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Activists know this: Posters are magnets for media coverage

09 Feb

Capturing a sound byte used to be a great way to thread a breaking story. News organisations such as NPR, or BBC for instance use the formula well. Some use it to balance a story, others, to tilt one in favor of a point of view it wishes to hold up.

Audio is also a great way to capture the ambiance of a particular environment. A machine grinding away on factory floor, a call to prayer from a far away minaret, children on a playground…

So why is it that the poster is suddenly making a comeback? It’s one dimensional, after all!

I think of it as a powerful tool not only because of what it says but how it is displayed. In other words, there is more contextual detail that surrounds a poster that adds to the story, even though it is a frozen moment. Two things come into play that make a poster powerful:

  • The image is at once analog (when printed) and digital (when photographed and preserved in a digital stream).
  • The message feeds a story because it tends to be connected to a human who holds it up, or a group of people in which it seems to be rooted

There is a third element – mystery. The unknown or un-clarified details take on greater significance, goading our curiosity, and our need to fill in the gaps of the larger story.

The protests in the past few weeks in Egypt  demonstrate this. From the simple pen sketches, to the large-font messages to the administration:

 

No face here, but the reference to another country adds a new dimension to political intrigue in the region.

Adding more context, a paper poster is just another element to counterpoint the heavy machinery around it!

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