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51 Powerful Propaganda Posters And The People Behind

War Propaganda Posters are well known. But at its core, it is a mode of communication aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position, and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Although propaganda is often used to manipulate human emotions by displaying facts selectively, it can also be very effective at conveying messages and hence can be used in web design, too.

Notice that propaganda uses loaded messages to change the attitude toward the subject in the target audience. When applied to web design, you may experiment with techniques used in propaganda posters and use them creatively to achieve a unique and memorable design.

Further Reading on SmashingMag: Link

In this article, we look at various types of propaganda posters and the people behind it, people who are rarely seen next to their work. You will also see how the drive for propaganda shaped many of the modern art movements we see today. Notice that this post is more than an ultimate showcase of propaganda artists. Something or somebody is missing? Please let us know in the comments to this post!

Propaganda Posters5

William Orpen: England, 1917 Link

Orpen studied at the Slade School in London alongside the likes of Augustus John and Wyndham Lewis. He produced some of his best work while at the school and became known for his portraits. A friend of Orpen then arranged for him to paint the pictures of senior military officials, such as Lord Derby and Churchill. In 1917, he was recruited by the government’s head of War Propaganda to the Western front to paint images of war-torn France. It was there that Orpen painted his most famous piece, “Dead Germans in a Trench.”


Dimitri Moor: Russia, 1917–1921 Link

Dimitri Moor (or Dmitry Stakhievich Orlov) changed the face of graphic design in Soviet Russia back in 1918. His work dominated both the Bolshevik Era (1917–1921) and the New Economic Policy (1921–1927). The main theme of Moor’s work is the stark contrast between the oppressive evil and the heroic allies. A lot of pressure was put on Russian workers to rise up against imperialism.

Propaganda Posters 8

A lot of Moor’s artwork was restricted to black and red. Black was generally used for the main part of the poster, and all of the solid colors for the capitalists. Red was used for socialist elements such as flags and workers’ shirts.


This is a lesser known poster by the artist, appealing for help for those staving from the Russian famine in 1920. It features the single word “Pomogi,” meaning help. The drawing is of an old man who is just skin and bone. The last stalks of barley are barely visible in the background.


El Lissitzky: Russia, 1920 Link

El Lissitzky spent his whole career absorbed by the belief that the artist could be an agent for change and good, and his work in a lot of respects shows this. He himself was a huge agent of change in the artistic movements of the time. He was one of the fathers of suprematism, along with Kazimir Malevich; and along with many of his peers, he changed the look of typography, exhibition design, photo montage and book cover design. Most of the modern techniques we see today and that appear in film and modern Kenetic typography are the product of Lissitzky’s work.


Beat the Whites With the Red Wedge, 1920

One of his most famous pieces, shown below, really embodies Lissitzky’s work. It is so avant garde that even a lay person could recognize the style. The abstract geometric shapes and clear color pallet scream of modernist art, and yet the poster has a real message. It describes the Russian revolution that took place in 1917. The white circle represents the royalists from the old regime, and the red triangle represents the communists moving in and changing opinion. It has been described as a stylized battle plan for communist victory.


You might also recognize it from Franz Ferdinand’s album cover:


Then in 1921, El Lissitzky accepted a job as the Russian cultural ambassador to Germany. His work influenced a lot of the iconic designs of the Bauhaus and De Stijil movements. His last poster, seen below, was a return to propaganda, with a poster encouraging the Russian people to help Russia build more tanks to win the war against Nazi Germany.


Strakhov Braslavskij: Russia, 1926 Link

Braslavskij was known for his posters that promoted the emancipation of women. During this time in Russia, the idea of gender equality was growing. Emancipated women were seen to be supporters of the communist agenda, and so they needed to be freed from their so-called duties as wives and mothers.


The emancipation of women and the socialist movement went pretty much hand in hand. In the poster below, we see almost a confluence of the sexes. The woman is drawn somewhat androgynously, wearing masculine clothing that hides her female figure, and a cold hard stare that hides her emotions. Behind her is her place of work, showing that women can do the same hard labor as men, and she carries the red flag of the communist movement.

The curious thing is that the image shows not so much the emancipation of women as it does a way to turn women into men, dressing them in men’s clothing, showing them as working in factories, and hiding their femininity. It seems the real reason to emancipate women was simply to increase the workforce and thus strengthen the communist movement.


Hans Schweitzer: Germany, 1930s Link

In Germany in the 1930s, propaganda was in full swing and being used by Hitler’s advisers to call the German people to arms and spread lies about the Jews. One of the most famous artists behind Nazi propaganda was Hans Schweitzer, known as “Mjolnir.” This poster by Hans Schweitzer shows the typical pro-Nazi theme of the German army’s strength, depicting an S.A. man standing next to a solider. The text reads, “The guarantee of German military strength!”


This next poster by Mjolnir, titled “Our Last Hope: Hitler” was used in the presidential elections of 1932, when Germany was suffering through its great depression. Nazi propagandists targeted the German people who were unemployed and living on the breadline, and they suggested Hitler as their way out, their savior.


The propaganda then used the scapegoat of the Jews, blaming them for all of Germany’s problems and the war. Many posters were entitled, “He is guilty for the war.” This was the key message of Hitler to start his campaign of terror and for the ethnic cleansing that ensued. Almost the entire campaign from beginning to end was driven by the artist Mjolnir. Just as the media molds public opinion today, Mjolnir most definitely molded the opinion of the German people through his designs. There is no doubts about the immorality and emotional deception of these designs; they are still worth mentioning because they were extremely powerful and effective at the time.

