• Coronavirus entertainment impacts

Artist finds inspiration in war propaganda for COVID-19 'Stay In' posters

"The View" co-host Meghan McCain is among those who have shared the artwork.

Sylvia Bueltel, like a lot of Americans, found herself out of work and glued to the news as the grim reality of the COVID-19 threat to America sank in earlier this spring.

"It was very difficult looking through all those articles and feeling super bombarded by it all," she said. "Seeing things on Instagram and Twitter and just being completely overwhelmed with all of this information."

The 22-year old artist, a recent graduate of Loyola University in Chicago, said that as she listened to the voices at the highest levels of government -- declaring war on the virus and beseeching all Americans to share in the efforts to flatten the curve -- she started looking for a way to put her artistic talents to good use.

"Something that I've always found interesting is propaganda posters," she said. "I researched a lot of the motifs that were used in war-time propaganda, and I found a lot of inspiration in that."

So she set up a makeshift studio in her basement and got to painting.

She first came upon a World War II-era poster warning of spies in our midst -- "Telling a friend may mean telling the enemy" -- and thought of how the virus was spreading in the community, often by people unaware they were contagious. Her four-panel pandemic poster cautions: "Seeing a friend may mean spreading COVID-19."

PHOTO: Sylvia Bueltel uses vintage American posters as inspiration for her coronavirus paintings she shares on Instagram.

MORE: Coronavirus erodes dreams of college for low-income students

After sharing a photo of that first poster on Instagram , the reactions told her she might be onto something.

"When it actually was doing really well, I was like, 'wow, that's kind of surprising and exciting that people are really interested in this artwork,'" she said.

Since beginning the project in late March, Bueltel has completed five posters in the series , each saturated with patriotic colors and evincing themes of sacrifice and duty -- with the "We Can Do It" ethos of "Rosie the Riveter" and "Uncle Sam."

The fourth painting is a pandemic-themed update to the most ubiquitous war-time propaganda poster in American history: James Montgomery Flagg's iconic "I Want You" World War I recruitment poster. The Uncle Sam in her poster is decidedly gentler and more encouraging than the stern, finger-pointing version of 1917.

PHOTO: Sylvia Bueltel uses vintage American posters as inspiration for her coronavirus paintings she shares on Instagram.

"He's actually giving a thumbs-up and underneath him are nine essential workers," Bueltel says. And the message is, "if you quarantine, you can help those people who don't have the option to quarantine, like doctors and nurses, and grocery store clerks."

MORE: Officials in Detroit suburb rebuke city commissioner who attended stay-at-home protest

Bueltel says she never really expected much notice of her work, but after a relative posted a few pictures on Twitter, a buzz began to build and people started inquiring about where they could buy her art. And with some help from her father in Minnesota, she's now managed to set up a remote operation to produce and ship the posters.

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Bueltel's series got an even bigger boost on social media last month, after co-host of "The View," Meghan McCain -- the daughter of the late Senator John McCain -- shared one of the paintings on Instagram to her 396,000 followers, adding the hashtag #stayhealthy.

"It's really meaningful to see that people still do find a lot of comfort in art," Bueltel said, "especially in difficult times like these."

One of the most popular posters in the series, Bueltel said, is one which depicts a female doctor and asks people to stay inside to "Help Those on the Frontlines." Bueltel says her inspiration for this piece was not war propaganda, but superheroes -- in this case, the doctors in the front-line battle against the virus.

PHOTO: Sylvia Bueltel uses vintage American posters as inspiration for her coronavirus paintings she shares on Instagram.

"I wanted it to be a female doctor," she said. "A lot of the images that you see of Superman, he's looking to his left. It represents the doctor looking towards the future. And it's inspiring and motivating and unifying."

MORE: Coronavirus pandemic brings staggering losses to colleges and universities

Even now, as the country begins cautiously opening up, Bueltel hopes the messages in her art carry on -- and that people will carefully strike a balance between the drastic economic pressures and the ongoing risks of the pandemic.

"I understand that people are restless, and that it is really difficult to have everything closed and see the economy struggle. I totally get it," she said. "But other people's lives are on the line. And it is something that's really important to me that people take it seriously."

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Now and Then: American Propaganda and Protest Posters

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As a history nerd, I simply cannot resist going down the rabbit hole of the history behind great design. I found myself studying advertising design in HOW U’s online course , which discusses the history of advertising during the World War I era—which in turn piqued my interest. I decided to dig further into this era of advertising. One thing struck me during my research: Propaganda ads and protest art from a hundred years ago portray the same themes that we still see in today’s political climate.

In this week’s Print design education post, I will take a look at some world war one advertisements, particularly those themed on similar issues that we face today. What can we learn from the past advertisements and the public’s rallying cries from a century ago? That is a question I will leave you to answer. For now, let’s look at the graphic design of that era dealing with these issues.

For modern time posters, I grabbed protest poster designs from this article by Ellen Shapiro. I located vintage propaganda art and ads, and a few protest signs, from the Library of Congress website to create a contrast and compare of now and then. While these posters do not fully reflectthe sentiments of the times, they do provide glimpses into our American ancestors and their values. While common themes exist between then and now, the messages and tones contrast significantly. Let’s see how things have changed in the past century.

Below, we examine the artwork from 100 years ago and compare it to current designs based on the following issues: Nationalism, Immigration, Liberty and Justice, Humanitarian Fundraising, Jobs & the Economy, Women’s Advertising & Rights, and Health Insurance. Please feel free to share your thoughts and/or research in the comment section below.

A Century Later: American Propaganda Art and Posters


propaganda posters now

Title: Forward America! / Carroll Kelly 1917 ; Wright Henry Worth Inc. Creator(s): Kelly, Carroll, artist Date Created/Published: 1917. Medium: 1 print (poster) : lithograph, color ; 57 x 39 cm. Summary: Poster showing a figure of Columbia, brandishing an American flag and a shield, riding an eagle as she leads a large squadron of airplanes.

Title: Wake up America Day – April 19, 1917 / James Montgomery Flagg. Creator(s): Flagg, James Montgomery, 1877-1960, artist Date Created/Published: 1917. Medium: 1 print (poster) : lithograph, color ; 101 x 67.7 cm. Summary: Poster showing a woman, possibly Jean Earl Moehle (Möhle), dressed as Paul Revere carrying lantern and American flag. Moehle reenacted Paul Revere’s ride for the Wake Up America Patriot’s Day celebration in New York City. (Source: Flickr Commons project, 2015 and The New York Times, April 19, 1917)


propaganda posters now

Title: Remember your first thrill of American liberty Your duty – Buy United States government bonds–2nd Liberty Loan of 1917 / / Sackett & Wilhelms Corp. N.Y. Creator(s): United States. Department of the Treasury, funder/sponsor Date Created/Published: 1917.

Liberty & Justice:

propaganda posters now

Title: Liberty, freed, humanity’s need! / Alex. O. Levy. Creator(s): Levy, Alexander Oscar, 1881-1934, artist Date Created/Published: 1918. Medium: 1 print (poster) : lithograph, color. Summary: Allegory showing the figure of Liberty, arms outspread with broken chains hanging from her wrists, gathering children to her sides.

Title: That liberty shall not perish from the earth – Buy liberty bonds Fourth Liberty Loan / / Ioseph Pennell del. ; Heywood Strasser & Voigt Litho. Co. N.Y., imp. Creator(s): Pennell, Joseph, 1857-1926, artist Date Created/Published: [1918] Medium: 1 print (poster) : lithograph, color ; 104.2 x 71.6 cm. Summary: Poster showing the Statue of Liberty in ruins, and the New York skyline in flames.

propaganda posters now

Women Advertising & Rights:

propaganda posters now

View more protest signs from the Women’s March here .

propaganda posters now

TRUMP INTERNATIONAL HOTEL – COLUMBUS CIRCLE, NEW YORK, NY, UNITED STATES – 2017/01/15: Hundreds of activists and allies from the newly-formed anti-Trump group Rise & Resist staged a peaceful protest at Trump International Hotel and Tower in New York City, to fight against the radical changes to the American healthcare system proposed by the Trump Administration and Republicans. (Photo by Erik McGregor/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Title: Hold on to Uncle Sam’s insurance, the strongest, safest and cheapest insurance in the world – Keep it up after you are back in civil life / James Montgomery Flagg ; Forbes Boston. Creator(s): Flagg, James Montgomery, 1877-1960, artist Date Created/Published: 1918.

CPAC attending helps herself to a free “Repeal ObamaCare” at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center at National Harbor MD on March 14, 2013. (Photo by Jeff Malet) (Newscom TagID: jmpphotos015623.jpg) [Photo via Newscom]

Learn more about advertising design in this online design course, Principles of Advertising Design.

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clock This article was published more than  4 years ago

Why propaganda is more dangerous in the digital age

The techniques are the same, but now anyone can go viral..

propaganda posters now

On July 6, 1916, a poster depicting Uncle Sam beckoning viewers to enlist in the U.S. Army appeared in an issue of Leslie’s Weekly, a popular U.S. magazine. The poster’s creator, James Montgomery Flagg, had no idea just how popular his creation would become. Working without a model or concept in a narrow window of time before publication, Flagg scrambled to embody the urgency of American participation in the Great War.

Despite the rush, Flagg created a masterpiece. It would go on to be reprinted more than 4 million times by 1918 and become a permanent part of American culture. Even though propaganda posters have been phased out in favor of more modern, effective means of communication, the same psychological techniques of manipulation that made Flagg’s masterpiece so effective continue to pervade our society.

Today, propaganda posters have been replaced by digital visuals, such as the meme, that are easily produced, mass-disseminated and politically pointed, with the potential to do even greater damage to American politics and society than propaganda posters did a century ago.

Partially because of the popularity of Flagg’s Uncle Sam rendering, posters quickly became a wildly popular medium for disseminating information. They were relatively cheap to produce and could be plastered just about everywhere, from post offices to schools to sides of buildings. The government used emotional imagery to draw thousands of volunteers to the armed services and create broad support for the war effort at home. Officials zeroed in on increasing morale, encouraging conservation, reducing errors at work, promoting workplace safety and urging viewers to buy U.S. bonds to help fund the war.

Flagg, a veteran artist and contributor to publications such as Life magazine, ended up creating almost 50 designs on behalf of the Committee on Public Information, the U.S. propaganda and intelligence arm, by the end of World War I.

Flagg’s most iconic poster depicted the figure of a gallantly dressed Uncle Sam with the prominent text, “I Want You for the U.S. Army.” Flagg found inspiration in Alfred Leete’s image of Lord Kitchener urging Brits to join the war cause. In an effort to save money by not hiring a model, Flagg used his own face (adding a goatee) to create Uncle Sam, a move later lauded by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. While Uncle Sam dated to the War of 1812, Flagg brought it to life, giving the character an air of purpose that has itself become iconic.

The poster, officially adopted by the Army in 1917, became an effective recruitment tool to swell the ranks of the military. It was such a resounding success that it would be reprinted during World War II and pops up again and again in popular culture today.

These results explain why the propaganda poster became so popular with government officials: It was immensely effective. So effective, in fact, that coinciding with the publication of the original Kitchener recruitment poster in September 1914, the British army saw the highest number of volunteers enlist for the entire duration of the war. In the United States, striking visuals and simple slogans drove home patriotic ideals and nostalgic themes that stuck with people.

