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These motivational posters from the 1920s are hilarious (and terrifying)

Three of the 1920s posters.
(Image credit: Parker-Holladay)

A collection of motivational poster designs has resurfaced, and we can't tell if they're hilarious or terrifying. Or both. The vintage posters were created to help motivate employees in factories and offices, and are set to sell for £3,000 later this week. 

The collection was designed by the Parker-Holladay print company, which was operating in the UK during the 1920s, and is responsible for the famous Bill Jones character who featured on many of the motivational posters (almost like a 1920s workplace hype man). The vibrant posters give an interesting (and somewhat problematic) insight into what the workplace was like a hundred years ago. Hoping to design your own motivational posters? Then make sure you check out our roundup of the best online poster makers.

One of the posters in the 1920 collection.

'Why Envy?' would make a great band name (Image credit: Parker-Holladay)

The designs show how different the workplace is today in comparison to the 1920s. We would probably perceive the posters as quite threatening in the office today with their in-your-face fonts, and rhetorical questions. And while we like the vintage style of the designs, we can hardly imagine a company like Google having a poster that says "Who pays the wage of a slacker?" up in the office. (But maybe Slack might.) 

Seeing as the designs are from the 1920s, it's no surprise that they seem pretty outdated. Some of the posters focus on working 'in harmony' with women, and abolishing prejudice at work. Many of the designs in the collection have been flagged as problematic – with a racially insensitive depiction of an aboriginal man in one. 

One of the motivational posters in the collection

Anyone else feeling threatened by this poster? (Image credit: Parker-Hollaway)

It's been a nice (if not, slightly terrifying) trip down memory lane, but we don't think we'll be adding any of these posters to our list of the best print adverts of all time. And while we can appreciate good design, we're counting our blessings that those posters stayed in the 1920s. 

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Amelia Bamsey
Staff Writer

Amelia is Creative Bloq’s Staff Writer. After completing a degree in Popular Music and a Master’s in Song Writing, Amelia began designing posters, logos, album covers and websites for musicians. She now enjoys covering a range of topics on Creative Bloq, including posters, optical illusions, logos (she's a particular fan of logo Easter eggs), gaming and illustration. In her free time, she relishes in the likes of art (especially the Pre-Raphaelites), photography and literature. Amelia prides herself on her unorthodox creative methods, her Animal Crossing island and her extensive music library.