Valentina Kulagina: Russia, 1930 Link

Kulagina was one of the few female poster artists to emerge from the 20th century. Her art was heavily influenced by suprematism, and you can see the similarity between her work and that of El Lissitzky. This poster, called “To Defend USSR” was created by Kulagina in 1930. It takes a cubist perspective in its multi-dimensional shapes, and it shows the Red army as huge almost robotic figures, marching from the factories to fight the war. They are surrounded by the tiny white airplanes of the royalists, which appear to have no effect on them at all and in fact seem to be flying through the figures.


Phillip Zec: England, 1930 Link

Phillip Zec was probably best known for his depictions of Nazis as snakes and vultures. At the time, Nazis were usually drawn as bumbling clowns or buffoons. But Zec brought out the more sinister side of the German regime in his drawings. Hitler reportedly hated Zec so much that he added him to his black list and ordered his arrest following the invasion of Britain. He blamed Zec’s Jewish ancestry for his extreme ideas.


This poster by Zec was a call for women to join the war effort by working in the munitions factories.


This ugly toad is former Prime Minister of France Pierre Laval, who decided to work closely with the Nazi command during World War II.


This illustration is about the French Resistance, telling Hitler that it was very much alive.


Gino Boccasile: Italy, 1930 Link

Gino Boccasile was a supporter of Benito Mussolini and produced a lot of propaganda for him. His posters became increasingly racist and anti-semitic as his support for the German puppet state increased. After the war, Boccasile was sent to prison for collaborating with the fascist regime. The only work he could find after his release from prison was as a pornographic artist and working in advertising for Paglieri cosmetics and Zenith footwear.


He became well known for his advertising and pornography.


Pablo Picasso: Spain, 1937 Link

Picasso painted Guernica in response to the bombing of the town by Germany and Italy, which were following orders from Spanish Nationalist forces, on 26 April 1937. It must be said that it was commissioned to Picasso long before the bombing of the town und was supposed to be a classic painting first; after the bombings, Picasso changed his drawing to respond to the recent bombing. The giant mural shows the tragedy of war, using innocents civilians as the focal point. It became a huge symbol of anti-war, and upon completion it was exhibited worldwide to spread the message. The piece also educated other countries about the horror of the Spanish Civil War, which till then most people had never heard of.


Norman Rockwell: US, 1939 Link

Norman Rockwell is probably one of the best known of the propoganda movement. He admitted that he was just a propaganda stooge for the Saturday Evening Post. The newspaper paid many artists and illustrators to whitewash American news with patriotism and propaganda for around 50 years.


His work has often been dismissed as idealistic or sentimental. His depiction of American life included young boys running away from a “No swimming” sign, and happy-go-lucky US citizens going about their business unaware of the crumbling world around them.


Rockwell’s famous Rosie the Riveter poster is shown below, representing the American women who worked in the munitions and war supplies factories during World War II. This was a call to arms for the women of America to become strong capable females and support the war effort.


J. Howard Miller’s “We Can Do It!,” commonly mistaken to depict Rosie the Riveter, conveyed the same message:


Rockwell was always unhappy with the politics of the Saturday Evening Post, so in his later years, he took up the controversial subject of racism in America. He became respected as a painter for these hard-hitting pieces of American culture, much more so than for his work for the Saturday Evening Post. The piece below is called “The Problem We All Live With.” It is not known whether this painting is based solely on the Ruby Bridges story, because it was also thought that the idea came from John Steinbeck’s book Travels With Charley.

The subject was the integration of black children in American schools. Little Ruby Bridges was filmed making her way into the William Franz School at 8:40 am. At this time, a gigantic crowd of 150 white women and male youth had gathered. They threw tomatoes and shouted vile comments at the tiny girl. It is hard to look at this picture without being affected.


Xu Ling: China, 1950 Link

It is hard to find details on these Chinese artists, but we can focus on what they intended to convey with their artwork. This piece is a caricature of the American commander in Korea at that time, General MacArthur. It shows the US as an aborrent evil, and Macarthur is shown stabbing a Korean mother and child. Bombs labeled US are being dropped on cities in China in the background as the US invades Korea.


Ye Shanlu (???): China, 1952 Link

Again, little is known of the artist, but we do know this piece told people to get immunized against any epidemics to combat germ warfare. The Chinese were convinced that the US was planning to use bacterial weaponry against them, so they set about organizing massive inoculation drives to protect the Chinese people.


Ning Hao: China, 1954 Link

Along the lines of Rosie the Riveter, this Ning Hao piece reflects women being asked to work in the factories alongside men, partially to support their emancipation, but mostly to increase the labor force in China.


Jim Fitzpatrick: Ireland, 1968 Link

Jim Fitzpatrick was a well-known Irish Celtic artist of his time, but he is probably best known for his Che Guevara poster in 1968. It is said that Fitzpatrick took the death of the revolutionary personally. He had once met him when Guevara flew into Ireland in 1963 and checked into the Marine Hotel pub in Kilkee. Fitzpatrick was only a teenager at the time and had been working there over the summer. The poster became a global icon during the anti-Vietnam war protests and is now the symbol of F.A.R.C. in Columbia, a Marxist-Leninist revolutionary guerrilla organization, which is involved in the ongoing Colombian armed conflict. Zapatista Army of National Liberation (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, EZLN), a revolutionary group based in Chiapas, the southernmost state of Mexico, uses this symbol as well.

The image was also used during the violent Paris student riots in 1968. Across the rest of the West, the Marxist Che Guevara image is overused by any kid suffering from teenage angst.


