the American people felt about the Germans. Another success of this poster is the bold typography, which stands from a distance, and is big enough to read from afar. Using words such as ‘mad brute’ represent the way the Americans are not in favor of the German people. The word brute in fact, connotes words such as ‘savage, beast, or monster’ which shows the desperation the American U.S. feel as they want people to enlist in the U.S. army.  Another powerful word on the poster, ‘DESTROY’ which is located at the very top of the page, is also desperately calling for a response. The U.S. Army are not advertising the Army in a positive light, but instead are encouraging people that they need help to destroy their opponents.

My personal opinion of this work is that it is a very successful way of advertising, however I also feel that it is also quite inappropriate, and most likely offensive to others. I feel it represents the U.S. Army in a bad light, and although was not made in the modern day, would still spark a controversial response among people.

Image result for propaganda posters

Zec (1941) WOMEN OF BRITAIN COME INTO FACTORIES [Poster] Available at:

This is a poster which is advertising and encouraging women to come and work in the factories. It demonstrates the end of a law which disallowed women to work, as the need for women workers began to increase as the men went away to war. The expression on the woman’s face is happy, presenting the joy the women felt that they had been allowed the right to work. However, this could almost be slightly deceiving considering the fact that she has dozens of airplanes flying over her head, as she joyfully stands as the men go off to war.

The designer has used the idea of propaganda to enforce such a large message. The bold lettering demonstrates why the woman stands so happy, as it shouts the message to the world that women are allowed to work in the factories of Britain. Using propaganda to convey this is incredibly successful, as it shows the true importance of the message. Representing the idea that the law has been changed, by conveying this through propaganda shows the importance propaganda had in the 1940’s.

The concept helps convey the meaning in a bold way, and the image on the poster conveys the relief women in Britain must have felt as they were allowed more independence and responsibility in their country.

I particularly like the colours in the poster, as I feel that they are themed well and would be relevant to the time the poster was made. For example, during the war many things such as rationing and economic downfall occurred, and I feel that the muted reds and brown colours help to represent this idea that supplies were running out, as the crops were not green and thriving, and the air was full of dust.  The cream colour on the poster is also something I feel that is successful among the colour scheme, as it almost brightens up the picture, and the fact that the majority of this colour is in the sky could represent the idea that the world felt a brighter place to women once they became free to work in factories whilst the men were away.

The part of the poster which I feel is weak would be the airplanes in the sky. The fact that the woman is smiling whilst the men are away at war could convey a bad message if misunderstood, making the woman appear happy that family members she could be related to are away dangerously at war. It is also quite unrealistic, as during the war, she would most likely not be standing in such an open place whilst she hears planes fly over her head. However, I overall like this poster and feel that it conveys the message in a bold, but nice way. It is not a propaganda poster that would spark a horrible response, but I feel it goes about putting a message into society in a nice, and appropriate way.

Source: Helen, S and Vienne, V (2012) 100 Ideas That Changed Graphic Design, London, Laurence King Publishing Ltd


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