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25 Most Powerful Propaganda Posters That Made All The Difference

These propaganda were an influential attitude change initiative. They were powerful reminders of reality and our responsibility towards society. From war to welfare to social issues and plain sanity…these posters made all the difference.

1. “Daddy, what did you do in the Great War?”, (1915).


In 1915 British illustrator Savile Lumley designed this famous guilt – inducing poster. Paul Gunn later explained the background to the poster: “One night my father came home very worried about the war situation and discussed with my mother whether he should volunteer. He happened to come in to where I was asleep and quite casually said to my mother, If I don’t join the forces whatever will I say to Paul if he turns round to me and says, What did you do in the Great War, Daddy? He suddenly turned round to my mother and said that would make a marvellous slogan for a recruiting poster. He shot off to see one of his pet artists, Savile Lumley, had a sketch drawn straight away, based on the theme projected about five years hence, although by the time it had taken shape the questioner had become one of my sisters.” This poster was produced before conscription was introduced in 1916 and aimed to encourage men to join the armed forces through emotional blackmail. Depending on your opinion of the “great war” itself, this could also be viewed as a positive use of the powers of propaganda.

2. “Barbarism vs. Civilization”, (1900).


This poster depicts of the The Boxer Rebellion or  Boxer Uprising which was a violent anti-foreign and anti-Christian movement which took place in China towards the end of the Qing dynasty between 1898 and 1900. It was initiated by the Militia United in Righteousness (Yihetuan), known in English as the “Boxers”, and was motivated by proto-nationalist sentiments and opposition to foreign imperialism and Christianity. The Great Powers intervened and defeated Chinese forces.

3. Anti – Smoking Propaganda.


A very simple, yet powerful anti-smoking poster. Sometimes dubbed as one of the most clever anti-smoking advertisement ever.

4. “You Can Be Someone’s Superhero!”, Hellenic Association Of Blood Donors, (2013).


A very creative and appealing ad to attract blood donors towards needs for donation. Advertising Agency: Spot JWT, Athens, Greece Creative Director / Illustrator: Alexandros Tsoutis Art Director: Alexis Alifragkis Copywriter: Anastasios Lessis Published: January 2013

5. “I Want You”, (1917).


Originally published as the cover for the July 6, 1916, issue of Leslie’s Weekly with the title “What Are You Doing for Preparedness?” this portrait of “Uncle Sam” went on to become–according to its creator, James Montgomery Flagg–”the most famous poster in the world.” Over four million copies were printed between 1917 and 1918, as the United States entered World War I and began sending troops and material into war zones.

6. Fate of Ukraine, (2014).


The unfair colonization of Ukraine by the Russian troops and the decision of Crimea being shifted under Russian control describes the fate of Ukraine and how it has just become a hanging nation in between Asia and Europe. This propaganda poster truly depicts of the Ukrainian pain and violence that has been going on a while now.

7. “Help Keep Your School All American”, (1940s – 50s).


This anti- racism, superhero oriented poster came around in a children’s comic series and proved to be very powerful in conveying its true social message. With racism being at its peak in America that time, there was a dire need of an attitude change and this poster was a great example of a powerful initiative by making it “Un-American” to be racist.

8. “We Can Do It”, (1942).


We Can Do It! is a WW II era American wartime propoganda poster produced by J. Howard Miller in 1943 for Westinghouse Electric as a tool to boost worker morale. Surprisingly, the poster did not enjoy wide popularity during World War II. It was rediscovered in the early 1980s and widely reproduced in many forms, often called “We Can Do It!” but also mistakenly called “Rosie the Riveter” after the iconic figure of a strong female war production worker. The “We Can Do It!” image was used to promote feminism and other political issues beginning in the 1980?s. After its rediscovery, people often assumed that the image was always meant to be a call to inspire women workers to join the war effort. However, during the war the image was strictly internal to Westinghouse, displayed only during February 1943, and was not for recruitment but to inspire already-hired women to work harder.

9. “Thief!”, (1920s-30s).


“The worst thief is he who steals the playtime of children” A very very powerful propaganda poster against then prevalent child labor. More and more children were forced to work in factories that were equipped with heavy, dangerous machinery and they were forced to work for hours at a stretch, thus stealing away their innocence and anytime they had for playing and other wonderful stuff that children do.

10. “Sex is No Accident”, MTV.


An initiative from MTV to encourage the use of condoms for safe sex through these strips were a smart propaganda. With increase in the number of teen pregnancies in America, it has become evident to bring about awareness regarding protection measures during sex and the hazards of avoiding them. Another important factor was the spread of AIDS and other STD’s through unprotected sex which has infact become a widespread concern worldwide. This ad takes a strong attitude makeover initiative to encourage the use of condoms and prevent any sexually transmitted diseases and their after effects on population.