Huynh Van Thuan: Vietnam, 1972 Link

I could not find any information about Huynh Van Thuan, but I found this piece reminiscent of 1960s movie posters about the Vietnam war and so decided to include it.


Micah Ian Wright: US, 2003 Link

After Micah Wright graduated, he worked a while for Nickelodeon and wrote for The Angry Beavers cartoon. Then in 2003, just before the invasion of Iraq, Micah published his anti-war protest book. The book was filled with satires of old war propaganda posters that Micah had reprinted with modern war messages.


Brian Lane Winfield Moore: US, 2009 Link

Brain Moore is a modern propaganda artist who exhibits his work on his blog39. He lives in Brooklyn and is probably best known for his promotion of net neutrality and his work during the 2009 Iranian election protests. The posters are based on old WWII propaganda posters but updated in their message to match today’s technology and Web culture.

This poster was a comment on the 2009 Iran election protests. He borrowed the old “loose lips” refrain and replaced it with tweets.


This next one was about the proposed Internet regulation that would supposedly curb illegal activities on the ‘net and help fight the “war on terror.”


Unknown artist: UK, 2010 Link

I could not identify the artist behind this one but had to include it for its clever use of old Tory values and the play on the Scooby Doo gang’s unveiling of the monster. The Tory party now occupies 10 Downing Street, and David Cameron is now Prime Minister of United Kingdom. This poster shows the lack of faith in Cameron’s promise to be a force for change and not just another Thatcher.


Image credit: Von Pip45

Last Click Link

Nick Griffin is not an artist, he is the chairman of the British National Party (BNP). Just as most other national parties across the globe, BNP is a good example of propaganda techniques being used to produce an emotional rather than rational response to the information presented. BNP has used them to build their hate-filled ranks for years. BNP is extremely good at speaking to people in plain, emotional language and affecting those who experience personal problems and want to find someone who can be blamed for these problems.

Just like many other national parties, BNP is blaming foreigners for these problems and uses strong religious metaphors to deliver the message. Very powerful, yet extremely unethical. This is an example of propaganda being used to manipulate people in a very deceptive, unfair manner.



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  1. 1

    Nice to see those vintage war posters again, and information about the authors :)


  2. 2

    As a Colombian I found one point of this article very offensive.

    The F.A.R.C are a terrorist group, not freedom fighters. The F.A.R.C are described as a terrorist group by the Colombian government, the USA Department of State, and the European Union among others institutions.

    They use extensively kidnappings and terror acts to cause endless pain to the civilians, and they also sell security to many drug “cartels”.

    • 3

      Smashing Editorial

      June 13, 2010 4:20 am

      Thanks for the heads up, the article was updated.

    • 7

      One mans terrorists are another’s freedom fighters. Pedro backs a repressive right-wing government that is nothing but a client of the United States. Someone, apparently like Pedro, on the extreme right, defending his power and privilege, would call the FARC terrorists. Someone on the left, pretty much the entire indigenous population, who wants agrarian reforms, and a more equitable society would call them freedom fighters.

      • 8

        @anon: While the Colombian government is far from perfect, supporting FARC is not the right solution. As an organization they extensively use kidnapping, extortion, and assassinations to further their goals. It whitewashes the brutality of FARC to claim that they are freedom fighters.

        • 9

          Isn’t kidnapping, extortion, and assassinations exactly what the paramilitary groups (including the governmental) did and to some extent still probably do? In What is FARC so much different?

      • 10

        It so funny like people like you try to support F.A.R.C no matter what. You are supporting and justifying a terrorist group that use the brute force, kidnappings, assassinations.

        This is not such a thing as a right-left political thing, the F.A.R.C and the para’s are not a ideology war, maybe it was 20 0r 30 years ago, but not anymore, is about power, money and drugs.

        I am so sick of seen dead people. I lose one of my cousins because he steps over a Claymore anti-personnel mine that some setup in the sidewalk of the road, or my best friend executed in a guerrilla bus control, non of both had any political view or interest.

        So don’t give moral lessons about right left wings, that is for you people that live in America/EU and like to argue about things you have not idea. I left my country because I want to live my life in peace.

        • 11

          melissa adkins

          August 3, 2011 6:10 am

          I understand you. I am a colombian too…I feel no one will ever understand colombian citizens unless they come down and visit colombia for themselves. I wanna see these people who call the FARC “freedom fighters” say it to the face of a little girl of boy who might have lost their families because of this absurd war. Paramilities or Guerrilla…we colombians are sick of both of them!

        • 12

          Don’t you dare contradict the anon internet warriors when they try to explain to you what YOUR country is like… ;)

          Seriously, good luck to you and your loves one, it’ll take time but you’ll get a stable society eventually…

    • 13

      Another interesting note about that poster – Jim Fitzpatrick ripped off the image of Che from a photo Jim didn’t own, nor did he have the rights to use that image. AFAIK the lawsuits are still going on to this day.

    • 15

      as colambian I totally agree, no heroes, no fighters, just terrorists, more artistic terrorism remains that, terrorism ..

    • 16

      Sorry, Pedro, but the freedom fighters will always be terrorists to the other side. And vice-versa.
      The EZLN was considered by some Mexicans as a liberation army, but others considered them (and still do) to be terrorists.
      Everybody points fingers at the Nazis for the Holocaust, but I don’t recall that much anybody complaining about the almost “heroic” dropping of two atomic bombs by the USA on Japanese civilian population.
      It’s mainly a matter of which side are you standing on. And propaganda helps feed those animosities.

    • 17

      the F.A.R.C is group created by the C.I.A ….

