Section 1 Part 3: What makes a successful campaign poster?
This section showcases five different posters, each with a specific message, look and feel.
- Poster 1: We can do it!
- Poster 2: NO NUKES IN THE PACIFIC
- Poster 3: Live Aid/Live 8
- Poster 4: UN Women
- Poster 5: Real Australians Say Welcome
Activity: Favourite campaign posters
Step 1: In your group, look at your given poster. Read the ‘learn’ section linked to it, and complete the related activities.
Step 2: Present back to the other group.
Step 3: In pairs, discuss: if you could use the image of Rosie the Riveter or Lord Kitchener (from the 1914 poster) for one social or political issue today, which would you choose? Would you change the figure? What text would you use? Create an appropriation of the poster using Adobe Photoshop or collage.
“We Can Do It!“, 1943, by J. Howard Miller was made as an inspirational image for Westinghouse-Electric to boost their female worker morale during the second world war. During this time its was viewed by a very limited audience of employees but the poster has had a second life. It was ‘rediscovered’ in the 1980s to promote feminism and other political issues.
The poster uses bold primary colours (red, yellow and blue), has a strong and simple message (the word “we” suggests teamwork and support) and an image of a female that conveys strength and positive action. The woman in the image is rolling up her blue shirt sleeves, tensing her biceps and staring directly at the viewer, in a call to action. The background is a flat yellow and a dark blue speech bubble fills the top quarter of the image. The choice of typography is simple and bold. These days the poster is seen as a symbol of women’s empowerment.
Over the past 30 years the poster has been appropriated for a range of advertising and artistic purposes including by the singer Beyonce and strangely, a cleaning company.
It’s really powerful because it’s an iconic image of a strong woman, which has gone on to symbolise much more than what was originally intended.
— Sarah Rogan, Inequality Campaign Lead, Oxfam Australia
Think and Act
- “We can do it” is a positive and encouraging phrase. Can you think of any other slogans with a positive and persuasive message? Make a list of campaign slogans that appeal to the masses in a positive way. Document your favourites in your art or design diary.
- Rosie the Riveter has become a feminist symbol. Research the various appropriations of this poster. You can find hundreds of examples on (pinterest). Consider the intentions for each campaign.
Do you think the appropriation fits the accepted symbolism of the original image? Use the following questions to guide your annotations:
- Note the similarities between the two posters
- Note the differences between the two posters
- Does the artist use humour? How?
- Does the artist aim to challenge conventions? How?
- Does the artist use irony or parody? How?
“NO NUKES IN THE PACIFIC”, was created in 1984 by Pam Debenham as part of the Tin Sheds Poster Collective. Debenham described the poster as her protest against the build-up of nuclear weapons and particularly the nuclear testing being conducted by French, British and US governments in the Pacific ocean during the early 1980s.
The kitsch and familiar tropical holiday shirt has been replaced by imagery depicting atolls, nuclear clouds and the names of atolls where testing has already taken place. Debenham has used the postmodern techniques of appropriation, irony and juxtaposition. The poster is dominated by the complementary colours of blue and orange and the bold text in the top left corner works to reinforce the message conveyed in the imagery of paradise being destroyed on the shirt.
There are several campaign and protest posters that have stuck in my mind. This one was made in 1984, when the superpowers were collecting arms and blasting/testing in the Pacific ocean. The nuclear tropical shirt is an inspired idea! Just a really clever way of saying ‘Don’t destroy paradise, dummies!’
— Steph Hughes, Illustrator and Designer
Think and Act
- What does this poster aim to raise awareness about?
- The artist has used a limited colour palette. What is the effect of this choice?
- Describe a typical ‘Hawaiian’ shirt and the imagery associated with it. Why do you think Pat Debenham chose to appropriate a Hawaiian shirt for this poster?
- Are there other social and political issues that one might use an Hawaiian shirt print to draw attention to?
- Design a poster that appropriates Debenham’s graphic style, with bold outlines, a flat and restricted colour palette and a clear message about Oxfam Australia’s Goal 5: Fair Sharing of Natural Resources.