Many posters sought to tug at Americans’ heartstrings with depictions of soldiers and their families, while others appealed to the population’s sense of outrage by reminding viewers of the brutality of the enemy. Some even aimed to generate a sense of guilt. In one World War I poster, a man is playing with his children as they ask him, “Daddy, what did YOU do during the Great War?”

This messages reflected one element of why wartime posters were so effective: In the words of William Bird and Harry Rubenstein, propaganda posters were an “agent for making the war aims the personal mission of every citizen.” The posters also capitalized on the ability of psychological messages inherent in visual art to alter the subconscious. Edward Bernays, called the “father of public relations,” named his 1928 book “Propaganda,” arguing that “engineering consent” through such means was vital for the survival of democracy. The truth is, modern advertising owes much of its existence to visual propaganda methods.

Posters remained a popular form of government communication in the interwar years. For instance, public wellness programs used posters to encourage exercise and conservation and promote national parks.

The popularity and effectiveness of Flagg’s creation led the U.S. military to bring back the poster format during World War II, when some 200,000 designs were used. These posters featured such iconic characters as Rosie the Riveter saying “We Can Do It,” as well as others calling citizens to arms, reminding people about conservation and recycling and fomenting political and societal unity.

There was an occasional dark side to these posters as well: Many expressed racist, xenophobic and bigoted messages in an effort to demonize the enemy. While this was more common in countries such as Nazi Germany, where Hitler’s brutal regime used propaganda to demonize the Jewish population, American posters were not above stereotypes and bigoted messages, sometimes depicting foes as barbarian brutes with racist depictions of their leaders.

Today, the poster has largely been relegated to college dorm rooms and movie theaters. But many of the principles that were at play in propaganda posters during World Wars I and II have evolved as methods of manipulation. The digital age has ushered in a new form of artistic expression: the meme.

While memes originally had a comedic purpose, they invaded the political realm in a far more sinister manner during the 2016 presidential campaign. Like the propaganda posters from the world wars, politically pointed memes employed a striking visual coupled with effective communication intended to alter the mind frame or subconscious of a viewer. In many cases, they also aimed to dehumanize the opposition and to personalize the political cause in question.

The alt-right in particular weaponized the meme format to spread disinformation through social media. Members of the alt-right turned characters such as Pepe the Frog into symbols for their virulently racist movement, building awareness of and even support for their cause. The meme propaganda came from foreign sources, too, as reports of Russian bots spreading disunity surfaced.

Most worryingly, the new political art format has far greater viral potential than the posters of yesteryear. Instead of just government-commissioned posters, any figure, domestic or international, with a political agenda can reach a mass audience with weaponized symbols, images and digital art to advance a political cause.

Ultimately, propaganda posters can teach us a great deal about the psychological effects of politically pointed art. While memes may seem like the silly clutter of Internet culture, studies of advertising and the way we consume information have shown that such images can alter our subconscious , often in ways we do not understand. Or as one Garfield meme put it, “You are not immune to propaganda.” And the longevity of propaganda is readily apparent — Flagg’s own creation of Uncle Sam pointing a finger at us has long outlasted its original intent. In many ways, it has become a staple of Americana.

The danger with memes is that the visuals are no longer centrally orchestrated pieces, designed to advance the public good. They spread in real time, seemingly from the depths of the Internet, and virtually anybody can achieve virality through the power of mass replication. Discerning facts from fiction has become the real challenge with this latest incarnation of visual propaganda. Time will tell if memes will become a permanent part of our political history, but for now, we are still experiencing their unpredictable effects.

A group of angry people rallying in front of the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.

We are all propagandists now

propaganda posters now

Professor of Communication, Texas A&M University

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Jennifer Mercieca does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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The U.S. is in an information war with itself. The public sphere, where Americans discuss public issues, is broken . There’s little discussion – and lots of fighting.

One reason why: Persuasion is difficult, slow and time-consuming – it doesn’t make good television or social media content – and so there aren’t a lot of good examples of it in our public discourse.

What’s worse, a new form of propaganda has emerged – and it’s enlisted us all as propagandists.

Persuasion versus propaganda

I teach classes on political communication and propaganda in America. Here’s the difference between the two:

Political communication is persuasion used in politics. It helps to facilitate the democratic process.

Propaganda is communication as force; it’s designed for warfare. Propaganda is anti-democratic because it influences while using strategies like fear appeals, disinformation, conspiracy theory and more.

Since there are few examples of persuasion in our public sphere these days, it is difficult to know the difference between persuasion and propaganda. That’s worrisome because politics is not war, so political communication isn’t – and shouldn’t be – the same as propaganda.

The manufacture of consent

Mass propaganda techniques emerged with mass communication technologies like posters , pictures and movies during the first World War.

That old propaganda model was designed by political elites to “ manufacture consent ” at home so that citizens would support the war, and to demoralize the enemy abroad.

According to linguist and social critic Noam Chomsky , the manufacture of consent was believed by elites to be necessary because they thought “the mass of the public are just too stupid to be able to understand things…We have to tame the bewildered herd, not allow the bewildered herd to rage and trample and destroy things.”

During World War I, George Creel’s Committee on Public Information , a federal agency, oversaw the production of pro-war films like the 1918 silent film “ America’s Answer .” When Americans went to see the film in theaters, they would often encounter a speech from one of the “ Four Minute Men ” – the local citizens whom Creel enlisted to give patriotic speeches during the four minutes it took to change the movie reels.

propaganda posters now

After World War I, according to Herman and Chomsky , all sorts of elites turned to propaganda to “tame the bewildered herd.” The old propaganda was good at taming citizens. But there was a nasty side effect that played out over almost a century of its use: disengagement. Political communication scholars in the 1990s and early 2000s worried about what they saw as the crisis in democracy, which was civic disengagement characterized by low voter turnout, low political party affiliation and rising distrust, cynicism and disinterest in politics.

The manufacture of dissent

The elite-controlled old vertical propaganda model couldn’t withstand the changes in communication brought on by the new participatory media – first talk radio, then cable, email, blogs, chats, texts, video and social media.

According to recent Pew research, 93% of Americans are connected to the internet and 82% of Americans are connected to social media . We now all have direct access to communicate in the public sphere – and, if we choose, to create, circulate and amplify propaganda.

A lot of people use their social media connections and platforms to knowingly and unknowingly spread misinformation, disinformation, conspiracy and partisan talking points – all forms of propaganda. We’re all propagandists now.

Rather than the elite manufacturing consent, a new propaganda model has emerged in the 21st century: what I call the “manufacture of dissent.”

New crisis in democracy

The “manufacture of dissent” model takes advantage of our individual abilities to produce, circulate and amplify propaganda. It sets us in motion to, in Chomsky’s words, “rage and trample and destroy things.”

The new propaganda can emerge from anyone, anywhere – and it is designed to create chaos so no one knows whom to trust or what is true.

Now we have a new crisis in democracy.

Citizens are called upon and trained by political parties, media, advocacy organizations, platforms, corporations – and more – to become propagandists, even without realizing it. Though both sides of the political spectrum can and have used the new propaganda, it has been embraced more on the right, largely to counter the old manufacture of consent model embraced by the mainstream.

For example, the slogan topping daily emails sent by ConservativeHQ , a longstanding and influential conservative news blog, says, “The home for grassroots conservatives leading the battle to educate and mobilize family, friends, neighbors, and others to defeat the anti-God, anti-America, Marxist New Democrats.”

From this perspective, politics is a “battle,” it’s warfare and ConservativeHQ’s readers can fight by educating and mobilizing – by spreading ConservativeHQ’s propaganda.

Likewise, the conspiracy website InfoWars tells its audience “there’s a war on for your mind.”

Social media platforms train users to communicate as propagandists: Recent research shows that platform users learn to express polarizing emotions like outrage through “social learning.” Social media users are taught through app feedback – positive reinforcement through notifications – and peer-learning – what they see others do – to post outrage even if they don’t feel outraged and they don’t want to spread outrage.

The more outrage we see, the more outrage we post.

A screenshot of ConservativeHQ's home page, where they describe themselves as '...leading the battle to educate and mobilize family, friends, neighbors, and others to defeat the anti-God, anti-America, Marxist New Democrats'

Dissent and distrust

Today’s new model of propaganda has dangerous consequences.

The Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection was a direct result of the manufacture of dissent. Right-wing politicians, citizens and media used disinformation, misinformation, conspiracy, fear appeals and outrage circulated via the old and new propaganda to cast doubt on the nation’s electoral process.

President Trump primed his followers to believe that the election would be “ rigged ,” which led people to look for and circulate so-called “evidence ” of fraud.

Courts and election officials certified the integrity of the election . Conspiracists saw that as further evidence of the “plot” and supported Trump’s Big Lie that the election had been stolen.

Trump’s supporters amplified the conspiracy via posts on social media, videos, text messages, emails and secret groups – spreading doubt about the election to their friends, neighbors and audiences.

When Trump told people to march on the Capitol to defend their freedom, they did.

Politics is war

But the Big Lie that led to the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection was merely part of an even bigger lie.

Since the 1990s and the emergence of the manufacture of dissent, right-wing propaganda’s major premise has been that “politics is war and the enemy cheats.” Every news story from that perspective is an elaboration on that theme, including those about the 2020 election.

When politics is seen as war and the enemy can’t be trusted, then every election is seen as dire and the electoral process that denies your side victory is seen as unfair. According to a recent Monmouth University poll , 30% of Americans still believe Trump’s Big Lie.

The legitimacy of the American political system requires the actual consent of the governed, and its vitality and health requires we allow actual dissent. But our broken public sphere has neither.

Both come from persuasion, not propaganda.

This isn’t about nostalgia for traditional propaganda. Both the old propaganda and the new propaganda are anti-democratic. The old propaganda manufactured Americans’ consent, using communication as force to keep people disengaged and compliant.

The new propaganda manufactures dissent. It uses communication as force to keep people engaged and outraged – and it sets us in motion to trample and destroy things.

[ The Conversation’s most important politics headlines, in our Politics Weekly newsletter . ]

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These World War II Propaganda Posters Rallied the Home Front

By: Madison Horne

Updated: August 10, 2023 | Original: October 12, 2018

Rosie the RIveter

When Britain and France went to war with Germany in 1939, Americans were divided over whether to join the war effort. It wouldn't be until the surprise attacks on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 that the United States would be thrust into  World War II . Once U.S. troops were sent to the front lines, hundreds of artists were put to work to create posters that would rally support on the home front .

Citizens were invited to purchase war bonds and take on factory jobs to support production needs for the military. As men were sent to battlefields, women were asked to branch out and take on jobs as riveters, welders and electricians.

To preserve resources for the war effort, posters championed carpooling to save on gas, warned against wasting food and urged people to collect scrap metal to recycle into military materials. In the spring of 1942, rationing programs were implemented that set limits on everyday purchases.

While many posters touted positive patriotic messages, some tapped fear to rally support for the Allied side and caution against leaking information to spies. "Loose lips sink ships" became a famous saying. Meanwhile, graphic images depicted a blood-thirsty Adolph Hitler and racist imagery of Japanese people with sinister, exaggerated features.

Today, the posters a offer a glimpse into the nation's climate during World War II and how propaganda was used to link the home front to the front lines.