      • 18

        yeah sure…
        The CIA support the Colombian Goverment and the paramilitaries against the FARC. In fact, the CIA trained the paramilitaries in torture and guerrilla tactics, and gave them weapons and tecnical support.

    • 19

      Oh, well if the US says it, it must be true, mustn’t it? I would have though the opposite.

    • 20

      One person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter. And any fighter against capitalism and corporate rule, is on the side of the people.

    • 21

      Well, Pedro, in case you are not aware of this: you have to understand that in US and Western European countries in the left-liberal mainstream that ideologically dominates today establishment and culture there is a residual love for such icons as Che, Fidel, and various leftist causes in Latin America, Asia and Africa. Hence, such matter of fact slips of a tongue as the one about FARC as a group of freedom fighters. People are products of their educational system. For example, here you will not see any poster about Obama. Good luck, educate yourself

  3. 22

    June 13, 2010 4:30 am

    What Picasso actually painted was a picture of the spanish fiesta, in which a matador got hit by the bull. There were no bullrings on Guernica, the painting got re-painted to change it from sunny day (when bullfights are scheduled) to midnight by the process of adding lightbulbs to the sun and to the hands of the picador. It was a totally unrelated picture with a last minute title change to get support and money from the communists. He was crafty and cheated, and it worked and became his most known work because of communist propaganda, not the other way around. In Spain, the ideology makes the artist, and not the actual talent. Mediocre painters like Miró and poets like Federico García Lorca are praised and studied in School while the actual great writers and poets like Jorge Llopis and Pedro Muñoz Seca are almost forgotten.

    • 23

      claire stokoe

      June 13, 2010 12:38 pm I have to disagree with you about the bull. In Guernica the Bull is the symbol of Spain, not of a bull fight at all. Every single piece i have read about Picasso has been about his using the bull as a symbolic meaning, this was carried on in this artwork also.

      • 24

        Just My Name

        June 13, 2010 7:11 pm

        The Bull was nothing more then the pictured passion of bullfights that Picasso had. Then, you can come up with what art students to better: find a wonderful and inspired meaning for it. Either the Bull is the Spanish resistance, of the Bull was Franco’s representation. Some say it was the Spanish resistance, other say it was Franco’s image, much because of the Bull’s tail position, showing a “victorious, curious Bull”, coming outside to see his winnings.

        So, as you can see, you can’t say Dr. Jones is wrong. After all, what is the true meaning of the Bull?

        • 25

          El Guernica simboliza el criminal bombardeo, por parte de la aviación fascista alemana que apoyaba a los franquistas, a la ciudad española de Guernica, que era defendida por los republicanos. La ciudad fue masacrada. Esa pintura es aún hoy un ejemplo de la brutalidad de la guerra.


          The Guernica symbolizes the criminal bombing by the German fascist aviation support to Franco in the Spanish city of Guernica, which was defended by Republicans. The city was massacred. That painting is still an example of the brutality of war.

    • 26

      hahaha… good theory, but absolutely false

    • 27

      I’ve never found Guernica to be good propaganda. I don’t think good propaganda needs an outside explanation for the viewer to know what it is about and what side it is on. If no one had taught me that Guernica was anti-war I would never have figured out it was, or was supposed to be.

  4. 28

    dave terron

    June 13, 2010 4:57 am

    Guys…David Cameron is the Prime Minsiter of the United Kingdom which INCLUDES Scotland Wales and Northern Ireland, not just England.

    It’s like saying Obama is President of Washington DC…. 8-)

    • 29

      hahahah.. LOL.. but I think England more than just a city..

      • 30

        Come again?

        • 31

          The point here was that the comparison of England and Washington D.C. wasn’t correct, because is a country that is part of the United Kingdom whereas Washington D.C. is just a city.

          A better comparison would be: Saying David Cameron is the Prime Minister of England is like saying Barack Obama is the president of the American east coast.

  5. 32

    J’adore la photo du “ché” et l’affiche “We Can Do It!” … Le reste est parfois un peu lourd à mon goût.

  6. 33

    Great stuff.
    I’m sure most people who grew up in the US know Dr.Seuss. He was also a very sharp political cartoonist in World War II.
    Dr. Seuss Went to War: A Catalog of Political Cartoons

  7. 34

    Really? An article on propaganda art and not one mention of Shepard Fairey’s Obama ‘Hope’ poster? Are you so biased that you didn’t see that as propaganda?

    • 35

      Yes, really

      June 13, 2010 1:51 pm

      My god, you sure are one angry republican. I hope Palin runs for president in the next election so Obama can sweep through with ease. I’ll think of you when he wins again.

      • 36

        Removing the political debate from the point, the poster itself is designed in the same school as a propaganda poster. Bold, stirring, the image of Obama looking off into the future with bold, strong lines and colorization. It impacts emotion and that is the purpose of any good propaganda poster.

        • 37

          The Fairey poster follows in the vein of the Moore pieces, in their Debordian liberation of images from their original historical moments to reinscribe new messages.

          The biggest issue I take with Fairey is the way he has capitalized on his appropriation of revolutionary media; this point is far better articulated here, by persons involved with the Just Seeds radical art collective.

  8. 39

    Biased Much?

    June 13, 2010 8:01 am

    How can you not include the Obama poster? It’s 1 of the most propagandized images of the 21st century, thus far.

  9. 40

    To continue the thought…

    The Hope poster is reminiscent of South American banana republic political posters used for the past 40 years. Limited colors, use of large identifying picture of candidate, and simple or no wording for the semi-literate.

    By not including this poster you identify yourself as either biased or incompetent.

    I expected better.

