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Poster Design is on the Move. But Where is it Going?

The curator of Swiss exhibition ‘Moving Poster 2’ on the challenges of animated poster design

Umbrellas up! It’s raining letters… Hallelujah?

That’s what I imagine those at Weltformat poster festival in Lucerne, Switzerland, are singing this week upon entering an exhibition called “Moving Poster 2,” a collection of dynamic, animated placards that continues a theme explored at the same festival last year. Celebrating the experiments in animated poster design taking place across the globe, the show explores what curator and graphic designer Josh Schaub says is a new movement spurred by the advent of screens everywhere—from big, high res ones in train stations to the tiny personal screens tucked into pockets.

Poster design, it seems, is on the move. Schaub wants us to stop and ask: But where is it going?

Last year the show dealt intensely with defining exactly what constitutes a moving poster after the term was coined by Swiss designer Felix Pfaelli a few years ago. (You can read our interview with the team behind the show’s first iteration here.) Unlike digital advertising or animated GIFs, “Moving Poster 1” demonstrated that the activated “moving poster” has a very specific set of criteria. To be a one, a design must retain the formal elements of a poster, communicate using traditional rhetoric, scale to fit the portrait format, and employ animation as if it were a “fifth color” or a special print technique.

This year, though—now that we know that posters that zoom, zip, and swirl are here to stay—the focus of the exhibition is more technical, in hopes of pushing the conversation and techniques forward.

What kind of movement is most effective in a moving poster? How can an animation help strengthen a message instead of distract from it? When does a moving poster become more than just one more way for an image to shout “look at me!” on the speeding virtual highway of our streams? These questions—and more—have occupied Schaub during the curatorial process.

Today Schaub guides us through five posters from the “Moving Poster 2” exhibition, and unpacks the new set of problems unearthed for those experimenting with animated movement in their static placard designs.


by Tim Lindacher

“I found the answer to one of my key questions—what form of movement is best for a moving poster?—in Tim Lindacher’s minimally-charged design. It’s very simple, with one single continuous movement taking place as the tennis ball spins. All compositional devices, from the white space to the typography, are untouched, which means the image retains the strength of a placard. Rather than functioning like a film, where change happens, the elements in place keep their bold, graphic form. The choice of movement feels very natural and doesn’t distract from the content. Instead, it arouses interest.”

Form Phallus Function

by Jakob Maurer, Christopher Hegenberg, Jakob Kornelli

“You’ll find moving posters in railway stations and in crowded social media feeds, where they battle for two seconds of your attention. That’s why a moving poster should not contain any—or only an extremely fast—storyline. The plot needs to be recognizable in a short time, taking us from A-B quickly and smartly. That’s what Jakob Maurer, Christopher Hegenberg, and Jakob Kornelli’s ‘Form Phallus Function’ poster does, with its simple and fast jumps. A successful poster should be understood in a very short time, animated or not.”


by Denis Yılmaz

“The most frequent kind of animation you’ll find on moving posters is animated objects. It’s not a coincidence, because objects usually have a movement that we associate with them (for example, a balloon rises). Moving typography, in my opinion, is a more complicated kind of animation, and that’s why we’re starting to see a lot of moving posters that combine objects with type.

“This is the case with Berlin-based Denis Yılmaz’s poster for the ‘Rundgang’ (meaning tour) at the University of the Arts in Berlin, in which type-shaped balloons fly through the picture. A second layer of type is also placed statically under the flying objects. While in the print version it’s important to ensure that the balloons don’t obscure the second layer of writing, in moving form you can conceal and reveal, creating an exciting interplay.”


Studio Feixen

“Text on a poster is rarely moved around. And if it is, it’s usually pushed, or distorted. Typography that is shifted back and forward is a good technique for those experimenting with moving posters, because it doesn’t distort the poster’s statement. However, type being pushed back and forward can get quite boring, quite quickly: it’s something we see a lot.

“An exciting solution of the pushing around technique is this one by Switzerland’s Studio Feixen. Not only is the type pushed around but so is everything else on the poster. There are two distinct levels here—the typography and then graphic forms, and they’re linked by the rhythmic movement that ‘shifts’ them around.”

Graduation Show

by Medeina Musteikyte, Daphne Spelier, Marie Louise Gjerlev

“I began these selections with a simple poster (the turning tennis ball) and now I’m going to end with a poster that shows numerous elements at play and various animation techniques. As with the first poster, typography and background remains firmly in place. Unlike it, small objects like fingers, tongues, and a beak peek into the picture. Without a clear beginning or end, it generates an atmospheric mood.

“That’s what I ultimately think a moving poster should create. A mood. The basic idea is that a poster should not change or be too wrapped up in narrative. Instead, it should emphasize the actual message. This poster by Medeina Musteikyte, Daphne Spelier, and Marie Louise Gjerlev articulates my point perfectly: it transports you to a poetic place, all the while remaining a moving graphic and not becoming a film. Although it moves, it’s the rest—the complete picture—that generates the force.”

(Click here to see the poster in high-res, full-length action.) 


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