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An artist reimagines World War I posters as a modern-day call for Americans to wear face masks

  • The filmmaker and writer Clara Aranovich altered American propaganda posters from World War I to include calls for people to wear face masks.
  • Her idea came after the number of US coronavirus deaths surpassed that of Americans who died in service during World War I.
  • She added images of face coverings and tweaked the posters' messaging to show mask-wearing as a meaningful sacrifice to help limit the coronavirus' spread.
  • Aranovich spoke with Insider about the story behind her modernized war-effort posters that had been shared widely on Instagram.
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories .

A series of retro illustrations offer a modern take on American propaganda posters from World War I — showing what the images might have looked like if they were made to promote mask-wearing to try to contain the novel coronavirus.

Clara Aranovich, a writer and filmmaker who has also worked as a period researcher for the TV series "Mad Men," is the brains behind the re-created posters, which have been shared thousands of times on Instagram since early July.

Aranovich told Insider her artwork was meant to inspire a sense of camaraderie in the same way many people united to support America's efforts in World War I, which included actions like rationing supplies to partaking in "meatless" and "wheatless" days .

Aranovich's idea for the art came in June, when the US reached a harrowing statistic. The number of Americans who had died from causes linked to the coronavirus surpassed the number of Americans who were killed in World War I .

According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs , 116,516 Americans died in World War I, with 53,402 deaths occurring in battle and 63,114 fatalities occurring in other forms of service. At the time of writing, there were 142,350 COVID-19-related deaths in the US , according to Johns Hopkins University's coronavirus tracker.

The posters Aranovich modified were originally distributed around 1917 and 1918, when the US became involved in World War I. She modernized them by overlaying face masks and editing the text to include calls for people to wear face coverings in public.

"I wanted to point to the repetition of history," Aranovich said. "I was inspired to contrast the pandemic with other major events that have united our country."

When America became involved in World War I in 1917, propaganda posters encouraged people to grow their own produce by planting "victory gardens" so more food could be exported to soldiers and allies overseas. Propaganda messages from the era also encouraged Americans to use less gasoline and ration food in support of the war effort.

Aranovich said she hoped her modernized posters could help give historical context to mask-wearing — which has become a hotly debated topic in the US , despite guidance from the World Health Organization , the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , and other health experts.

"I imagine that giving up bread or gasoline for days at a time was a big sacrifice for many people, but for many people, it was also a no-brainer because they knew it would support the war effort," Aranovich said. "I wanted to inspire that same way of thinking and sense of altruism, even if just one person can see the minor inconveniences of wearing a face mask as a sacrifice for the greater good."

Aranovich's work can be found on Instagram .

  • People in Wales are creating witty travel posters encouraging visitors to stay away
  • A photographer finds the descendants of famous historical figures to create incredible side-by-side pictures
  • Meet the artists behind the powerful Black Lives Matter artwork being shared across social media
  • These surprisingly relevant vintage ads show how officials tried to convince people to wear masks after many refused during the 1918 flu pandemic

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Watch: Can the novel coronavirus be stopped?

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Pro-China influence campaign pushed talking points across more than 50 websites

Performers gather around a Communist Party flag during a gala show ahead of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing on  June 28, 2021.

Facebook said Tuesday it has identified a sprawling online propaganda effort: a pro-China campaign that had a presence on more than 50 websites.

The campaign “appears to be the largest known cross-platform covert influence operation in the world,” Meta said in a report . The researchers said the broadly coordinated postings of pro-China images, videos, comments and audio files were part of a yearslong operation that researchers had previously dubbed “Spamouflage.”

The findings underscore the potential for internet propaganda campaigns to attempt to exploit internet platforms to influence the U.S. election in 2024. Since 2016, Russia , Iran and to a lesser extent China have all launched covert online efforts to influence U.S. voters.

Despite its scope, the campaign received little engagement and rarely gained much traction beyond its initial posts. Online propaganda campaigns have struggled to replicate the success of early influence efforts, such as Russia’s efforts to sow discord ahead of the 2016 election.

The content mostly consisted of positive commentary about China, defense of its policies, and criticism of the U.S. and other Western countries, the report said.

Meta said it took down 7,704 Facebook accounts and 954 pages linked to the campaign, though much of the content on other websites is still accessible.

In a call Monday previewing the report, Ben Nimmo, Facebook’s global threat intelligence lead, said those posting the material appeared to be more intent on filling quotas than deeply convincing users to China’s views.

“We saw hundreds of accounts on dozens of platforms, making what were likely meant to be personal comments, but it was the same comment from many different accounts day after day, as if they were copy-pasting from a list or a spreadsheet,” Nimmo said. “Some of them even put numbers in front of these apparently personal comments, as if they’ve copied them from a numbered list and forgotten to proofread them before they posted.”

A spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., didn’t immediately respond to an email requesting comment.

Despite the campaign’s apparent ineffectiveness, it’s notable for the sheer number of websites on which its operators tried to share the material. It includes TikTok, the video-sharing site Vimeo, LiveJournal, Reddit, Medium, Tumblr and the audio platform SoundCloud.

A Reddit spokesperson said in an email that the company “regularly” bans accounts tied to Spamouflage.

TikTok, Vimeo, Medium, Tumblr and SoundCloud didn’t immediately respond to an email requesting comment. LiveJournal could not be reached for comment.

The material was often remarkably unconvincing, Nimmo said.

“There was one case where the operation replied to a question on Quora, which was about losing belly fat in English, with a post in Chinese about why Taiwan should surrender. So it doesn’t look like this has been a high-precision effort, or heavily focused on actually attracting a real audience,” he said.

Quora didn’t respond to an email requesting comment.

Kevin Collier is a reporter covering cybersecurity, privacy and technology policy for NBC News.

What to Know About the Ukraine-War Propaganda Movie in Russian Theaters

The release of “The Witness” comes after Russian authorities announced a plan to boost production of movies glorifying Moscow’s actions in Ukraine and is part of a growing number of propaganda films. (Alexander Zemlianichenko—AP)

The alternative — Hollywood blockbusters — was always much more successful, no matter how hard the Kremlin tried to fuel anti-Western sentiment. So much so that at some point Russia’s authorities started postponing releases of Hollywood hits that coincided with domestic movies they wanted to succeed.

Still, “any Spider-Man movie, any Marvel movie, any `Star Wars', any American film earned a fortune in Russia,” said Ivan Philippov, creative executive at AR Content, production company of renowned film producer Alexander Rodnyansky.

The number of propaganda films is expected to grow

Overall, the Russian industry over the years expressed little interest in making propaganda films about Moscow’s conflict in Ukraine. Philippov notes that of hundreds of movies released in Russia every year, only about a dozen since 2014 have been dedicated to this topic.

He expects this number to grow and points to two in the works in addition to “The Witness.” One, “The Militiaman,” follows a Moscow artist who decides to join the Kremlin-backed separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine, abandoning his bohemian life in the Russian capital.

Another, “Mission ‘Ganges’,” is about Russian troops trying to save a group of Indian students trapped in a Ukrainian city as Moscow’s “special military operation” unfolds. The city, the storyline says, is held by “Ukrainian nationalists,” who “wreak havoc” and are trying to “hunt down” the students.

Read More: Inside Zelensky's Plan to Beat Putin's Propaganda in Russian-Occupied Ukraine

After major Hollywood studios halted their business in Russia last year, there are no Marvel movies to compete with these, though some movies still trickle through in the form of pirated copies and there are still certain European and lower-profile American movies available.

But other Russian films out there are proving popular among moviegoers seeking positive emotions. “Cheburashka,” a fairy tale featuring the iconic Soviet cartoon character that was released during the New Year holidays this year, was a smashing success. It earned nearly 7 billion rubles ($74 million) against the 850 million (roughly $9 million) spent making it.

Philippov says no one in the industry could even imagine such earnings. But filmmakers are following suit, remaking Soviet classics and turning to fairy tales. “The industry drew one conclusion: Russians very much want to distract themselves from what constitutes their daily routine," Philippov says. "They very much don’t want to watch (films) about the war.”

As if to echo that sentiment, “The Witness” premiered in Russia without much fanfare and few mentions even in state media. At a movie theater in Moscow on a rainy Sunday afternoon last week, almost a dozen movie-goers said they came to see films other than “The Witness,” though several said they planned on watching it at some point. By the time the showing began, there were only about 20 people in an auditorium large enough for 180.

During its first weekend, it had earned just over 6.7 million rubles — or about $70,000.

That's not entirely surprising, if you ask Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a history professor at New York University who studies authoritarianism and propaganda.

“When an authoritarian is in a defensive position and is waging a war and it’s not going well,” she says, the films made for indoctrination purposes are “not often very good."

—Associated Press film writer Jake Coyle contributed from New York.

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25 Most Powerful Propaganda Posters That Made All The Difference

Photo of Ivana Belegisanin

These propaganda were an influential attitude change initiative. They were powerful reminders of reality and our responsibility towards society. From war to welfare to social issues and plain sanity…these posters made all the difference.

1. “Daddy, what did you do in the Great War?”, (1915).

propaganda posters now

In 1915 British illustrator Savile Lumley designed this famous guilt – inducing poster. Paul Gunn later explained the background to the poster: “One night my father came home very worried about the war situation and discussed with my mother whether he should volunteer. He happened to come in to where I was asleep and quite casually said to my mother, If I don’t join the forces whatever will I say to Paul if he turns round to me and says, What did you do in the Great War, Daddy? He suddenly turned round to my mother and said that would make a marvellous slogan for a recruiting poster. He shot off to see one of his pet artists, Savile Lumley, had a sketch drawn straight away, based on the theme projected about five years hence, although by the time it had taken shape the questioner had become one of my sisters.” This poster was produced before conscription was introduced in 1916 and aimed to encourage men to join the armed forces through emotional blackmail. Depending on your opinion of the “great war” itself, this could also be viewed as a positive use of the powers of propaganda.

2. “Barbarism vs. Civilization”, (1900).

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This poster depicts of the The Boxer Rebellion or  Boxer Uprising which was a violent anti-foreign and anti-Christian movement which took place in China towards the end of the Qing dynasty between 1898 and 1900. It was initiated by the Militia United in Righteousness (Yihetuan), known in English as the “Boxers”, and was motivated by proto-nationalist sentiments and opposition to foreign imperialism and Christianity. The Great Powers intervened and defeated Chinese forces.

3. Anti – Smoking Propaganda.

propaganda posters now

A very simple, yet powerful anti-smoking poster. Sometimes dubbed as one of the most clever anti-smoking advertisement ever.

4. “You Can Be Someone’s Superhero!”, Hellenic Association Of Blood Donors, (2013).

propaganda posters now

A very creative and appealing ad to attract blood donors towards needs for donation. Advertising Agency: Spot JWT, Athens, Greece Creative Director / Illustrator: Alexandros Tsoutis Art Director: Alexis Alifragkis Copywriter: Anastasios Lessis Published: January 2013

5. “I Want You”, (1917).

propaganda posters now

Originally published as the cover for the July 6, 1916, issue of Leslie’s Weekly with the title “What Are You Doing for Preparedness?” this portrait of “Uncle Sam” went on to become–according to its creator, James Montgomery Flagg–”the most famous poster in the world.” Over four million copies were printed between 1917 and 1918, as the United States entered World War I and began sending troops and material into war zones.