    • 41

      Smashing Editorial

      June 13, 2010 9:04 am

      As the author states, “this post isn’t supposed to be an ultimate showcase of propaganda artists”. I am sure that one could include dozens of other artists in this article, but it would make it even lengthier. Thank you for your suggestion!

      • 42

        Daniel Nguyen

        June 13, 2010 9:23 am

        Hello, i think i could help you guys on gathering some information about propaganda artist Huynh Van Thuan. Since i’m from Vietnam and there’re quite a fews documentaries and articles were written about him in Vietnamese. Contact me, if you do interest. Cheers.

        • 43

          claire stokoe

          June 13, 2010 12:09 pm

          I’d find that really interesting, pop a link to anything you have :)

  10. 44

    Recent posters really aren’t as interesting because everyone is familiar with them. The more unfamiliar the topic the more interesting it is from a design standpoint.

    Its is amazing the power of propaganda.
    Fear and hate propaganda usually is to support some flavor of atrocity.
    Propaganda of hope, on the other hand, is totally different.

    Design is powerful stuff..

  11. 45

    The exclusion of the Obama “Hope” poster makes this post no more liberally-biased than the inclusion of Nazi propaganda makes it anti-semitic. It’s just a gallery of different propaganda designs, people. Get over it.

    And in my opinion, it was a really great post. I’d love to see more in-depth articles about various art and design movements on Smashing Magazine. Great job!

  12. 46

    It is quite funny, that BNP calls the election “the new battle for Britain”, while they forget, that in the original Battle of Britain many immigrants were fighting to protect UK. Exceptionally brave were Polish pilots. Now they see Poles only as plumbers and builders.

    • 47

      June 13th, 2010 12:25 pm

      It is quite funny, that BNP calls the election “the new battle for Britain”, while they forget, that in the original Battle of Britain many immigrants were fighting to protect UK. Exceptionally brave were Polish pilots. Now they see Poles only as plumbers and builders.
      The issue has more to do with the influx of Muslims, not Poles.

  13. 48

    Very interessting article…loved to read this and to get informed about the different artists and their aims.

  14. 49

    In an article that includes imagery created variously by the Nazis, communists and South American terrorists, Smashing Magazine manage to save their most mouth-foaming criticism for the BNP. Baffling.

    Great. This is the kind of nonsense I’m used to being force fed by my state-sponsored media (sometimes known as the BBC), but now I get to be preached-to by a web design blog, too!

    • 50

      no one is force feeding you anything. the reason the criticism for the BNP is included is as a contemporary example of how word and image can be used to persuade or mislead the general public. it is impossible to deny that many of the propoganda techniques they use are misleading, so you are hardly being force fed any information that shouldnt be already apparent to you. it is up to you whether you agree or disagree with the said information.

  15. 51

    Great article. Too sad, the greatest of them all, Mayakowsky, is missing:.

  16. 52

    If this article had come out literally any time before may. I would have passed my A level art….

    :/ they always say you find something when you never need it.

  17. 54

    this has no interest in me at all, its pointless, belongs to another blog.

  18. 55

    Serious question:

    I live in the US, I’m an Independent voter, and I’ve always wondered something: why are most of the good designers Liberals?

    Any ideas?

    • 56

      People who are more educated also tend towards a progressive outlook.
      My theory: people who are more wise and reflective, artists and designers, don’t react as strong to fear and hate.
      To be liberal or progressive in America means to have more compassionate opinions; anti-war, more social services, helping those less fortunate, etc.

      • 57

        Complete garbage. Typically liberal-think: anyone who doesn’t agree with me is by definition “stupid”, or as you would say, not “wise and reflective.”

        Open your mind, dude.

      • 58

        Eek, Tai. That’s a bit much, don’t you think?

        There are educated, and wise people on BOTH ends of the spectrum, and evil jerks too.

        It just seems that the “arts” tend to be more Liberal. Does that maybe come from the tradition of artists working off “grants” and other public support, so they can concentrate on their “art” instead of flipping burgers? Hence being traditionally removed from the Free Market?

      • 59

        Someone has been gulping down the Kool-Aid by the gallon, it seems. And, oh boy, what a shame.

        But then, I’m just an ignorant dumb conservative. So disregard my disagreement.

        • 60

          *shrug* I sit in a position of not liking liberals or conservatives. I have opinions on each side of the arbitrary allegorical fence. But I can’t blame any “liberal” for speaking that way about “conservatives.” Because, sorry, “conservatives” have that whole crazy fundamentalist segment lumped in with them. There are sane conservatives, truly.

          But personally I’d rather deal with people whose propaganda leans toward tolerance and acceptance. Even though the people in power distributing that propaganda are doing so for selfish reasons that have nothing to do with those ideals. Who do liberals talk crap about? Ignorant intolerant conservative Christians. Who hate pretty much everyone but themselves. Sorry, gotta say the liberals have the edge on that one. 80% beats 10%. Though you don’t do yourself any favors by generalizing all conservatives that way.

          Actually I hate propaganda more than anything in the world. It’s all so overwrought and designed to encourage us to be rash. To create “us” and “them.” Everytime I see a post on the ‘net blathering on about liberals and conservatives I want to throw up. Because anyone using either word has short circuited their brain and fallen into the propaganda trap.

          But I don’t think this post did a very good job with it the topic. I don’t feel like I learned anything. And I’ve never seen most of these posters or heard of most of these people before.

          Plus it was so slanted toward certain countries and ideologies….

          • 61

            All art is propaganda. Once people realize this, it becomes less effective.

            Those who are in, or who want, power, demonize their opposition as propagandists, and in turn release their own propaganda which promotes themselves as the beacons of truth and justice, when they very well may not be. Conservatives and liberals alike.

