Monday, March 09, 2015

The Art of the Poster - The Times of Patrick Tilly

Patrick Tilly was a prolific graphic designer and illustrator whose work featured prominently in advertising and publishing in the 1960s and 1970s. He switched disciplines to concentrate on writing scripts and science fiction novels, including The Amtrak Wars series.

I'm not much interested in science fiction. But I do like a good poster. I came across this series of posters for The Sunday Times when I researching cut-out art for a project. In the 80s the Sunday Times Magazine was something of an event each week when the latest copy would arrive in the creative department of whichever ad agency I happened to be slumming at at the time (allowing for the fact that it was the 1980s and 'snail mail' was the only economical way of receiving physical objects). Campaigns for cars, booze and cigarettes were big budget affairs in the magazine - double page spreads with the best concepts and photography. Brilliant copy writing from the likes of David Abbott for clients like Sainsbury's, Volvo and Chivas were as luscious as the layouts. It was an education. Even the cheap webfed press paper smelled as though it was filled with promise.

I like these posters for their spartan use of words, the playful connection between the text and the image that isn't necessarily literal (wit in design leaves something for the viewer to do and it becomes the more potent for the mental exercise) and, of course, the graphic technique.

Tilley was a member of a group called Artist Partners and on their blog I found this story about the posters and how BBDO, the ad agency who commissioned them nearly-but-not-quite had an idea, but it was Tilley who solved the problem:

“The back story to the Sunday Times posters is quite short.I was called into BBDO by the art director (name forgotten) and was asked to produce a poster for the Sunday Times using the words “You are more interesting to know when you read the Sunday Times”.

Mulling this over when I got home I decided it was too much of a mouthful to put on a poster which by its very nature needs to be simple and punchy. Anyway, it occurred to me that I could fulfil the brief in a different way by selecting positive/desirable qualities for a newspaper and a reader to possess. And since I had been doing fully rendered poster designs for the Times I chose to represent these qualities as simply as possible using cut-out coloured paper. I produced all six in one week and took them in - and hey presto - they bought the lot but removed my name from the margin."

If you ever make a poster and the image doesn't speak for itself - remember to take away every element that is superfluous - words, details, images…remember that people will remember one thing if you you are lucky or clever.

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