Of all the posters Michael brought back from the shop for me over the years, my favorite was an advertisement for the Big Apple Circus, which toured to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. A baby elephant balances on a beach ball next to hand-drawn script that reads: “Our elephants are close enough to steal your popcorn!” As a kid, I thought that was hilarious. The poster came with me to college, where I wrote a paper on its brilliant designer, Ivan Chermayeff, for a course on the history of graphic design. And it hangs in my kitchen today, where it charms my three-year- old son who can start the process all over again. For me, it just happens to embody a perfect synthesis of my past, my present, and my future, and when I think about the essential poster, this one is the image that will always come to mind.
My experience is specific, but it’s not so unusual—posters are astonishingly personal. As we have been working over these past two years to start a museum for posters, we constantly encounter this type of personal connection to the form. Everyone seems to have had a poster that hung on their bedroom wall that spoke to their earliest and most passionate interests, or remembers a movie poster that gripped their imagination, or a political poster that woke them up to a cause. Or made them realize they wanted to become a graphic designer, as we have come to understand the primacy that posters have in the creative minds of those who love and make design. There’s an immediacy and a democracy to posters—they speak to everyone. And yet, there is an intimacy, too, a private conversation happening at the same time that makes posters so easy to enjoy and to love. As we envision the experience of coming to Poster House, fostering and building on that personal connection is an approach that excites us about the project over and over again.