Images of starving Ethiopian children and harsh landscapes in famine moved the musicians Bob Geldof and Midge Ure to plan and host ‘Live Aid’ in 1985. Live Aid was an ambitious dual-venue music initiative, with concerts held at Wembley Stadium in London, the John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia and also in Australia and Germany on the 13 July 1985. The concerts were broadcast to a global audience of almost two million people and are reported to have directly raised over $100 million for famine relief.
The original black and white poster took on a variety of forms around the world. In this version the symbolism of the knife, fork and globe direct attention to aims of the fundraiser; the intention here was for the public to make donations to ‘feed the world’.
Two decades later and the symbolism of the continent/guitar continues but the blue and gold poster directs attention to a very different audience, that of the political leaders who form the G8 (the Group of Eight highly industrialized nations (France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Japan, the United States, Canada, and Russia) that hold an annual meeting to foster consensus on global issues like economic growth and crisis management, global security, energy, and terrorism.
The series of 10 Live 8 benefit concerts had a different target to that of the Live Aid events. Live 8 specifically targeted the G8 political leaders that were to meet for talks in Scotland in 2005. The aim was to demand that these world leaders take action to “Make Poverty History”. The Live 8 concerts led to G8 leaders pledging to double 2004 levels of aid, with half of these funds going to Africa.
To me, the 1985 poster shows the stereotypical ‘charity’ mentality: aid from rich countries going to ‘feed the world’ (and in this specific case, for the Ethiopia famine relief). There’s nothing wrong with solving a direct issue, especially when it comes to giving much-needed food aid, but I believe the juxtaposition of this with the ‘Live 8’ poster is important. The difference with the Live 8 poster (2007) is that it focuses on the fact that we are ‘one world’ (no more ‘them’ and ‘us’). Although the original guitar imagery is still used, it’s no longer just about aid flow from north (rich) to south (poor), but about fixing the structural injustices that create and perpetuate poverty – the ‘8’ on the guitar head focuses the solutions on the G8.
— Kate Phillips, Schools Program Coordinator, Oxfam Australia
Think and Act
- A symbol is an image that stands for, or represents, an idea. Explain the symbolism in both the Live Aid and Live 8 posters.
- Imagine that you have been hired to plan a concert for Oxfam. According to Oxfam: “Governments need to increase the amount of money they allocate to development and essential services, and use that money to significantly improve the lives of the poorest and most vulnerable people — now and into the future.” The concerts will not be about collecting money from the public; instead they are about raising awareness of the need for government and the private sector to play a leading role in contributing to and committing to responsible global development plans. Your task is to design a poster to promote the concert; the concert must appeal to Australian families and take place in your capital city. Alternatively, read the student workbook to discover two scenarios for music event poster design
Follow these steps to complete your task:
- Read about Oxfam Australia’s Goal number 6: ‘Finance for Development’ (page 24) and make a summary of this goal on a page in your journal.
- Make a list of the details that need to go on the poster. This will include the name of the concert, date, location and maybe even the band names. You will need to make it clear that the concert is about raising awareness and showing a great level of public support for this issue. What kinds of imagery might you use to convey the idea? How might you use symbolism?
- Select four bands to play in the concert and explain why you have chosen these bands/artists.
- Sketch a rough plan for your poster. Remember to consider the size and scale of the text, your use of the elements of design, symbolism and the message you wish to convey. Handy tip: Have a look at a range of fundraising concert posters to get some ideas before you start. You could do a Google Image or Pinterest search. Take a look at some OXJAM posters too!
- Share draft ideas that are documented in your journal with the class. Discuss effective strategies and take on peer feedback and self reflection.
- Use collage, markers, pencils or paint to work on final designs. If you have access to computers, this task could also be completed digitally.
Developed in 2013 for UN Women by the advertising agency Memac Ogilvy & Mather Dubai, the posters in this series used genuine Google search results to reveal the prevalence of gender inequality and discrimination against women online. There are four posters in total and each one features a closely cropped photograph of a youthful female face against a dark background.
