The History of Promotional Posters

Promotional posters boast a rich history dating back centuries, originating with the 15th-century invention of the printing press. The concept of using posters to promote events, products, or ideas can be traced to the invention of the printing press in the 15th century.

19th Century:

The modern era of posters began in the 19th century with the advent of color lithography. During this time, posters were primarily used for advertising products, entertainment events, and political campaigns. Famous artists like Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec contributed to the popularity and artistic value of posters.

Divan Japonais' (1892-1893)
Divan Japonais’ (1892-1893) (Photo: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, via Wikimedia Commons)
Art Nouveau Era:

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Art Nouveau movement influenced poster design. Artists aimed for intricate and ornamental designs, often featuring flowing lines and decorative elements.

Pantomimes Lumineuses (1892), by Jules Chéret
Pantomimes Lumineuses (1892), by Jules Chéret
Golden Age of Posters:

Considered the “Golden Age of Posters,” the late 1800s to early 1900s witnessed the ascent of iconic poster artists like Jules Chéret and Alphonse Mucha. Their visually stunning and influential works defined this era.

Biscuits Lefèvre-Utile (1896)
Biscuits Lefèvre-Utile (1896) (Artist: Alphonse Maria Mucha, via Wikimedia)
World War I and II:

Posters played a pivotal role in both World Wars, serving propaganda purposes. Governments harnessed posters to encourage enlistment, boost morale, and communicate crucial messages to the public.

Uncle Sam poster used in World War I military recruiting near recruiting headquarters on E street in Washington on Dec. 8, 1961.
James Montgomery Flagg’s Uncle Sam poster used in World War I military recruiting on Dec. 8, 1961.
Mid-20th Century:

Post-World War II, the use of posters underwent further evolution. Movie posters emerged as a prominent form of promotional art, with iconic designers like Saul Bass gaining recognition for innovative film poster designs.

Saul Bass Movie Posters
Minimalist movie posters designed by Saul Bass
Counterculture Movement:

The 1960s witnessed posters becoming integral to the counterculture movement. Psychedelic posters promoting concerts and events showcased vibrant colors, intricate designs, and surreal imagery.

Martin Sharp, Exploding Hendrix, 1968
Martin Sharp, Exploding Hendrix, 1968
Digital Age:

With the advent of digital technology, traditional paper posters have been supplemented by digital versions. Online platforms and social media now play a crucial role in promotional campaigns, but physical posters still hold a special place in marketing and visual communication.

Throughout history, promotional posters have been a versatile and impactful medium for conveying messages, promoting events, and expressing artistic creativity. The evolution of printing techniques, design styles, and cultural influences has shaped the rich history of these visual communication tools.


Leverage this timeless medium for your brand with ScandMedia.

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