6. Fate of Ukraine, (2014).

propaganda posters now

The unfair colonization of Ukraine by the Russian troops and the decision of Crimea being shifted under Russian control describes the fate of Ukraine and how it has just become a hanging nation in between Asia and Europe. This propaganda poster truly depicts of the Ukrainian pain and violence that has been going on a while now.

7. “Help Keep Your School All American”, (1940s – 50s).

propaganda posters now

This anti- racism, superhero oriented poster came around in a children’s comic series and proved to be very powerful in conveying its true social message. With racism being at its peak in America that time, there was a dire need of an attitude change and this poster was a great example of a powerful initiative by making it “Un-American” to be racist.

8. “We Can Do It”, (1942).

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We Can Do It! is a WW II era American wartime propoganda poster produced by J. Howard Miller in 1943 for Westinghouse Electric as a tool to boost worker morale. Surprisingly, the poster did not enjoy wide popularity during World War II. It was rediscovered in the early 1980s and widely reproduced in many forms, often called “We Can Do It!” but also mistakenly called “Rosie the Riveter” after the iconic figure of a strong female war production worker. The “We Can Do It!” image was used to promote feminism and other political issues beginning in the 1980?s. After its rediscovery, people often assumed that the image was always meant to be a call to inspire women workers to join the war effort. However, during the war the image was strictly internal to Westinghouse, displayed only during February 1943, and was not for recruitment but to inspire already-hired women to work harder.

9. “Thief!”, (1920s-30s).

propaganda posters now

“The worst thief is he who steals the playtime of children” A very very powerful propaganda poster against then prevalent child labor. More and more children were forced to work in factories that were equipped with heavy, dangerous machinery and they were forced to work for hours at a stretch, thus stealing away their innocence and anytime they had for playing and other wonderful stuff that children do.

10. “Sex is No Accident”, MTV.

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An initiative from MTV to encourage the use of condoms for safe sex through these strips were a smart propaganda. With increase in the number of teen pregnancies in America, it has become evident to bring about awareness regarding protection measures during sex and the hazards of avoiding them. Another important factor was the spread of AIDS and other STD’s through unprotected sex which has infact become a widespread concern worldwide. This ad takes a strong attitude makeover initiative to encourage the use of condoms and prevent any sexually transmitted diseases and their after effects on population.

11. Che Guevara, (1968).

propaganda posters now

Jim Fitzpatrick was a well-known Irish Celtic artist of his time, but he is probably best known for his iconic 1968 Che Guevara poster. It is said that Fitzpatrick took the death of the revolutionary personally. He had once met Guevara when the revolutionary flew into Ireland in 1963 and checked into the Marine Hotel pub in Kilkee. Fitzpatrick was only a teenager at the time and had been working there over the summer.                                                                                                                            The poster became globally famous during the anti-Vietnam war protests and is now the symbol of F.A.R.C. in Columbia, a Marxist-Leninist revolutionary guerrilla organization, which is involved in the ongoing Colombian armed conflict. Zapatista Army of National Liberation (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, EZLN), a revolutionary group based in Chiapas, the southernmost state of Mexico, uses this symbol as well. The image was also used during the violent Paris student riots in 1968. Across the rest of the West, the Marxist Che Guevara image is overused by any kid suffering from teenage angst.

12. “The Guarantee of German Military Strength”, (1932).

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In Germany in the 1930s, propaganda was in full swing and being used by Hitler’s advisers to call the German people to arms and spread lies about the Jews. One of the most famous artists behind Nazi propaganda was Hans Schweitzer, known as “Mjolnir.” This poster by Hans Schweitzer shows the typical pro-Nazi theme of the German army’s strength, depicting an S.A. man standing next to a solider. The text reads, “The guarantee of German military strength!”

13. Ning Hao: China, (1954).

propaganda posters now

Seemingly along the lines of Rosie the Riveter, this Ning Hao piece reflects women being asked to work in the factories alongside men, partially to support their emancipation, but mostly to increase the labor force in China.

14. “Workers of The World Unite!”, (1920?).

propaganda posters now

Dimitri Moor (or Dmitry Stakhievich Orlov) changed the face of graphic design in Soviet Russia back in 1918. His work dominated both the Bolshevik Era (1917–1921) and the New Economic Policy (1921–1927). The main theme of Moor’s work is the stark contrast between the oppressive evil and the heroic allies. A lot of pressure was put on Russian workers to rise up against imperialism.

15. Pyramid of Capitalist System, (1911).

propaganda posters now

The Pyramid of Capitalist System is a common name of a 1911 American cartoon caricature critical of capitalism. The graphic focus is on social stratification by social class and economic inequality. The picture shows a literal “social pyramid” or hierarchy, with the wealthy few on the top, and the impoverished masses at the bottom. Crowned with a money bag representing capitalism, the top layer, “we rule you”, is occupied by the royalty and state leaders. Underneath them are the clergy (“we fool you”), followed by the military (“we shoot you”), and the bourgeoisie (“we eat for you”). The bottom of the pyramid is held by the workers (“we work for all… we feed all”). The basic message of the image is the critique of the capitalist system, with its hierarchy of power and wealth. It also illustrates that the working class is supporting all others, and if it would withdraw their support from the system it could, literally, topple the existing social order. This type of criticism of capitalism is attributed to the French socialist Louis Blanc. The work has been described as “famous”, “well-known and widely reproduced”.

16. “Open Trap, Make Happy Jap”, (1940?).

propaganda posters now

Reflecting the ugly racism of the times, many US produced propaganda posters from World War II would typecast the Japanese as goofy and cartoonish stereotypes. Buck teeth, big ears and an exaggeration on the eyes were recurring features. This incredibly racist image reflects our powerful need to dehumanize the enemy before we slaughter them, making the carnage not seem so evil.

17. Xu Ling: China, (1950).

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Details about Chinese artists are hard to come by, but we can focus on what they intended to convey with their artwork. This piece is a caricature of the American commander in Korea at that time, General Douglas MacArthur. It shows the US as an abhorrent evil, and MacArthur is shown stabbing a Korean mother and child. Bombs labeled US are being dropped on cities in China in the background as the US invades Korea.

18. “Beat Back The Hun”, (1918).

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This intense, frightening presence featuring the head of a “Hun” with blood-stained fingers and bayonet, is the work of Frederick or F. Strothmann. The poster was meant to literally scare Americans into buying the war bonds known as “Liberty Bonds” during WW I as a patriotic duty. These bonds are debt securities issued by the American government for the purpose of financing military operations. The creation of this capital not only helped to control inflation during war time, it also gave the public who invested their money in the bonds a feeling of involvement in the war without having to serve in the military. They were available in a wide range of denominations, and thus affordable to most citizens.

19. “Liberators”, (1944).

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The Nazi’s had a very imaginative approach when it came to producing posters during the Second World War. Designed by Norwegian cartoonist Harald Damsleth, this particularly famous image depicts the Americans as a domineering force and characterizes many of their supposedly negative aspects, such as being money grabbing, racist, over-sexualized and all-empowering.

20. “American Invaders Will Be Defeated!”, (1951).

propaganda posters now

Completed at the height of the Cold War, this poster depicts two People’s Liberation Army soldiers holding two books. The left book read “Soviet Army Defeated 1,200,000 German Nazi, Italian, Japanese and other countries’ soldiers during World War Two” and the right reads “Chinese People’s Liberation Army defeated 8 million soldiers from American Imperialist sponsored Chiang Kai-Chek’s army. At the bottom, defeated Americans hold dollar sign flags, and in writing it says “Next year we can accumulate 3 million soldiers”.

21. Rosie The Riveter, (1943).

propaganda posters now

Based on a familiar song of the time, this is Norman Rockwell’s famous Rosie the Riveter poster. Unlike the “we can do it” poster this image actually represents the American women who worked in the munitions and war supplies factories during World War II.This was a call to arms for the women of America to become strong capable females and support the war effort. Rockwell often found himself at odds with the more conservative the politics of the Saturday Evening Post, so in his later years, he took up the controversial subject of racism in America. He became respected as a painter for these hard-hitting pieces of American culture, much more so than for his work for the Saturday Evening Post.

22. Huey P. Newton, Minister of Defense, (1968).

propaganda posters now

Huey P. Newton, Minister of Defence, done by an unidentified artist, 1968. When organizers of the Black Panther Party set up this scene for a photographer in 1967—enthroning the young “minister of defence” Huey Newton in a wicker chair and arming him a rifle and spear, they showed their determination to follow Malcolm X creed, “by any means necessary”. And the poster of course, transforms Newton into a larger than life, king-like figure.

23. “To Defend USSR”, (1930).

propaganda posters now

Valentina Kulagina was one of the few female poster artists to emerge from the 20th century. This poster, called “To Defend USSR” was created by Kulagina in 1930. It takes a cubist perspective in its multi-dimensional shapes, and it shows the Red army as huge almost robotic figures, marching from the factories to fight the war. They are surrounded by the tiny white airplanes of the royalists, which appear to have no effect on them at all and in fact seem to be flying through the figures. Chilling!

24. “Lest We Forget” : UK, (2010).

propaganda posters now

The artist behind this one could not be identified, but this had to be included for its clever use of old Tory values and the play on the Scooby-Doo gang’s unveiling of the monster. This poster shows the lack of faith in Prime Minister David Cameron’s promise to be a force for change and not just another Margaret Thatcher clone.

25. Unusual, rare anti-Nazi propaganda postcard from 1934

propaganda posters now

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The Propaganda Posters That Won The U.S. Home Front

Albinko Hasic is a PhD student at Syracuse University, whose research concerns propaganda.

In 1917, James Montgomery Flagg created his iconic Uncle Sam  poster  encouraging American men to join the war cause with the clear message, “I want you for the U.S. Army!” as the U.S. ramped up preparations to enter World War I. Even though this was not the first instance of propaganda posters being employed on behalf of a war cause, the visual medium proved to be effective in the military’s recruitment drives and posters were routinely used to boost morale, encourage camaraderie, and raise  esprit de corps .  Posters were cheap, easily distributed, and fomented a sense of patriotism and duty. In World War II, the U.S. turned to artists once again in an attempt to influence the public on the home front. Today, these posters offer a glimpse into American society and the efforts to mold public opinion in the country. 

Rolled out on a massive scale in World War I, the popularity of posters as propaganda only further increased in World War II. With the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the U.S. began mobilizing once again but not just militarily. The U.S. government leveraged hundreds of artists across the country to deliver important messages through visual means. This included some relatively famous artists such as the creator of  Aquaman , Paul Norris, whose sketches were noticed by his superiors during his time in the military.  The artists’ designs were not just focused on the rank and file of the military either. The Office of War Information (OWI) believed that the ‘home front,’ was just as sensitive to enemy misinformation, and went to work creating a series of posters specifically focused on the population back home as the engine of the war effort in Europe and the Pacific. 

The designs and posters had a wide range in terms of messaging and design. Even though there was quite a number of posters in the U.S. with xenophobic or down right racist messaging and visuals, the majority centered around themes of tradition, patriotism, duty, and honor.  This was further expanded on the home front with themes such as conservation, production, work ethic, buying war bonds, tending to “victory gardens,” encouraging women in the labor force, and cementing a common enemy in the eyes of the American public.  