What is striking i that each woman’s mouth is ‘closed’ by a popular Google search query. The searches start with phrases such as “women should…” or “women shouldn’t…”.
The message about entrenched patriarchy in contemporary society is made clear by the negative Google search engine suggestions located below the search. The posters and online social campaign using the hashtag #womenshould, complemented by an online film, all convey the importance of the work of UN women and of the need to continue to make the case for women’s rights. This highly successful campaign won the agency Memac Ogilvy & Mather the ‘Social Good Campaign’ award in 2013 by Ad Agency and highlighted the work of UN women internationally.
They’re simple, and accessible (we all use Google), but carry such an instantly powerful message about patriarchy and the way it manifests itself in modern society. It has that ‘mind blown’ factor, for want of a better term, and the poster is very shareable.
— Kate Seewald, Community Campaigner NSW/ACT Oxfam Australia
Think and Act
- Document this campaign in your design journal. You can further research ‘The Autocomplete Truth‘ campaign online.
- Look at the poster by designer Steph Hughes on gender justice (one of Oxfam Australia’s ‘six goals to change the world’). This poster is made up of a series of small connected images. Annotate six of the small images on the poster by explaining the particular gender justice issue that the small image is drawing attention to.
- Read about Goal 2 Gender Justice (page 18) and design a photographic poster promoting gender justice or an aspect of gender justice. The poster must use a photograph of an object or series of objects. There are to be no people in the image(s). Note: consider the ways that objects might be organised to convey ideas and act as symbols. The poster will also need to have a clear slogan promoting gender justice.
In 2015 artist Peter Drew embarked on a three-month trip around Australia pasting up 1000 brown paper posters he designed and printed with the large black words “Real Australians Say Welcome”. The poster started as a way to encourage Australians to rethink their views on asylum seekers and immigrants. The campaign was successfully crowdfunded on Pozible and the artist documented his journey via social media.
The campaign proved extremely successful. Many Australians documented the posters online as they discovered them on the streets of local towns and large cities and hundreds of messages of support flooded in to Peter Drew. Hundreds of other designers, artists, and celebrities, inspired by Drew’s work, have created their own versions of “Real Australians say welcome”. These have been shared on Instagram and via the website “The Design Files”.
“I love the ”Real Australians Say Welcome” campaign as it always seems to appear in places you least expect it, as a reminder of what true Australian values are and should be: inclusion, belonging and celebration of diversity. It’s a hopeful message and one that, in silence, speaks louder than the image of Australia that politicians and the media would have us believe.”
— Tamara Bézu, Volunteer Engagement Coordinator, Oxfam Australia
Think and Act
- Look at the many appropriations of Peter Drew’s “Real Australians Say Welcome”. You can find examples on Instagram and through a simple Google Image search. Create and share your own photographic version of the poster with the rest of the class. Remember to consider the ways that your use of materials, composition, cropping, and subject can be used to convey meaning.
- Oxfam Australia’s Goal 3 ‘Saving Lives: now and in the future’ refers to humanitarian crises and the desire that high-quality humanitarian assistance is provided to those affected by crisis, including those affected by climate change and disaster. Working in pairs, imagine that you have been hired to develop a poster that uses typography only (no imagery) and encourages Australians to support international disaster and conflict relief. Create and print your posters. Note: you will need to consider very carefully your choice of words, typography and the layup of the text. You can read more about Goal 3 online.
- Document Peter Drew’s practice in your design journals, for example by outlining his latest poster campaign “Aussie”. Learn more about Peter Drew’s work.
Student Evaluation Task: What’s your favourite poster?
Add to the selection of successful poster campaigns by choosing one more successful campaign poster that you think is effective.
You need to:
- Upload your chosen poster and/or paste it into your
- Name the artist, the date of the work and the materials used to make it.
- Describe the poster using the elements of art.
- Research and briefly outline the social issue or event to which this poster draws attention.
- Write a personal statement explaining what appeals to you about this poster and why you find it effective and persuasive.