            Personally, I don’t understand why more artists aren’t Libertarian.

        • 62


          June 13, 2010 3:06 pm

          Bluestrike, I’m not sure what it is you’re trying to say. However, I’m sure you’re familiar with how conservatives use the Kool-aid quote, without really explaining anything or proving a point with it. If you want to use propagandistic slogans – that’s fine – but you’re not pointing out any flaws in any arguments. Just regurgitating. Was that your point? How conservatives just rather listen to propaganda?

      • 63

        People who are more educated also tend towards a progressive outlook.
        My theory: people who are more wise and reflective, artists and designers, don’t react as strong to fear and hate.
        To be liberal or progressive in America means to have more compassionate opinions; anti-war, more social services, helping those less fortunate, etc.
        What a bunch of malarky. The problem is more artists are uneducated in the world of politics, history and reality. I know because I used to be one, then I opened up my eyes.

        Nobody wants war, we all want to help the poor and less fortunate. The difference between Liberal and Conservative is HOW to do those things. Liberals want to help the poor by giving out other peoples money, and want to stop wars by laying down our weapons. Conservatives want to give opportunities for the poor to help themselves forever, and want to stop wars by strength…by eliminating evil and terrorism and evil dictators. The major problem is that Liberals dont understand history as well as politics, and would know that the conservative method has worked the best throughout history. Less poverty is achieved when people work hard to get ahead in this world, and there are more job opportunities out there. Less wars occur when you nip evil and despotism in the bud…not after you allow it to take over half the world first, ala WWII.

        • 64


          June 22, 2010 2:56 pm

          “Liberals want to help the poor by giving out other peoples money, and want to stop wars by laying down our weapons. Conservatives want to give opportunities for the poor to help themselves forever, and want to stop wars by strength…by eliminating evil and terrorism and evil dictators.”

          how, exactly, do ‘conservatives’ want to give opportunities to the poor? do you hire someone to clean your house? or do you allow people to go to school so they can get educated and get jobs and houses and buy into the economy? where do these opportunities come from?

          in any case, that discussion is off topic: PROPOGANDA BELONGS TO BOTH SIDES!!! there are conservative propogandists, and liberal propogandists alike. all it takes is to have a strong belief in a cause. artists are particularly susceptible to championing causes, as they are generally idealists of one sort or another, OR their paycheck (which they desperately need) is coming directly from the political source that they are depicting.

  19. 65

    Wow, now THAT was a serious trip down memory lane was it not? Amazing.


  20. 66

    I made this for my band recently:

    I wish this article was published before… really inspiring! :P

  21. 67

    About : “Picasso painted Guernica in response to the bombing of the town by Germany and Italy, which were following orders from Spanish Nationalist forces, on 26 April 1937.”

    It must be said that the painting called “Guernica” was a public command pre-ordered to Picasso long BEFORE the bombing of the town. And was planned to be a traditionnal painting (“traditionnal” but still in Picasso’s style). The he decided to change his draws to paint the recent bombing. So it was not a full spontaneous move of propaganda.

    The propaganda came later ;)

  22. 68

    For contemporary propaganda posters, the “I’m with Coco” poster by Mike Mitchell should make this list.

    • 69

      claire stokoe

      June 15, 2010 5:07 am

      That is a really good suggestion .. great statement for a piece of localised propaganda def

  23. 70

    Great article.

    To those huffing about the author not including the Obama poster, consider this: she did include that grotesque “Friends don’t let Friends Vote Republican” poster.

  24. 71
  25. 72

    smok wawelski

    June 13, 2010 2:27 pm

    One more thing about BNP poster: the Spitfire on the poster is actually a… polish one! During the Battle of Britain there were a number of polish squadrons where polish pilots were fighting. The one on the poster is from 303 Squadron – the most famous polish squadron during the WW2 (by code letters ‘RF’ painted in front of the RAF roundel).

  26. 73

    WWIII propaganda? Interesting… ;)

  27. 74

    What about all the Apartheid propaganda…there’s a whole book about it. Apartheid: The propaganda and the reality by Donald Woods

  28. 75

    it’s my first time as a chinese to see those war posters
    it’s totally changed, there is still some tension between two countries though

  29. 76

    Noah David Simon

    June 13, 2010 8:23 pm

    I’m surprised you didn’t include Shepard Fairey who put the present totalitarian regime into power through retro images of bygone fascist style.

    I had the name of that Abstract Minimalist and Marxist Russian on the tip of my tongue…. Lissitzky. Totally Bauhaus! Generally Stalin felt modern art was bourgeois and not the work of the people. Much of the Avant Gard took it on the arches once the Reds were secure in power.

    The taste of Stalin was almost the same as Hitler’s. These guys suspected the Jooos were behind this minimalist stuff…. and they might of been right. You can see how striking this work is compared to the fascist looking so called realism that the meat and potato peasants preferred.

  30. 77

    There seems to be a couple of spelling errors in this sentence:
    “Brain Moore is a modern propaganda artist who exhibts his work on his blog…”

    (It’s supposed to be Brian Moore from the heading and exhibts -> exhibits) :D

  31. 78

    I love Norman Rockwell’s art…he was such a great painter…unbelievable…

  32. 79

    Interestingly the Red Wedge poster created by Lissitzky seems to be very similar to the logo used by the Peacekeepers in Farscape!