A Common Enemy Emerges

propaganda posters now

Several U.S. propaganda posters employed a tactic known as demonization.  This involved portraying the enemy as  barbarian , aggressive, conniving, or simply evil. Demonization included derogatory name calling including terms such as “Japs,” “Huns,” and “Nips,” among others. Several posters in the U.S tapped into demonization by showcasing the Japanese with overly exaggerated features and by recycling racist and xenophobic personifications.

propaganda posters now

This was often paired with messaging such as one anti-Japanese poster which portrayed Emperor Hirohito rubbing his hands saying, “Go ahead, please take day off!.” The tactic was clear, motivate the working population at home to avoid sick days through fear of the inhuman enemy who is planning an attack on the homeland at any moment. 

Fear was a popular theme employed by artists, even with differing messages. In one poster, a giant Nazi boot is depicted crushing a small church with the language, “We’re fighting to prevent this.” Often, fear was utilized as a way to encourage the purchase of war bonds. Numerous posters portray children wearing gas masks or under the shadow of giant swastikas with clear messaging, “Buy war bonds to prevent this possible future.”  

propaganda posters now

Conservation and Production 

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Some posters employed  comedy  as a way to break through, while at the same time tapping into the overarching fear of the enemy.  For example, one poster, seemingly in an attempt to encourage carpooling, depicts an outline of Adolf Hitler riding shotgun with a commuter with the messaging, “When you ride alone, you ride with Hitler.” Others encouraged high production outputs by likening slacking off with aiding and abetting America’s foreign enemies. At the same time, others were more positivist in nature such as the famous Rosie the Riveter “We can do it!,” poster,  encouraging women  in the workforce. 

propaganda posters now

Interestingly, many posters encouraged conservation and “victory gardens.” In an attempt to counterbalance rationing, the Department of Agriculture encouraged personal home gardens and small farms as a way to raise the production of fresh vegetables during the course of the war.  Some scholars, such as Stuart Kallen believe that victory gardens contributed up to a third of all domestic vegetable production in the country during the course of the war.  Posters espoused popular sentiments such as “our food is fighting,” “food is ammunition,” and “dig for victory.”  Coinciding with this, posters also espoused the benefits of canning with messages such as, “of course I CAN,” and “can all you can.”  

propaganda posters now

Loose Lips Sink Ships

Perhaps one of the most fascinating themes which were propagated on the home front is misinformation and “loose talk.” Some scholars have speculated that this theme emerged out of fear of domestic spies and foreign intelligence operations within the U.S. Others, however, maintain that the U.S. intelligence services had shut down any foreign intelligence networks even prior to America’s involvement in WWII. Their claim is that these types of messages merely aimed to dispel rumors and prevent a loss of morale at home and abroad. Whatever the case may be, the government asked illustrators to discourage the population at home from casual chatter about troop deployment, movement, and any other sensitive information which could be “picked up,” by enemy receptors or propagated on a large scale. The phrase, “ loose lips sink ships ,” emerged thanks in part to the work of Seymour Goff.  Goff’s poster depicts a U.S. boat on fire, sinking with the words, “Loose lips might sink ships.”  Similar messaging was also prevalent in Great Britain and Germany as well. 

propaganda posters now

Just as World War II was fought with bullets, boats, tanks and planes, the war at home was fought with information stemming from sources such as movies, radio, leaflets, and posters. Artists suddenly became soldiers on the front to win the hearts and minds of the American public.  Propaganda posters offer us an interesting insight into the objectives of the U.S. government and the war time aims of the mission to create consensus at home.

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Text: History of American Propaganda Posters

History of american propaganda posters: american social issues through propaganda.

Leaders throughout history have been able to use propaganda to their own needs and desires. By stirring an individual’s imagination and emotions whether it is for better or worse, figures in power who create campaigns of propaganda imagery can drive a population towards their end wants. Propaganda became a common term around America during World War I when posters and films were leveraged against enemies to rally troop enlistment and garner the public opinion. Propaganda became a modern political tool engendering good will across wide demographics and gaining favor of the country.

The following infographic takes a closer look at American Social Issues expressed through Propaganda imagery.

history of propaganda infographic image

What is Propaganda?

Propaganda can be described as thoughts, ideas, allegations or facts, spread deliberately to further one’s own cause or with the intention of causing damage to an opposing cause. Propaganda is commonly understood to involve any medium that strikes an illicit emotional reaction to one’s thoughts or views. It is a form of biased communication that is expressed through forms of art that do not always depict one set of thoughts in a clear way. A way to clearly stir the emotions of a populace and drive a one-sided opinion, propaganda has been a tool for the powerful to convince and push the less powerful towards a purpose.

The History of Propaganda

Although the term propaganda became common place in the United States during period of World War I, the concept has been used long since then. Some of the first to use propaganda for their own accords were the Greeks. Though the Greeks did not use propaganda as we know it now in print or movie depictions, they still used art to project their thoughts onto groups. Greeks could influence large groups of citizens and country men to their ways of thought through games, theater, assemblies, courts, and religious festivals.

After the invention of the printing press, leaders could now spread their ideas to the masses much more quickly. Philip II of Spain and Queen Elizabeth of England both used printed and written materials to organize their subjects during the Spanish Armada in the 16th century. To convince each individual nation that the other was at the aggressor, the leaders each participated in their own propaganda campaigns to distribute widespread dissent.

Newspapers during the Mexican American War sometimes took it upon themselves to influence articles and create articles that called for annexation of all Mexico by the United States. In some populations areas that were still controlled by Mexico, some U.S. writers would write or edit papers with the purpose of convincing the residents that the U.S. terms for peace should be accepted and that it was their best choice.

American Social and Political Issues Depicted Through Propaganda

America has been using propaganda in art for over a hundred years to drive the population towards a common thought. Often the premise dispensed by the government is centered toward an idea of Americanism or pride for the country over others. However, opposition for anyone in power had the same opportunity to use these same tactics through the wide distribution of newspapers and printing machines.

The Pyramid of the Capitalist System Created in 1911, The Pyramid of the Capitalist System, this cartoon directly criticized the worst parts of capitalism. As an American cartoon published, distributed and seen by many of those who were not on the top of the hierarchical capitalistic food chain, it brought to light a social issue that many were afraid to express before.

Liberty Loan Drive Promoting the purchase of war bonds during World War I was very important for the U.S. to keep the war machine driving forward and funded. The Liberty bond driving needing a boast and public attention used an ad that inspired people to purchase bonds. The ad was successful in driving funding and raised more than $17 billion.

Help Keep Your School All-American While the United States has bene a mixing pot, the issue of racism has been difficult to address. The poster, Help Keep Your School All-American, featuring Superman, one of the most popular figures with school children at the time of the ad spoke to changing a prevalently racist outlook of America at the time.

Women in the War This poster meant to drive women into the armed service. By featuring a woman working directly with a wartime device, it helped to inspire a feeling of comfortability with women serving at home and abroad.

We Can Do It Nearly everyone is familiar with “Rosie the Riverter”, but probably not everyone is familiar with her as a propaganda peace to inspire the U.S. wartime workforce. The posters produced of her were pivotal in swinging public opinion that a woman could work in a factory and outside the house to drive the wartime machine production. From 1940 to 1945 the percentage of female U.S. workforce increased from 27 percent to 37 percent.

Daisy Girl Political campaign propaganda took a strong foothold during the middle of the 19th century. At a time when nearly everyone feared nuclear warfare, Lyndon B. Johnson played off this fear and created campaigns against his opposition’s controversial comments. Though the political ad, Daisy Girl, only aired once it was still instrumental in playing on the fears of the people to swing their opinion.

Go Tell Mama! I’m For Obama Even in present day terms, America is using propaganda to stir emotion and convince others of our thinking. Artist Ray Noland emphasized the idea of community in his Go Tell Mama! I’m For Obama, playing on the ideas and sentiments of a largely community organization that needed grassroots marketing to spread advertising.

Norwich University is an important part of American history. Established in 1819, Norwich is a nationally recognized institution of higher education, the birthplace of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) and the first private military college in the United States.

With Norwich University’s online  Master of Arts in History , you can enhance your awareness of differing historical viewpoints while developing and refining your research, writing, analysis and presentation skills. The program offers two tracks—American history and world history—allowing you to tailor your studies to your interests and goals.

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Online Exhibits

National Archives Logo

Powers of Persuasion

army recruiting poster

"I Want You"

by James Montgomery Flagg, 1940. National Archives, Army Recruiting Bureau

View in National Archives Catalog

Guns, tanks, and bombs were the principal weapons of World War II, but there were other, more subtle forms of warfare as well. Words, posters, and films waged a constant battle for the hearts and minds of the American citizenry just as surely as military weapons engaged the enemy. Persuading the American public became a wartime industry, almost as important as the manufacturing of bullets and planes. The Government launched an aggressive propaganda campaign with clearly articulated goals and strategies to galvanize public support, and it recruited some of the nation's foremost intellectuals, artists, and filmmakers to wage the war on that front. Posters are the focus of this online exhibit, based on a more extensive exhibit that was presented in the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, from May 1994 to February 1995. It explores the strategies of persuasion as evidenced in the form and content of World War II posters. Quotes from official manuals and public leaders articulate how the Government sought to rally public opinion in support of the war's aims; quotes from popular songs and sayings attest to the success of the campaign that helped to sustain the war effort throughout the world-shaking events of World War II.

Jump to Part 1 Galleries:

Man the Guns!

It's a Women's War Too!

United We Win

Use it up, wear it out, four freedoms.

Jump to Part 2 Galleries:

This is Nazi Brutality

He's watching you, meaning of sacrifice, stamp 'em out, part 1: patriotic pride.

WWII Poster

View the Man the Guns! Gallery

WWII Poster

Man the Guns—Join the Navy, by McClelland Barclay, 1942, Records of the Office of Government Reports  View in Online Catalog

(NAID: 513519)

Keep 'em fighting. Production wins wars. Stop accidents, Printed for the National Safety Council, Inc., Records of the Office of Government Reports  View in Online Catalog

(NAID: 514767)

Get hot—keep moving. Don't waste a precious minute., Records of War Production Board  View in Online Gallery

(NAID: 535107)

Masculine strength was a common visual theme in patriotic posters. Pictures of powerful men and mighty machines illustrated America's ability to channel its formidable strength into the war effort. American muscle was presented in a proud display of national confidence.

Accentuate the Positive, Eliminate the Negative, Latch on to the Affirmative, Don't Mess with Mr. In-Between. 1945, Music by Harold Arlen, Lyrics by Johnny Mercer

It's a Woman's War Too!

WWII Poster

View the It's a Woman's War Too! Gallery

WWII Poster

Victory Waits On Your Fingers—Keep 'Em Flying Miss U.S.A., Produced by the Royal Typewriter Company for the U.S. Civil Service Commission, Records of the Office of Government Reports  View in Online Catalog

(NAID: 515979)

Longing Won't Bring Him Back Sooner...Get a War Job!, by Lawrence Wilbur, 1944, Records of the Office of Government Reports View in Online Catalog

(NAID: 513840)

We Can Do It!, by J. Howard Miller, Produced by Westinghouse for the War Production Co-Ordinating Committee, Records of the War Production Board  View in Online Catalog

Of all the images of working women during World War II, the image of women in factories predominates. Rosie the Riveter—the strong, competent woman dressed in overalls and bandanna—was introduced as a symbol of patriotic womanhood. The accoutrements of war work—uniforms, tools, and lunch pails—were incorporated into the revised image of the feminine ideal.  

