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Fourth Annual American Democracy Project Poster Exhibition

By guest blogger Karrie Simpson Voth, Professor, Fort Hays State University

The poster, as a medium, has not only managed to sustain its existence, but has also continued to thrive as a significant art form as well as a powerful tool of communication. That fact is surprising given the fast-paced and ever-changing technological society in which we live. Not only is it the truest form of graphic communication, but the poster is also an effective tool of persuasion, a great force for change and a mighty political weapon, as we have seen in examples of war posters from as early as WWI. The design styles of the posters my students created were based upon historical design styles that I covered during class lectures, and the application of many of these styles were created in a time when graphic design was used to encourage people to vote, volunteer to support a cause, join the armed forces, or even protest or support war.

The goal of the joined efforts between my History of Graphic Design course and the FHSU chapter of the ADP is to reach out to the ever-growing segment of the FHSU student population in order to create awareness in civic engagement efforts, citizenship, and democracy through a poster exhibition. I created six goals for the students to be aware of while creating their posters.

  1. To explore the relationship between graphic design and its audience.
  2. To recognize and distinguish between stylistic periods of graphic design and study the social and economic impact of design activities during each period.
  3. Engage in class discussions of the topics of democracy, citizenship, and civic engagement in order to promote a better understanding of the stated topics and how each relates to graphic design.
  4. To promote political awareness through graphic design and realize the power a designer has to influence others in their design.
  5. To influence, persuade, make an impact, and/or change the way an individual and/or community thinks about civic engagement, citizenship, and democracy.
  6. Be an example to the youth of today by illustrating the importance of voting and of being proactive in the issues that concern our country and world. This year, seventy posters were on display in the Fort Hays State University Memorial Union. For one week, students, faculty, staff, and the Hays community were encouraged to vote for their top three favorite posters.

The posters the students created not only impacted those who viewed them, but they also impacted the students who designed them. During the research and design process, the students were greatly educated on the issues of democracy, civic engagement, citizenship, and other issues that plague our country and world, such as study of the Seven Revolutions. As a result, the students became actively engaged in conversations with one another about their own political views and involvement or lack thereof. It was an amazing process to witness and an experience from which the students and the FHSU community as a whole learned so much.

What we’re viewing: FHSU website with all contest submissions

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