first thoughts

Walking on the streets of New York City is always fascinating and at times overwhelming. With so much information that surrounds you, your eyes try to look for something visually compelling or at least relevant to you, but end up looking at something provocative or most colorful. Reasons for that are obvious: advertisers want to sell you a product or an idea, deliver a message or persuade you in something and use all the tools availbale. Contemporary advertising aims to persuade its audience and often uses analogous design elements to World War II propaganda posters to achieve that goal. The connection draws from understanding of design principles and communication theory and develops into a fascinating visual comparison. First of all, it’s important to develop strong historical knowledge of both propaganda and advertising field. With an access to any information on the Internet, our generation doesn’t understand how a person can only be exposed to certain messages. We believe that we and only we choose all the information we receive. We don’t realize that we live in the world that is filtered for us, and that advertising that we think we only glimpse impacts us more than the words our mothers say to us. They try to lead in some kind of direction and make us follow certain behaviors. Does it sound familiar? That’s probably because it is what’s commonly known as propaganda, “the tool” used for forming an opinion. And despite a common belief that only Stalin and Hitler used it to dictate societal agenda to their nations, it has played a significant role in many European cultures and the United States as well. Darlene C. Mahaney in her article on Propaganda Posters quotes Archibald MacLeish, Director of the Office of Facts and Figures during World War II: “The principal battleground of this war is not the South Pacific. It’s not the Middle East. It’s not England, nor Norway, nor the steppes of Russia. It is American opinion”. Spread of propaganda information become a huge industry(!) that attracted actors, artist, and others to help deliver a message faster and more impactful. Doesn’t that sound familiar?

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