Opinion

Poster Boy for Eloquent Simplicity

You’ve got to love Noma Bar. A recent poster for the Victoria and Albert Museum’s family fun activities caught my eye. As a dad I’m always interested in things to entertain the kids without destroying the family finances, and as a designer I’m interested in ways to involve my girls in creative pursuits, although given the contrary nature of children they will probably want to become accountants to spite me and my illustrator wife.

Give yourself a treat and look through the illustrator’s previous work. It is so simple, at least on the surface, and so cleverly conceived. It has style, it has grace, Noma Bar gives great face. He constructs images using minimal elements that combine to create something engaging and interactive. Far from being a passive medium, he makes posters inherently involving and that make the audience participate – and participation is richly rewarded.

While his output for the V&A is whimsical and light by virtue of its subject matter, his portfolio contains bitingly satirical images. His portraits of political leaders are searingly accurate. Take his caricature of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. A pair of missiles and a map of North America and you have him. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is rendered with just a test tube tipping chemicals into an open hand. One of his most controversial is of George W Bush whose face is entirely composed of a stylised picture of a tortured Abu Ghraib prisoner.

It is impossible not to admire the man’s eye, let alone his craft.

The same could be said of graphic designer Abram Games, one of the most influential graphic designers of the 20th century, who fervently believed that the biggest impact came from the simplest of designs. His motto was maximum meaning, minimum means.

His posters demonstrate how powerful and hard-hitting the medium can be and how a simple idea beautifully executed can convey levels of meaning that keep the viewer engaged.

It is wonderful to see artists like Bar following Games’ footsteps, but with a uniquely personal twist. In these complicated times of information overload and constant sensory overstimulation, the simplicity of their work scythes through the clutter. It hits you in the face and sometimes punches you in the gut. Now and then it stabs at your heart. And all with the barest minimum of elements.

Less is definitely more.

About the Author

Chris Hart is Creative Director at Blue Marlin, Bath. His favourite projects span global spirits brands and small-scale artisan products, from Smirnoff and Johnnie Walker to Hiho and Pukka Pies.