  33. 80


    June 14, 2010 1:13 am

    “The posters are based on old WWIII propaganda posters but updated in their message to match today’s technology and Web culture.”
    Surely there’s an I too many there as I don’t recall WW3 being an old thing of the past ;)

  34. 81

    the cameron/thatcher image attribution is here (Poster by Von Pip/Susie Wilkins) (hint, it is on the image bottom left), there are also some very good version iterations here

    John Heartfield (Helmut Herzfeld) is a major omission

    the original photo of the Che poster was Alberto Korda

    Another fine, unfocused smashingmag list article, there are about three good articles hiding in here, one looking at the propaganda supporting a state, in opposition to a state or doctrine and modern takes on ascendant propaganda images, for each type of propaganda is quite different in how the visual language of the image works.

  35. 82

    Regarding Huynh Van Thuan, he was one of the most famous Vietnamese artists in war time, he also designed the money notes for the Communist government, the current notes are still based on his design.

  36. 83

    Putting aside all political statements and persuasions and concentrating purely on the design, I think this is an incredibly useful post in terms of design inspiration, more like this please!

  37. 84

    nice read!
    you should also mention the swiss party SVP and their “propagandaguy”, a right wing party quite famous for propaganda-like pictures.
    if you picgoogle for “SVP + minaretten” you will find pictures of their campaign against minaretts in switzerland (the “churchtowers” of mosques)
    also picgoogle for “SVP + sicherheit schaffen” (“create safety”) and look for the first two pics. this is their message during an election campaign not long ago. guess who might be the “darkskined” sheep…

  38. 85

    LOL @ the “twitter-like” propaganda “SOMEONE TWEETED” lmao..

  39. 86

    Surprised not to see Obama poster in here

  40. 87

    great article except for writing “Columbia” instead of “Colombia”

  41. 88

    Reading all of these comments, I gotta say you guys really stepped in it this time. But, maybe that was the intention all along…controversial topics DO tend to boost views. Always knew there was genius behind SM! Keep up the great work!

  42. 89

    Luckily, I’m not so incredibly politically obsessed (staying in South Africa – the politics are more like soap operas), and I just love propaganda posters, so this post is awesome!
    So I agree with Louisa, great work!

  43. 90

    Thanks for this post, Claire – I enjoyed the selection. As MH says in the comments above, the Cameron/Thatcher poster comes from the MyDavidCameron website, which invited users to create their own versions of Conservative election posters and become a viral hit.

    Clifford Singer

  44. 91

    Very intressting article. Last april I was in the Tate Modern museum and they had a room full of Russian Red Flag Propaganda. I was very impressed by the power these visuals had. I always wondered who designed those propaganda’s. I now know thanks to this article! Good stuff.

  45. 92

    Excellent write-up, compelling artwork and interesting discussion in the comments. Good work all the way around.

    One interesting site in the vein of propaganda art is “A Soviet Poster A Day” at

  46. 93

    The Che Guevara image is actually from a photo of a cuban photographer, Korda.

    • 94

      he’s not cuban, but bolivian

      • 95

        Alberto Korda, the photographer, is from Havana, Cuba. Ernesto Guevara de la Serna (Che) is from Rosario, Argentina (he died in Bolivia in 1967). And yes, the Che poster is a completely ripoff, the original photo was taken in 1960 and a few years later, hundreds of posters using the Che image have been done just in Cuba. The most notable poster was made by the cuban graphic artist Alfredo Rostgaard (1969)

  47. 96

    Todos esos diseños de publicidad son una mierda =)

  48. 98

    That last picture is too sad to be true, oh well… Very nice article, some awesome historical pieces aswell.

  49. 99

    Really enjoyed this post! I love old 50-60 posters. Here’s a small collection from Hungarian communist propaganda posters from the post WWII years.

    By the way I found it interesting, that while the propaganda works of totalitarian regimes such as the Nazis and CCCP are real works of art and still inspire people today (even if they served a wrong cause), the propaganda of current radical political movements such as the BNP or far-right parties here in Hungary and the rest of Europe are artisticly worthless and dull.
    The fact that these parties can sell their ideas with such crappy design leds me to believe that a the visual taste of the avrage layman has dropped greatly since the ’50-s, even if they say that design has a greater impact on our lives than ever.

  50. 100

    What exactly is Gino Boccasile’s first poster tying to say?

    “Defend Italy from Jews, Communists and Freemasons!?”


  51. 101

    Whoops forgot the link: :) Check them out! Mostly post war election posters of the Hungarian Communist Party.

  52. 102

    From a design point of view, awesome stuff. I love historical posters, and these are great – even though you missed a couple iconic ones, such as the Jew counting his money etc.

    From a political/societal point of view: WHAT?!
    You managed to display a slight admiration for nearly every communist/Marxist design’s POLITICAL BACKGROUND, and managed to say this about the BNP: “BNP has used them to build their hate-filled ranks for years. BNP is extremely good at speaking to people in plain, emotional language and affecting those who experience personal problems and want to find someone who can be blamed for these problems.” Following this argument, BNP’s voters have personal problems and want to find someone to blaim for their issues. Huh?? Let me make one thing clear – I would never vote BNP (partially because I am not British) or a similar party. However, on a DESIGN blog?!
    To make matters worse, here’s what you said about the Jew posters pre WW2: “Many posters were entitled, “He is guilty for the war.” This was the key message of Hitler to start his campaign of terror and for the ethnic cleansing that ensued. (…) There is no doubts about the immorality and emotional deception of these designs; they are still worth mentioning because they were extremely powerful and effective at the time.”

    If you’re gonna talk about hatred, you can start with the real atrocities – the FARC guerilla, Hitler, Mussolini, the Iranian government, Stalin, Al-Quaida etc. As far as I know, the BNP has yet to kill anyone, abduct people or blow up subways in foreign countries.