11. Che Guevara, (1968).


Jim Fitzpatrick was a well-known Irish Celtic artist of his time, but he is probably best known for his iconic 1968 Che Guevara poster. It is said that Fitzpatrick took the death of the revolutionary personally. He had once met Guevara when the revolutionary 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 globally famous 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.

12. “The Guarantee of German Military Strength”, (1932).


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!”

13. Ning Hao: China, (1954).


Seemingly 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.

14. “Workers of The World Unite!”, (1920?).


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.

15. Pyramid of Capitalist System, (1911).


The Pyramid of Capitalist System is a common name of a 1911 American cartoon caricature critical of capitalism. The graphic focus is on social stratification by social class and economic inequality. The picture shows a literal “social pyramid” or hierarchy, with the wealthy few on the top, and the impoverished masses at the bottom. Crowned with a money bag representing capitalism, the top layer, “we rule you”, is occupied by the royalty and state leaders. Underneath them are the clergy (“we fool you”), followed by the military (“we shoot you”), and the bourgeoisie (“we eat for you”). The bottom of the pyramid is held by the workers (“we work for all… we feed all”). The basic message of the image is the critique of the capitalist system, with its hierarchy of power and wealth. It also illustrates that the working class is supporting all others, and if it would withdraw their support from the system it could, literally, topple the existing social order. This type of criticism of capitalism is attributed to the French socialist Louis Blanc. The work has been described as “famous”, “well-known and widely reproduced”.

16. “Open Trap, Make Happy Jap”, (1940?).


Reflecting the ugly racism of the times, many US produced propaganda posters from World War II would typecast the Japanese as goofy and cartoonish stereotypes. Buck teeth, big ears and an exaggeration on the eyes were recurring features. This incredibly racist image reflects our powerful need to dehumanize the enemy before we slaughter them, making the carnage not seem so evil.

17. Xu Ling: China, (1950).


Details about Chinese artists are hard to come by, 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 Douglas MacArthur. It shows the US as an abhorrent 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.

18. “Beat Back The Hun”, (1918).


This intense, frightening presence featuring the head of a “Hun” with blood-stained fingers and bayonet, is the work of Frederick or F. Strothmann. The poster was meant to literally scare Americans into buying the war bonds known as “Liberty Bonds” during WW I as a patriotic duty. These bonds are debt securities issued by the American government for the purpose of financing military operations. The creation of this capital not only helped to control inflation during war time, it also gave the public who invested their money in the bonds a feeling of involvement in the war without having to serve in the military. They were available in a wide range of denominations, and thus affordable to most citizens.

19. “Liberators”, (1944).


The Nazi’s had a very imaginative approach when it came to producing posters during the Second World War. Designed by Norwegian cartoonist Harald Damsleth, this particularly famous image depicts the Americans as a domineering force and characterizes many of their supposedly negative aspects, such as being money grabbing, racist, over-sexualized and all-empowering.

20. “American Invaders Will Be Defeated!”, (1951).


Completed at the height of the Cold War, this poster depicts two People’s Liberation Army soldiers holding two books. The left book read “Soviet Army Defeated 1,200,000 German Nazi, Italian, Japanese and other countries’ soldiers during World War Two” and the right reads “Chinese People’s Liberation Army defeated 8 million soldiers from American Imperialist sponsored Chiang Kai-Chek’s army. At the bottom, defeated Americans hold dollar sign flags, and in writing it says “Next year we can accumulate 3 million soldiers”.

21. Rosie The Riveter, (1943).


Based on a familiar song of the time, this is Norman Rockwell’s famous Rosie the Riveter poster. Unlike the “we can do it” poster this image actually represents 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. Rockwell often found himself at odds with the more conservative 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.

22. Huey P. Newton, Minister of Defense, (1968).


Huey P. Newton, Minister of Defence, done by an unidentified artist, 1968. When organizers of the Black Panther Party set up this scene for a photographer in 1967—enthroning the young “minister of defence” Huey Newton in a wicker chair and arming him a rifle and spear, they showed their determination to follow Malcolm X creed, “by any means necessary”. And the poster of course, transforms Newton into a larger than life, king-like figure.

23. “To Defend USSR”, (1930).


Valentina Kulagina was one of the few female poster artists to emerge from the 20th century. 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. Chilling!

24. “Lest We Forget” : UK, (2010).


The artist behind this one could not be identified, but this had to be included for its clever use of old Tory values and the play on the Scooby-Doo gang’s unveiling of the monster. This poster shows the lack of faith in Prime Minister David Cameron’s promise to be a force for change and not just another Margaret Thatcher clone.

25. Unusual, rare anti-Nazi propaganda postcard from 1934

Showing Hitler expelling Einstein from Germany, titled “The Ignominy of the 20th Century.” It is one of the most blatant visual renderings of Einstein as a “scientific saint.” .

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