(NAID: 535413)

In the face of acute wartime labor shortages, women were needed in the defense industries, the civilian service, and even the Armed Forces. Despite the continuing 20th century trend of women entering the workforce, publicity campaigns were aimed at those women who had never before held jobs. Poster and film images glorified and glamorized the roles of working women and suggested that a woman's femininity need not be sacrificed. Whether fulfilling their duty in the home, factory, office, or military, women were portrayed as attractive, confident, and resolved to do their part to win the war.

These jobs will have to be glorified as a patriotic war service if American women are to be persuaded to take them and stick to them. Their importance to a nation engaged in total war must be convincingly presented. Basic Program Plan for Womanpower Office of War Information

WWII Poster

View the United We Win Gallery

WWII Poster

United We Win, Photograph by Alexander Liberman, 1943, Printed by the Government, Printing Office for the War Manpower Commission,  Records of the Office of Government Reports  View in Online Catalog

(NAID: 513820)

Above and Beyondthe Call of Duty, by David Stone Martin, Printed by the Government, Printing Office for the Office of War Information, Records of the Office of War Information  View in Online Catalog

At the beginning of the war, African Americans could join the Navy but could serve only as messmen. Doris ("Dorie") Miller joined the Navy and was in service on board the USS  West Virginia  during the attack on Pearl Harbor. Restricted to the position of messman, he received no gunnery training. But during the attack, at great personal risk, he manned the weapon of a fallen gunman and succeeded in hitting Japanese planes. He was awarded the Navy Cross, but only after persistent pressure from the black press.

(NAID: 535886)

Pvt. Joe Louis Says—We,re Going to do our part . . . and we'll win because we're on God's side, Records of the Office Government Reports  View in Online Catalog

(NAID: 513548)

During World War II, racial restriction and segregation were facts of life in the U.S. military. Nevertheless, an overwhelming majority of African Americans participated wholeheartedly in the fight against the Axis powers. They did so, however, with an eye toward ending racial discrimination in American society. This objective was expressed in the call, initiated in the black press for the "Double V"—victory over fascism abroad and over racism at home. The Government was well aware of the demoralizing effects of racial prejudice on the American population and its impact on the war effort. Consequently, it promoted posters, pamphlets, and films highlighting the participation and achievement of African Americans in military and civilian life.

We say glibly that in the United States of America all men are free and equal, but do we treat them as if they were? . . . There is religious and racial prejudice everywhere in the land, and if there is a greater obstacle anywhere to the attainment of the teamwork we must have, no one knows what it is. Arthur Upham Pope, Chairman of the Committee for National Morale, in America Organizes to Win the War

WWII Poster

View the Use It Up, Wear It Out Gallery

WWII Poster

When You Ride Alone You ride with Hilter!, by Weimer Pursell, 1943, Records of the Office of Government Reports  View in Online Catalog

(NAID: 516143)

Save Waste Fats for Explosives, by Henry Koerner, 1943, Records of the Office of Government Reports  View in Online Catalog

(NAID: 513832)

Waste Helps the Enemy, by Vanderlaan, Records of the War Production Board  View in Online Catalog

(NAID: 533960)

During the war years, gasoline, rubber, sugar, butter, and meat were rationed. Government publicity reminded people that shortages of these materials occurred because they were going to the troops, and that civilians should take part in conservation and salvage campaigns.

Astronomical quantities of everything and to hell with civilian needs. Donald Nelson, Chairman of the War Production Board, describing the military view of the American wartime industry.

WWII Poster

View the Four Freedoms Gallery

WWII Poster

Ours...to fight for—Freedom From Want, by Norman Rockwell, ©1943 SEPS: The Curtis Publishing Co., Agent

Printed by the Government Printing Office for the Office of War Information, Records of the Office of Government Reports  View in Online Catalog

(NAID: 513710)

Save Freedom of Speech, by Norman Rockwell, ©1943 SEPS: The Curtis Publishing Co., Agent, Printed by the Government Printing Office for the Office of War Information, Records of the Office of Government Reports  View in Online Catalog

(NAID: 513711)

Save Freedom of Worship, by Norman Rockwell, ©1943 SEPS: The Curtis Publishing Co., Agent, Printed by the Government Printing Office for the Office of War Information, Records of the Office of Government Reports  View in Online Catalog

(NAID: 513712)

Ours...to fight for—Freedom From Fear, by Norman Rockwell, ©1943 SEPS: The Curtis Publishing Co., Agent, Printed by the Government Printing Office for the Office of War Information, Records of the Office of Government Reports  View in Online Catalog

(NAID: 513666)

President Roosevelt was a gifted communicator. On January 6, 1941, he addressed Congress, delivering the historic "Four Freedoms" speech. At a time when Western Europe lay under Nazi domination, Roosevelt presented a vision in which the American ideals of individual liberties were extended throughout the world. Alerting Congress and the nation to the necessity of war, Roosevelt articulated the ideological aims of the conflict. Eloquently, he appealed to Americans' most profound beliefs about freedom. The speech so inspired illustrator Norman Rockwell that he created a series of paintings on the "Four Freedoms" theme. In the series, he translated abstract concepts of freedom into four scenes of everyday American life. Although the Government initially rejected Rockwell's offer to create paintings on the "Four Freedoms" theme, the images were publicly circulated when The Saturday Evening Post, one of the nation's most popular magazines, commissioned and reproduced the paintings. After winning public approval, the paintings served as the centerpiece of a massive U.S. war bond drive and were put into service to help explain the war's aims.

We look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression—everywhere in the world. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way—everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want . . . everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear . . . anywhere in the world. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Message to Congress, January 6, 1941

Part 2: Staying Vigilant

WWII Poster

View the Warning! Gallery

WWII Poster

WARNING! Our Homes Are in Danger Now!, produced by the General Motors Corporation, 1942, Records of the Office of Government Reports  View in Online Catalog

(NAID: 516040)

Keep These Hands Off!, by G. K. Odell, Records of the Office of Government Reports  View in Online Catalog

A study of commercial posters undertaken by the U.S. Government found that images of women and children in danger were effective emotional devices. The Canadian poster at right was part of the study and served as a model for American posters, such as the one below, that adopted a similar visual theme.

(NAID: 513550)

Don't Let That Shadow Touch Them. Buy War Bonds., by Lawrence B. Smith, 1942, Produced for the Government Printing Office for the U.S. Treasury, Records of the Office of Government Reports  View in Online Catalog

(NAID: 513572)

We're Fighting to Prevent This, by C. R. Miller, Think America Institute, Kelly Read & Co., Records of the Office of Government Reports  View in Online Catalog

(NAID: 516102)

Public relations specialists advised the U.S. Government that the most effective war posters were the ones that appealed to the emotions. The posters shown here played on the public's fear of the enemy. The images depict Americans in imminent danger-their backs against the wall, living in the shadow of Axis domination.

Commercial advertising usually takes the positive note in normal times . . . But these are not normal times; this is not even a normal war; it's hell's ideal of human catastrophy [sic], so menace and fear motives are a definite part of publicity programs, including the visual. Statement on Current Information Objective Office of Facts and Figures

WWII Poster

View the This is Nazi Brutality Gallery

WWII Poster

This is Nazi Brutality, by Ben Shahn, 1942, Printed by the Government Printing Office for the Office of War Information, Records of the Office Government Reports  View in Online Catalog

Lidice was a Czech mining village that was obliterated by the Nazis in retaliation for the 1942 shooting of a Nazi official by two Czechs. All men of the village were killed in a 10-hour massacre; the women and children were sent to concentration camps. The destruction of Lidice became a symbol for the brutality of Nazi occupation during World War II.

(NAID: 513687)

We French Workers Warn You...Defeat Means Slavery, Starvation and Death., By Ben Shahn, 1942, Printed by the Government Printing Office for the War Information Board, Records of the Office of Government Reports  View in Online Catalog

(NAID: 513688)

The Sowers, by Thomas Hart Benton, 1942, Records of the Office of Government Reports  View in Online Catalog

Artist Thomas Hart Benton believed that it was the artist's role either to fight or to "bring the bloody actual realities of this war home to the American people." In a series of eight paintings, Benton portrayed the violence and barbarity of fascism. "The Sowers" shows the enemy as bulky, brutish monsters tossing human skulls onto the ground.

(NAID: 515648)

Many of the fear-inspiring posters depicted Nazi acts of atrocity. Although brutality is always part of war, the atrocities of World War II were so terrible, and of such magnitude, as to engender a new category of crime—crimes against humanity. The images here were composed to foster fear. Implicit in these posters is the idea that what happened there could happen here.

Under their system, the individual is a cog in a military machine, a cipher in an economic despotism; the individual is a slave. These facts are documented in the degradation and suffering of the conquered countries, whose fate is shared equally by the willing satellites and the misguided appeasers of the Axis. Government Information Manual for the Motion Picture Industry Office of War Information

WWII Poster

View the He's Watching You Gallery

WWII Poster

He's Watching You, by Glenn Grohe, ca. 1942, Gouache on cardboard, Records of the Office of War Information  View in Online Catalog

(NAID: 7387549)

Someone Talked!, by Siebel, 1942, Printed by the Government Printing Office for the Office of War Information, Records of the Office of War Information  View in Online Catalog

(NAID: 513672)

...Because Somebody Talked!, By Wesley, 1943, Printed by the Government Printing Office for the Office of War Information, Records of the Office of Government Reports  View in Online Catalog

(NAID: 513669)

Wanted! For Murder, by Victor Keppler, 1944, Records of the Office of Government Reports  View in Online Catalog

A woman—someone who could resemble the viewer`s neighbor, sister, wife, or daughter—was shown on a "wanted" poster as an unwitting murderess.

At least one viewer voiced objection to the choice of a female model. A letter from a resident of Hawaii to the Office of War Information reads, in part, "American women who are knitting, rolling bandages, working long hours at war jobs and then carrying on with 'women's work' at home—in short, taking over the countless drab duties to which no salary and no glory are attached, resent these unwarranted and presumptuous accusations which have no basis in fact, but from the time-worn gags of newspaper funny men."

(NAID: 513599)

Concerns about national security intensify in wartime. During World War II, the Government alerted citizens to the presence of enemy spies and saboteurs lurking just below the surface of American society. "Careless talk" posters warned people that small snippets of information regarding troop movements or other logistical details would be useful to the enemy. Well-meaning citizens could easily compromise national security and soldiers' safety with careless talk.

Words are ammunition. Each word an American utters either helps or hurts the war effort. He must stop rumors. He must challenge the cynic and the appeaser. He must not speak recklessly. He must remember that the enemy is listening. Government Information Manual for the Motion Picture Industry Office of War Information

WWII Poster

View the Meaning of Sacrifice Gallery

WWII Poster

You Talk of Sacrifice..., Produced by Winchester, Records of the War Production Board  View in Online Catalog

(NAID: 535236)

Have You Really Tried to Save Gas by Getting Into a Car Club?, By Harold Von Schmidt, 1944, Printed by the Government Printing Office, Records of the Office of Government Reports  View in Online Catalog

(NAID: 513630)

Miles of Hell to Tokyo!, By Amos Sewell, 1945, Printed by the Government Printing Office for the War Manpower Commission, Records of the Office of Government Reports  View in Online Catalog

(NAID: 515009)

To guard against complacency, the Government promoted messages that reminded civilian America of the suffering and sacrifices that were being made by its Armed Forces overseas.

