Print designInterview

Paula Scher on new trends in poster design

Pentagram partner and noted designer Paula Scher talks about her commitment to printed poster design and how the field has evolved.

Paula Scher

Paula Scher is an American graphic designer, illustrator and painter. She is also a partner of multi-disciplinary design agency Pentagram, which she joined in 1991. Specialising in branding, identity and poster design, here she discusses why, for her, work is all about the love rather than the money.

Do you encounter the same demand for posters that you experienced in the past, and how have things changed?

"I am usually hired to design identity programmes. Sometimes, with cultural clients, there is an outdoor promotional campaign that emanates from the identity.

"There are many, many posters on the streets of New York. They are in bus shelters, subways, on buses, on phone kiosks, on flagpole banners. There are many more posters outside in a city than digital forms of communication.

"The problem is they are mostly ugly, so you ignore them. They are big ads done by ad agencies, not graphic design firms. Things have changed very little here."

How much of a brief is there for each season of Public Theater posters and what is the thinking behind the 2012-13 season?

"At the beginning of each season I meet with Oskar Eustace, director of The Public Theater, to determine the spirit of the campaign. He usually has a view about the season and I try to find the appropriate way to express it. It is very collaborative.

"I'm currently working on my 19th season. They trust me to push them in the right direction. I am very lucky in this relationship. I try to reinvent each season of posters a bit every year.

"This past year was more extreme, the posters were an extension of the lobby, where I had incised the type into the building."

Paula Scher poster design
Scher's posters in the box office of the Public Theatre in New York City

Are you still committed to the printed poster and what is its place in a culture increasingly dominated by digital media?

"Environmental graphics have become a major part of my work. I make large-scale interventions, sometimes dimensional, sometimes with digital components, sometimes they are purely painted on buildings. But they are all physical things that live in public spaces.

I'd starve if I tried to design posters for a living

"When I couldn't make posters on paper any more I started making them on buildings. They go around corners, light up and talk to you. They're fairly permanent and I find that more satisfying than something digital that's gone in an instant.

"Occasionally someone asks me for an individual poster for an event or cause. These are usually freebies and I still enjoy designing them. But I'd starve if I tried to design posters for a living."

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