Every day for the past 1,353 days Alex Proba has made a poster. With no exceptions, Proba wakes up, sits at her computer, and spends anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour-and-a-half creating one of her characteristically dusky-hued designs for her Poster a Day project. She designs when she’s traveling. She designs when she’s sick. And though it would be tempting to stockpile designs and roll them out later, Proba insists she only creates one poster per day. “The hardest part is just sitting down and doing it,” she says.
Since the project began in 2013, Proba’s occasionally absurd (and always beautiful) designs have blown up. You can find them on her Instagram where her images routinely get hundreds of likes. For a while, Urban Outfitters sold them in stores. In the time she started Poster a Day, she quit her job as design director at Mother and opened Studio Proba, where she makes textiles based on her geometric poster designs (amongst many other things). And now she’s opening the exhibition, Yours Mine Ours Hers, at Brooklyn’s Cooler Gallery, where she’s displaying 627 of her favorite posters in a meat cooler.
By all accounts, Proba is an example of creative success, but the poster project actually began as a way to break out of a rut. Like most designers, she felt the pressure of perfectionism.
“You can spend 10 years designing a poster and still not be happy,” she says. It was taking a toll on her creativity, and she knew she needed a way to get past the blockage that can come with pushing pixels for a living. “This project made me learn to remove myself from my own work.”
When she began, Proba was mostly experimenting with shapes, color, and composition. The posters played on strange material juxtapositions to create geometric forms (a pineapple top sprouting from a cracked egg, a rectangle built from a sponge and block of stinky cheese). After a year of open-ended creation, she decided that she needed more constraints. Proba began asking fans to send in stories and questions, and she’d design a poster as an answer (“What does the universe look like in your dreams?” or “Do you like camping?”). This year, she’s been focusing on women-related imagery.
Over the course of three-and-a-half years, Proba’s learned that she’s not going to love everything she designs. “There are so many bad posters,” she says. But that’s kind of the point. By being okay with making bad things, she’s opened herself up to creating some truly fantastic work, too. Proba says her best ideas didn’t come from lightening bolts of inspiration, but rather from routine built from a hard-earned work ethic. “For me, that’s where creativity comes from,” she says. “It’s not talking about or thinking about it, it’s about actually trying it out and making it everyday and building habits out of it.”
Below, Proba tells us about five of her favorite posters.
DAY 829: “What are we doing here?”
“This might be my favorite poster of all time. My visual and rather fun answer to this question was an abstract visualization of making love. As you can maybe see, there are female and male reproductive organs. This poster also comes as a rug. I’ve decided to make a fun and abstract visualization of the act of ‘making love’ because a lot of my other posters have very intense topics. With a question that already has a bit of a negative connotation like What are we doing here? I felt the urge to do something totally fun and free of sorrows. For me, this poster represents the fun and the confusion of meeting a person you like and trying to bring it to the next level (but dancing around for a little while).”
Day 466: New beginnings and hope
“During my second year, day 466, I got a story about someone who’s battled depression her whole life, but her mother’s love kept her sane; she was her everything—and she died two weeks after her 21st birthday. After that, she nearly dropped out of college three times. Now, she finally’s taking steps to achieve her biggest goal: moving states. It was such a simple story with so much meaning. While creating this poster I was thinking of something that’s broken and lifeless, but got fixed through time. The branch has a blue moment where I wanted to show that it’s getting fixed again and therefore it starts blossoming on the top of the branch. It should be seen as a symbol of a new beginning and of hope.”
DAY 756: “How does it feel to be lost in the forest?”
This visually expresses how I would feel. It’s like an optical illusion. The challenge here for me was how to visualize the feeling of fear and confusion in a flat 2D image. It took me a while to be able to position the simple little squares in a way they make an impact on the page and also create an illusion and dizzy feeling.”
Day 870:“What does tomorrow look like?”
“This one is rather funny. I was heading from NYC to Tokyo, and because of the time change and layovers I had to actually make two posters in a day. In this instance the question being asked was “What does tomorrow look like?” which in my mind would consist of ramen overload, which is my favorite food.”
Day 1,233: The future is female
“Day 1,233 was meant for Hillary Clinton. It shows a sad abstracted face of Donald Trump. It was on election day and I woke up positive and without doubt that we’d have our first female president. The day got dark at the end, but I still truly believe that the future is female.”