Valuable Visuals are Nothing New

Thursday, August 7th, 2014 by Simon Morton

In 1914 the world was in crisis and nobody could predict the horror that was to come.

Communicating serious messages clearly and effectively was imperative and the drive to encourage enrolment in the armed forces was a real and urgent priority. The Parliamentary Recruitment Committee set about producing 150,000 posters featuring Lord Kitchener to communicate their very real need for recruits.

kitcher wordsI’m going to take an educated guess that the image above is not the one you were expecting.

In September 1914 a graphic artist called Alfred Leete was asked to design a cover for London Opinion magazine. This is the image you were expecting…

kitcher no wordsLeetes background in visual communication gave him the ability to create an image powerful enough to emotionally engage its audience and be easily recognised 100 years later.

Its impact was so great that it was immediately adopted as an official part of the war effort. The poster itself seems to have had a very limited distribution, it’s rarely seen in contemporary photographs and very few originals exist today – but its impact far outweighed its circulation.

It’s hard to reconcile the quality of an image that did its job so well with the realisation of what that job led to and the fate of so many of those who responded to its call to action.

On its own it is just a poster – a sheet of paper with an image and some text. It’s an object that was carelessly discarded, pasted over and left in damp cupboards until the mildew consumed it.

But, in context, it is one of the most powerful and in Eyeful terminology valuable visuals ever produced because it still has the power to make emotional connections, long after so many of its original intended audience have paid the ultimate price.

 

 

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