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Posters That Preach

A few posters from this sectionFreedom of speech is a right that most Americans consider fundamental. The enduring strength of this freedom in our society is demonstrated by tolerance for those images and ideas about which there is significant disagreement. Many of the issues that concern Americans most—such as how best to protect our country, to expand the mix of artists in museums, or to choose what movies to see—have appeared in posters. Such posters simultaneously address a specific audience and inform the majority.

Advocacy and social-issue posters tend to utilize images and expressions that are well known to, or produce an emotional response in, the targeted audience. Many American posters capitalize on a specific group's interests and perhaps even its sense of identity. Posters are a part of the democratic process, as they encourage us to form groups around issues, such as saving the planet or preserving the right to vote. Posters communicate, invite action, and build consensus.

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