The mortal realities of war must be impressed vividly on every citizen. There is a lighter side to the war picture, particularly among Americans, who are irrepressibly cheerful and optimistic. But war means death. It means suffering and sorrow. The men in the service are given no illusions as to the grimness of the business in which they are engaged. We owe it to them to rid ourselves of any false notions we may have about the nature of war. Government Information Manual for the Motion Picture Industry Office of War Information

WWII Poster

View the Stamp 'Em Out! Gallery

WWII Poster

Stamp `Em Out!, Produced by RCA Manufacturing Company, Inc., Records of the Office of Government Reports  View in Online Catalog

(NAID: 515473)

More Production, by Zudor, Printed by the Government Printing Office for the War Production Board, Records of the Office of War Information  View in Online Catalog

(NAID: 7387556)

The Government tried to identify the most effective poster style. One government-commissioned study concluded that the best posters were those that made a direct, emotional appeal and presented realistic pictures in photographic detail. The study found that symbolic or humorous posters attracted less attention, made a less favorable impression, and did not inspire enthusiasm. Nevertheless, many symbolic and humorous posters were judged to be outstanding in national poster competitions during the war.

War posters that are symbolic do not attract a great deal of attention, and they fail to arouse enthusiasm. Often, they are misunderstood by those who see them. How to Make Posters That Will Help Win The War, Office of Facts and Figures, 1942

Additional Media

Song:   "Any Bonds Today?"


"any bonds today bonds of freedom that's what i'm selling any bonds today scrape up the most you can here comes the freedom man asking you to buy a share of freedom today, any stamps today we'll be blest if we all invest in the u.s.a. here comes the freedom man can't make tomorrow's plan not unless you buy a share of freedom today".

Speech:   President Roosevelt's Address 

Transcript: Excerpt from President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Message to Congress on January 6, 1941

"the first is the freedom of speech and expression—everywhere in the world. the second is the freedom of every person to worship god in his own way—everywhere in the world. the third is freedom from want—which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants—everywhere in the world. the fourth is freedom from fear—which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor—anywhere in the world." (applause).

Video:  Bugs Bunny

Video Description: Bugs Bunny enters stage right in front of a backdrop of Archibald McNeal Willard's painting, "Spirit of '76" showing three colonial soldiers with a fife, drum, and flag. Bugs wears a patriotic red and white striped top hat with a band of blue and white stars that he waves and tosses off stage left. Bugs sings "Any Bonds Today?", dances and throws blue papers printed with "Bonds" toward the audience. Elmer Fudd and Porky Pig, in Army and Navy uniforms, join Bugs onstage. The trio dances and sings in front of a backdrop showing a combat scene with ships and planes. As the song ends with a musical flourish, the cartoon fades to a gold background with a Minute Man on the left and the slogan "For Defense Buy United States Savings Bonds and Stamps."

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Propaganda Posters From All Over the World to Inspire Your Design

Guidelines for creating propaganda posters:.

Use bold, simple colors

Add frames and labels

Be geometric

Go big with text and messaging

Now onward, to inevitable poster design victory!

Using bold, simple colors

propaganda posters now

New York Public Library. USSR. (1917-1921.) Dym trub. Dykhan’e Sovetskoi Rossii. (Additional title: The Smoke of Chimneys is the Breath of Soviet Russia.)

Just Say No to Propaganda Posters!

… Hang on, that sounded a little propaganda-y. We’re a freethinking bunch here on Team PicMonkey, so we don’t advocate manipulating the minds of the masses with the power of your design. However, we do appreciate design in general, and propaganda posters are undeniably iconic examples. So what can we learn from them?

As it turns out, propaganda posters of the twentieth century can teach us a lot. Many were created by artists as part of government-run contests, and exemplify techniques and themes from art movements such as Modernism, Art Deco, and Constructivism. However, propaganda is unique in that it’s high on emotional appeal and intended to influence attitudes towards specific policies: the quintuple-shot espresso of government outreach, if you will.

Propaganda posters are famously direct, and their color palette is no exception. Many iconic propaganda posters were designed using as few as three colors, often black, white, and a warm shade like red.

propaganda posters now

I.M. Toidze. 1941. “The Motherland Calls.”

propaganda posters now

J. Howard Miller. 1942. “We Can Do It!”

Even posters that feature more colors, like Rosie the Riveter’s realistically shaded skin and hair, tend to focus on a few bold shades that grab the eye. In Rosie’s case, they’re the three primary colors, with a peppy si-se-puede yellow lighting the background.

Pro tip: Generate your own custom color palette based on propaganda posters and use it for any project you like. Simply choose a poster with colors that strike you, then follow our tutorial to create your palette.

Adding frames and labels

propaganda posters now

Wikimedia Commons. 1920. Russian First of May poster.

Elaborately framed pieces are a hallmark of Art Nouveau, an art style popular from 1890 to 1920, which is why you’ll see intricate frames and graphics pop up in the propaganda from the WWI and Bolshevik eras.

propaganda posters now

New York Public Library. USSR. (1917-1921.) Vpervye v istorii chelovechestva Oktiabr’skaia revoliutsiia osmelilas’ vlastno potrebovat’ ot vekovechnykh ugnetatelei trudiashchikhsia rasplaty za krov’ i slezy soten pokolenii rabov. […] My pobedim! (Additional title: For the first time in the history of mankind October Revolution took the liberty to demand from the ages long opressors of working people the payment for blood and tears of hundreds generations of the slaves. […] We will gain!)

We love these garnishes: not only are they beautifying, but they can be a great way to organize information. Spotlight your revolutionary tagline by putting it on a pedestal (or over a semi-transparent box). Fancy up your pastoral proletariat scene with decorative corners. Put a frame on it!

propaganda posters now

James Montgomery Flagg. (c. 1917.) “Uncle Sam Wants You.”

If it’s good enough for Uncle Sam, it’s good enough for you. Check out how the flag-colored frame supports the patriotic message of the poster.

P.S., you know who has some sweeeeet corners, frames, and other decorative flourishes? Uh, yeah, that’s little old PicMonkey. Find them in the Frames tab, as well as in the Corners, Garnishes, and Labels graphic groups.

Being geometric

propaganda posters now

Koretskiy V. B., Gitsevich V. A. (1932.) “The Soviet trade unions-the vanguard of the world-wide workers’ movement.”

Let’s say you’re less about curlicues, and more about those straight-shooting geometric shapes. In that case, you’ll wanna skip on ahead in the history of art from nouveau to deco—and the famous Russian art form, Constructivism.

Just as Russian Communists envisioned a totally new way of ordering society, Russian Constructivist art envisioned new ways of creating shapes, inspired by emerging technology. What this meant for propaganda posters in the 1910s and ’20s was a focus on geometry and abstract shapes.

propaganda posters now

Aleksandr Rodchenko. (1925.) “Lengiz, Books in all Branches of Knowledge.”

Shapes, man!

propaganda posters now

Japan. 1931. “Kusunoki Masashige Festival.”

Meanwhile, if you’ve ever admired the radiating grandeur of a rising-sun-style graphic flourish, Art Deco says you’re welcome. Chevrons, sunbursts, and zig-zags are hallmarks of the Art Deco style, and can be seen in a number of twentieth-century propaganda posters—including this Japanese number portraying modern-day samurai.

If you like an artistic element on a specific poster, whether it’s a graphic or a style of portraying people, hit the search engines to figure out what artistic school it comes from. Chances are, other work in that style will have more inspiration for you.

Going big with your text

propaganda posters now

Z.P. Nikolaki. (1918.) “Hello! This is liberty speaking—billions of dollars are needed and needed now.”

Many propaganda posters of the twentieth century were used in the context of war: to build morale and coordinate action at home, or to persuade and undermine abroad. So they don’t pussyfoot around when it comes to message, there’s no time! Our people are out there!!! LOOSE LIPS SINK SHIPS, ARTHUR.

propaganda posters now

Roy Nockolds, The National Archives (UK). (1942.) “In Germany…someone is doing the same job as you. Beat him!”

propaganda posters now

Food Information Committee of the Government of Canada. “Save Food—Waste Nothing.”

What’s the lesson here for us? Experiment with big, bold text—in terms of both typography and message.

Don’t get us wrong: we love a delicately crafted, multi-metaphored turn of phrase as much as the next word jockey. Sometimes, though, simpler is more effective. That’s how we get “When you ride alone, you ride with Hitler” and “This man is your friend, he fights for freedom.”

propaganda posters now

United States Office of Facts and Figures. (1942.) “This man is your friend.”

So don’t hold back! Get right to the point, capitalize with abandon, and tug at some heartstrings. (Or guilt-strings, as with the famous British poster that asks, “Daddy, what did you do in the Great War?”)

Of course, propaganda is all about knowing your audience. The over-the-top phrasing on many of these old posters makes us giggle today, so either adjust your message accordingly, or lean hard into the comedy.

So there you have it! A few of the styles and techniques common to propaganda posters that can influence your own designs. Now get out there and take over the world!

… But like, not literally.

Elisa Chavez

Elisa Chavez is a content writer here at PicMonkey, where she hopes to change the world one dinosaur selfie at a time. She is also a nationally ranked slam poet, champion shopper, and doting dog mama.

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New York Today

Underground art: a show celebrates subway posters.

A Chelsea gallery is displaying works that were originally created as advertisements for the School of Visual Arts.

James Barron

By James Barron

Good morning. Today we’ll look at an exhibition of posters that were originally on the walls of subway stations. For the next two months, they’ll be on the walls of an art gallery. We’ll also find out about birds that are passing through New York on the way south.

Posters on a wall tiled with subway tile.

Starting today, what Francis Di Tommaso calls “underground art” will be exhibited above ground, in an art gallery on the 15th floor of a storied building in Chelsea, complete with a recreated subway platform.

The images at the SVA Chelsea Gallery at 601 West 26th Street are subway posters by 93 graphic artists that were created as advertisements for the School of Visual Arts. “They became public art,” said Di Tommaso, the school’s director of galleries, who maintains that the posters have become one of the subway system’s most enduring advertising campaigns.

The school began commissioning posters from faculty members soon after it opened in 1947 as the Cartoonists & Illustrators School. The name change was announced in a poster in 1956 by the graphic designer George Tscherny, who later redesigned the school’s logo.

Some posters reflected memorable moments in New York. In 2001, Milton Glaser , whose original “I ♥ NY” logo was a spirit-booster in the aftermath of the city’s fiscal crisis in the 1970s, did a poster for S.V.A. after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001 that said “I ♥ NY More Than Ever.”

The following year, Kevin O’Callaghan , a department chairman at S.V.A., created a poster showing two potted shrubs. They had been trimmed to look like the twin towers and placed in front of a window in Dumbo, Brooklyn, that the original World Trade Center would have been seen from. At the top of the poster were the words “Art Is … Healing.”

From the beginning, the posters were meant to be eye-catching and thought-provoking. Di Tommaso said that the idea came from school’s founder, Silas Rhodes, who had taken a trip to France in the 1940s or early 1950s and had seen posters in the Paris Metro. “France has a longstanding tradition of posters, and he said ‘Wow,’” Di Tommaso said, adding that Rhodes realized that posters were “a way for a fledgling school — the Cartoonists & Illustrators’ school — to say we exist. Otherwise, how’s anybody going to know?”

