Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Britain Can Make It

This poster was designed by Ashley Havinden in 1946 for a post-war exhibition at the V&A. The Council of Industrial Design organised the exhibition to boost industry following the end of WW2 and show the world what Britain could produce.
I was drawn to this poster as it is of a similar vein to the 'Keep Calm and Carry On' poster that can be found on all manner of products these days. Both campaigns were aimed at a dispirited and depressed population during and following the second world war, when true austerity was visible all around. Bombed out homes and businesses were part of the landscape in many big towns and cities, and people were obviously traumatised, but in those days we were much more in control of our emotions and government relied on this. It was regarded as unseemly to show your feelings, and public displays of emotion were frowned upon. War had levelled the social playing field in some ways and people had more dignity than they appear to nowadays. The big difference for me though, between then and now, is that it was a good thing to be proud of Britain and all that she could produce, as opposed to the self-imposed embarrassment we all seem  to have today. The pennant waving proudly from a crown-topped flagpole, proclaiming 'Britain can make it', in uplifting pastel colours would have certainly been a welcome antidote to all the war posters telling people to be careful what they said and be suspicious of everything and everyone.  Would something like this have the same effect nowadays? Perhaps I'm just a cynic but I doubt the poster or the exhibition would be enough to lift 21st century spirits. We haven't been subjected to a world war but we are battle-scarred from a protracted recession with no end in sight.
Posters can have such a profound effect as they decorate our environment and send us messages when we least expect it. I'm fascinated by poster design and the effect it can have on the viewer, particularly as when we are outside our own homes we have no say in what is displayed on walls and billboards. I shall be keeping an eye out for inspiring poster art over the next few months as poster design is something I would like to have a try at.