  53. 103

    Jim Fitzpatrick Che’s Poster is based on “GUERRILLERO HEROICO” an Alberto Korda photo.

  54. 104

    Great article – reblogged it on my own Propaganda art website:

  55. 105

    In truth, effective and true propaganda is only recognizable retrospectively. If you are a member of the targeted group and recognize it as propaganda, then it has missed its mark. True propaganda should elicit an emotional, visceral, almost autonomic response, making one mindlessly get swept up in and fervently support the cause that it is advancing. A lot of what people recognize as propaganda today is merely a rehashing of old, often-cliched and out-dated propaganda methods or at best, good promotion and target marketing.

  56. 106

    For those in Barcelona don’t miss this exhibition of past and PRESENT graphic propaganda from North Corea:

  57. 107

    Guernica: Historians and art critics generally see this work as Picasso’s anti war painting, rather than supporting the communists. It should be remembered that the work was completed in 1937, pre Blitz (bombing of London and other UK cities, resulting in approx 16,000 civilian deaths) and pre Holocaust.
    Civilians had not generally been a target in war before the Luftwaffe attacked Guernica. Many see the anti war connotations of the work as the reason for the tapestry replica in the UN building being covered for Powell’s announcement of the bombing of Iraq in Feb 2003. It is true that Picasso had used many of the motifs in Guernica before, but this makes their use more poignant in this work.

  58. 108

    The BNP used stock photography for their campaign – and the models weren’t best pleased when they found out.

    This was a really interesting post, thank you.

  59. 109

    Stephanie Rexroth

    June 21, 2010 1:09 pm

    Don’t forget about the modern day US-paranoia at work in these posters — typically found at international airports:
    “If you see something say something”

  60. 110

    Font on first poster («The revolution is now!») is ugly. At least for whom native language is Russian.

  61. 111

    Wonkey the Monkey

    June 22, 2010 3:15 am

    Do Wright and Moore really belong in this article? I’m not so sure I would call their work “propaganda” at all.

    Wright’s approach was to:
    1.) remix existing propaganda artwork with new text rather than creating new artwork, and
    2.) create images with the intent that viewers would immediately recognize and reject the explicit propaganda contained within them.

    Moore’s are even less creative, simply re-casting more famous propaganda designs and insert modern jargon into them. What exactly do they mean? Who are they supposed to influence? Is he saying that tweeting and blogging was harmful to the protesters? Or is it supposed to be a rejection of propaganda, suggesting that only evil empires fear tweets and blogs and the like? If so, the choice of source material is questionable because the message communicated by the original posters (never share military secrets with pretty girls and drinking buddies) was quite rational and fair at the time.

    Certainly I would hesitate to call either creator a propagandist OR a designer. They’d be better described as satirists, or in the case of Moore, parodists.

  62. 112

    You have some mess in information. Strakhov’s name is Adolf, Adolf Strakhov. Braslavskij is his second, alternative surname. And on the photo it’s a bust of famous ukrainian poet, writer and artist Taras Shevchenko made by Adolf Strakhov (when reading an article it looks like it’s a bust of Strakhov himself).

  63. 113


    here you can see a recopilatory of posters of war propaganda:

    Enjoy it.

  64. 114

    I can’t believe Smashing Magazine showcased the ‘work’ of Brian Lane Winfield Moore and Micah Ian Wright. They are shallow attempts at creativity at the expense of other artists’ toil. Anyone can cop another creative’s blood, sweat, heart and soul and re-purpose it without hardly lifting their sophomoric finger.

    They are not designers. They are not propagandists. They are thieves without their own raw talents upon which to build strong, unique, original creative to communicate a contemporary message. The truest indication of the unequaled talents of their predecessors is that they stole their predecessors’ work for their own creative gain. This work is transparent to the educated creative, and is immediately discredited as plagiarism and looked upon with disdain.

    If you’re unable to envision and execute your own creative work, you should find another profession. I hope Smashing Magazine uses more discretion in the future when posting pieces of this nature.

    • 115

      @ J. I consider myself to be educated and creative. I am an artist and am in my final year of art college. Though your point about the work being copied is undeniably true I do not feel, as do many of my peers that this is necessarily a bad thing. It was not the artists intention to claim the work as their own, which is what plagiarism is, (to claim anothers work as ones own). These posters are clearly an homage to a famous era and style with a satirical twist to modernise them. The artists ask the question how would they have looked if the internet was around back then. They are making a statement about modern communication and the availability of information and using famous works which warn against such things as a tool to highlight the use of social media and the internet in the spreading of secrets. If you don’t get that ????

  65. 116

    My name is Lindsay Moore and I am currently a grade twelve student in Calgary, Alberta. For one of our International Baccalaureate projects this year my group must create a documentary about the Iron Curtain and liberalism. I was wondering if my group could use some of the information and the photos on your website for our documentary. If yes, please contact me by email as soon as possible!
    Thank you for your time!


  66. 117

    Interesting mix here, I would add some of the more interesting uses of propaganda that expose the concept of propoganda itself such as the work by The Electronic Brain Turf Consortium. Exploitation is used at almost every level of soiety and is nearly always for greed/power/money. It’s scary how obvious what they are doing is once you get what’s going on – it’s even scarier knowing that this kind of stuff works on the masses

  67. 118

    “Everybody points fingers at the Nazis for the Holocaust, but I don’t recall that much anybody complaining about the almost “heroic” dropping of two atomic bombs by the USA on Japanese civilian population.” -Mosh

    that’s the most absurd thing I’ve ever read.


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