At the time, he said, “it was this tiny school, three dozen ex-G.I.s on the G.I. Bill who were learning cartooning to go out and get what were then called commercial art jobs.”

“The school got noticed,” thanks in part to the posters, Di Tommaso said, and S.V.A. now has 41,000 alumni. He said he remained surprised that the concept had not been copied. “Nobody picked up on this art in the subway thing,” he said. “It’s not like there’s one college in New York. Not even one art college.”

The exhibition, which runs through Oct. 14, comes as the school is wrapping up a yearlong celebration of its 75th anniversary. It’s not the first showing of a collection of posters: Di Tommaso said there was an exhibition at the Cooper Hewitt Museum (now known as the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum). In the last 17 years, the school has sent traveling exhibitions of posters to cities nationwide and to more than 10 countries.

He said that 830 subway posters are printed for each run. “I don’t know how many stations there are,” he said.

So how often does he take the subway?

“I would say daily,” he said, “except I try to ride my bike whenever the weather is decent.”

Prepare for a cloudy day with a chance of rain. Temperatures will reach the mid-70s. At night, expect showers and possible thunderstorms, with temps dipping slightly.


In effect until Sept. 4 (Labor Day).

The latest Metro news

Man killed by responding officer: Emergency workers had been called to the home of Andrew Jerome Washington, a 52-year-old man in Jersey City, six times this month, according to local officials. During their seventh visit on Sunday, a responding police officer fatally shot him.

Primary battle : To win back the Hudson Valley seat it lost in 2022, the Democratic Party must first deal with a battle between Mondaire Jones and Liz Whitmer Gereghty, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s sister.

OnPoint NYC : Bryan Ortiz quit a job as a paramedic to help people at a safe injection site for drugs like fentanyl and heroin. Now, his job is under legal threat.

Share your story: The New York Times wants to hear about events and get-togethers across the country that bring people together to connect and play.

Birds in transit

It’s late August, the time of year when traffic is heavy on the Atlantic Flyway — southbound traffic. This is when birds begin the trip along a migration route that stretches from Greenland to Patagonia.

It runs right over New York City, but birders have noticed that fewer birds are passing through New York. Marshall Iliff, the project leader for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s eBird project , said the wildfires in Canada had sent many birds south earlier than expected. He said that raised the question of whether birds can adapt to changing environments: As the forests dry out and fires increase, birds that are expected to be seen passing through Central Park in spring could become “these really rare, rare events.”

Still, some birds that were once rare in New York City have been putting in more frequent appearances . For bird-watchers, the excitement is dampened by an awareness that the population expansion is being driven by warmer ocean temperatures and melting snowpacks, along with wildfires.

Sharp-eyed birders might spot brown boobies, a tropical species with brown plumage and a white belly that was once rare even in Southern states. But since 2010 or so, that bird has been seen “all up and down the East Coast, multiple times per year,” Iliff said. One was spotted on Coney Island on June 27.

It’s unclear whether the species will become a regular in the North. Scientists say it has ventured this far from its usual haunts as ocean temperatures have risen. Brown boobies have also been seen inland, in lakes in western Massachusetts, which puzzles birders because brown boobies are generally saltwater birds.

Heather Wolf, a birder and application programmer with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, suggested looking for brown boobies around New York Harbor or the Hudson River. Taking the NYC Ferry might also increase the chances of a sighting because “you’re going to see things that you couldn’t see just walking around the parks,” she said.


Lost mandolin

Dear Diary:

In winter 2008, I was an aspiring musician living in Inwood after graduating from college, cutting my teeth in the New York City music scene.

One night after a late gig in the East Village, I splurged on a cab ride home with my violin and mandolin in tow.

Contrary to my usual habit, I pocketed the taxi receipt while exiting the cab and then promptly stumbled into bed.

Panic set in the next morning when I realized my mandolin had not made it out of the cab. Frantic, I called 311.

“I left my mandolin in a cab, and I don’t know how to get it back,” I told the nice woman who took my call.

“Sure,” she said. “I can help you with that, but what’s a mandolin?”

Stunned by the question, I explained that it was like a small version of a guitar but with eight strings.

Because I had saved the receipt with the taxi’s medallion number, the woman was able to find the cab company’s telephone number. I called immediately.

“Last night I left mandolin in one of your cabs,” I said. “Can you help me?”

“Maybe, but what’s a mandolin?” the person on the other end of the line asked.

Shocked to hear this question again, I repeated my abbreviated description of the centuries-old instrument. I was transferred to a supervisor, who asked the same question: “What’s a mandolin?”

Eventually, I was given the cabby’s personal cellphone. This time, I was ready with a revised introduction when I reached him.

“I left an instrument in your cab last night,” I explained, “It’s like a small guitar, only with eight strings, and is in a soft black case.”

“Yes, yes,” the cabby said. “I have your mandolin right here. If you give me an address, I will drive her over to you.”

— Daniella Fischetti

Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here .

Glad we could get together here. I’m going to take the next few days off, returning after Labor Day . See you then. — J.B.

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee . You can find all our puzzles here .

Bernard Mokam, Lola Fadulu and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].

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James Barron is a Metro reporter and columnist who writes the New York Today newsletter. In 2020 and 2021, he wrote the Coronavirus Update column, part of coverage that won a Pulitzer Prize for public service. He is the author of two books and was the editor of “The New York Times Book of New York.” More about James Barron

Humor and Horror: Printed Propaganda during World War I

Destroy This Mad Brute: Enlist | Lithograph poster depicting an ape as a German soldier holding a woman hostage

Left: Harry Ryle Hopps (American, 1869–1937). Destroy This Mad Brute: Enlist , 1917. Color lithograph, image: 38 3/4 x 25 5/8 in. (98.4 x 65.1 cm). Collection of Mary Ellen Meehan

During wartime, large-format, full-color posters plastered walls from city streets to classrooms. They mobilized support for the war effort, summoned donations to charities, encouraged participation in war bonds, and publicized victories in notable battles to a broad public. Illustrators of varying renown were called on to produce forceful images whose meaning could be quickly and easily grasped by a diverse audience.

Calling on American men to enlist, Harry Ryle Hopps's poster Destroy This Mad Brute: Enlist (1917) casts Germany as a barbarian who has arrived on U.S. shores, leaving behind a destroyed Europe. The "mad brute" wears a spiked helmet emblazoned with the word "militarism" and dons a mustache suggestive of Kaiser Wilhelm II's whiskers. He has abducted an allegorical figure of Lady Liberty and clenches the bloodied club of German Kultur (culture). The motif of the barbarous enemy abounds in propaganda issued by the Allied forces, and the ape-like figure in particular—a precursor to the title character in the 1933 film King Kong —spoke to an audience familiar with Charles Darwin's theories of evolution.

'Help Us Win! Buy War Bonds (Helft uns siegen! Zeichnet die Kriegsanleihe)' | A German soldier in uniform with a gas mask hanging from his neck

On the German side, Fritz Erler designed Help Us Win! Buy War Bonds (1917) after making studies of soldiers at the front. The man depicted in his poster wears a type of steel helmet introduced by the German army in 1916. The gas mask on his chest, the two "potato-masher" grenades in a pouch dangling from his left shoulder, and the barbed wire that surrounds him are all visual hallmarks of World War I. The artist formed the soldier's pupils into small crosses, harnessing Christian symbolism to cast him as a noble and timeless figure. The poster was produced in three sizes and was also issued as a postcard to promote war bonds to German citizens.

Two maps of Europe, one from 1870 and the other from 1914

Paul Hadol (French, 1835–1875) and Walter Trier (Bohemian, 1890–1951). Map of Europe in 1870 / Map of Europe in 1914 , 1914. Commercial color lithograph, sheet: 14 5/16 x 37 3/16 in. (36.4 x 94.5 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Mrs. William O’D. Iselin, 1961 (61.681.9a, b)

Drawing on humor to sway public opinion, French artist Paul Hadol illustrated a satirical map of Europe at the beginning of the Franco-Prussian War (1870–71), from which the Prussian army emerged victorious one year later. In response, German artist Walter Trier produced a map of the region at the outbreak of World War I, with each country similarly cast as a caricature. He depicts Germany and Austria-Hungary as heroic soldiers fending off surrounding nations, each represented by a negative stereotypical figure. A percentage of the proceeds from sales of his map supported the Red Cross.

1914 postcard showing two cartoonish soldiers making their way across Europe

November 10 , from the series Battles of August–November, 1914 , 1914. French. Color lithographs, sheet: 4 x 6 in. (10.2 x 15.2 cm). Leonard A. Lauder Postcard Archive. Promised gift, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Thanks to their diminutive size, postcards were another ideal tool for circulating propaganda and publicizing wartime events. Like Trier's poster, a series of postcards based on cartoons published in an English magazine uses caricature in comparing the opposing armies to a pair of "scientific wrestlers." The sequence in the spread, published on November 4, 1914, ends on October 26, at the height of the First Battle of Ypres. The postcard issuer included an additional scene (above): the November 10 Battle of Langemarck, represented as a knockout blow.

Russian postcard depicting two women in soldier's garb

The provisional government in place in Russia, which controlled the country following the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II and prior to the ascendance of the Bolsheviks in 1917, established all-female combat units in an attempt to inspire war-weary male soldiers and demonstrate the Bolshevik model of equality among citizens. Postcards featuring members of the women's battalions were paired with moralizing captions celebrating qualities such as bravery, unity, and good hygiene.

1915-16 postcard depicting a war plane against a dark-blue sky filled with gray clouds

Carl Otto Czeschka (Austrian, 1878–1960). Central Power Aircraft in Flight , from the series German Armaments , 1915–16. Color lithograph, sheet: 4 x 6 in. (10.2 x 15.2 cm). Leonard A. Lauder Postcard Archive. Promised gift, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Other wartime postcards were considered objets d'art. Those designed by Carl Otto Czeschka, a member of the Wiener Werkstätte (a community of artists in Vienna established in 1903 devoted to restoring thoughtful craftsmanship to industrial production), extol German armaments like the aircraft pictured above. The Bahlsen cookie company issued the postcards for the German military postal service ( Feldpost ), which provided complimentary mail service to soldiers. Their streamlined compositions and color palette also appealed to collectors with a taste for modernist design.

1914-15 photolithograph postcard of a Belgian carrier pigeon

Trade cards—antecedents to today's business cards—were a popular means for companies to publicize their products, and often included captivating images to encourage customer loyalty. Trade cards from the Jefferson R. Burdick Collection distributed in packs of Sweet Caporal cigarettes illustrate the unprecedented convergence of modern technologies with traditional wartime tools, such as homing pigeons that deliver messages in code inscribed on their feathers. While such collectables were used for promotional purposes, they also had an educational component and aimed to spread knowledge about all facets of the war.

These posters, postcards, and trade cards may all be viewed through January 7, 2018, in the exhibition World War I and the Visual Arts ; many of these works are also discussed in the accompanying issue of The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin .

Related Links

World War I and the Visual Arts , on view at The Met Fifth Avenue through January 7, 2018

Read more blog posts in this exhibition's Now at The Met series .

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