“One very important aspect of motivation is the willingness to stop and to look at things that no one else has bothered to look at. This simple process of focusing on things that are normally taken for granted is a powerful source of creativity.”
– Edward de Bono
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Motivational posters have been a pretty big thing all across the internet for the past few years, now. They are an easy way to get a bit of, in my opinion, completely irrelevant feedback on social media sites, and, also via social networks, redirect some traffic to your website.
The most famous (and also probably the oldest) motivational poster has to be the iconic “Keep Calm and Carry On” posters that were made during World War II in Great Britain. Their goal was to improve citizens’ morale during Germany’s intense bombing campaign over London, and, by all accounts, it did just that.
These days, the posters are supposed to encourage thinking outside the box, and motivate people to achieve more. For example, I remember going to the gym, and next to one of the workout machines there was this poster of a totally ripped guy with his back turned. At his feet there was a pool of whatever it was he had for lunch, and just above his head was the “motivational” text: “Squat ’till you puke”.
I distinctly remember asking myself “why on earth would I ever want to do that?!”. But I digress.
Motivational posters are supposed to encourage productivity
(or being overworked with a smile on your face, as it is known in the sane world)
There are, of course, people who doubt the efficiency of these posters, Art Petty being one of them. When discussing innovation, the author wrote that it “cannot be mandated or legislated, and it definitely is not inspired by the corporate motivational poster”.
Michael Heiss is another motivational poster doubter, and in an article he wrote for CBS News, where he de-constructs them, he concludes by saying: “Yes, at the end of the day they are still motivational posters, but they are geared more toward things that need to be done than things that are good to believe”.
Scientifically, however, they are not completely useless. Nanette Mutrie and Avril Blamey of the University of Glasgow (which today’s featured artist also attended) have shown in their study Encouraging Stair Walking that the posters do indeed have behavioral effects.
By placing posters that encouraged using the stairs instead of the escalator in an underground station, they noticed that stair use was increased by 50% throughout the period that the poster remained in place. The poster’s effects gradually went back down to 0 after its removal.
From a designer’s perspective, I think that the true value of a motivational poster is in analysing all its different elements, and, as an exercise, creating your own.
There is another article that takes a look at motivational posters on this website, so feel free to check that one out as well. But today, however, I will be taking a look at a few uninspiring posters done by Linzie Hunter.
Linzie is a theatre stage manager turned illustrator and calligraphist from Scotland. As I have mentioned earlier, she is a graduate of Glasgow University, the city with the second most famous kiss after the French one, and she also studied illustration at the Chelsea College of Art and Design. Her freelance work is done digitally, but she also enjoys traditional print making, and, on an unrelated note, she is an absolutely premium swing dancer.
Professionally, she is quite successful, having gathered a pretty impressive roster of clients under her belt, including BBC, Gilette, Penguin, Harper Collins, Orange, Nike, VH1, Wall Street Journal, Hallmark, and Time Magazine, and she has also worked with agencies the likes of Saatchi & Saatchi, AMV BBDO, and JWT.
And now that you know a thing or three about Linzie, it is time I show you her totally hilarious posters.
1. This is It. Probably
Much like a locomotive loosing steam while going up a hill, this text starts energetic and full of vitality, only to plummet like Icarus flying too close to the sun (as represented here by the dot that precedes “Probably”).
2. Give Yourself an A for Average
This poster puts the reader down like a horse with a broken leg.
An A, as you no doubt know, is the highest grade you can possibly get. As luck would have it, A is also the first letter in “average”, which is the last thing that any designer or artist wants to hear said about his works, or him or herself for that matter.
I absolutely adore the sarcastic tone of this poster, accentuated all the more by the bright colors it uses. I would definitely have this hanging at my workplace.
3. This Sign Will Not Improve Your Life
I find this poster a bit stale, I must admit. What really saves it is the addition of the “(sorry)” at the end of it.
4. When the Road is Long
A made-up proverb of Linzie’s, I find it to be really funny, on par with “He who wakes up early, sleeps less”. She also did a great job transforming it into a poster, illustrating a kind of road map that intertwines with the lettering.
5. This Poster is Not Your Friend
Friendship is an absolutely wonderful feeling. It is a mix between serious, heartfelt emotions, and cookie, whimsical happenings, adventures and gags. But most of all, friendship is other people, not this poster.
6. Those Who Dare to Dream
I think this is probably my favorite out of the bunch. Taking the sarcastic tone of the second poster on our list, and mixing it with an even more awesome illustration, this would definitely be the one I would go for if I could only chose one.
7. Get Ready for More
The last item on our list is probably the best example of poking fun at motivational posters, especially the kind you might find in a “we don’t wear ties” kind of corporate hell hole. “Get ready for more” is exactly the kind of message that is supposed to get you super pumped about another day mind-numbing work, and by adding “of the same” at the end of it, Linzie exposes it for what it really is: Corporate Propaganda!
That wraps up my presentation of Linzie Hunter’s Uninspirational Posters. I laughed my way through this article, and I sure hope you did too.
You can check out more of her work on her website or Behance page, and you can also communicate with me by leaving your comments in the comment section below. So go ahead, scroll down, and tell me what you think about Linzie’s posters, or motivational posters in general.