2018 marked 100 years since the First World War. From 1914 to 1918, this conflict embroiled most of Europe — along with Russia, the US and the Middle East — and is considered one of the bloodiest ever, with approximately 35 million casualties.
Many people from around the UK pulled together and contributed towards the war effort. But with communications far less efficient and slower than what we know today, advertisements became an essential component of mobilising morale and letting everyone know how they could help. You might even find some on postcard printing…
Keep Calm and Carry On
Although you’ll be familiar with Keep Calm and Carry On, did you know that it was originally a wartime poster released in 1939? The punchy phrase and crown image of the Keep Calm and Carry On poster were designed to quell hysteria and instil a collective feeling of togetherness, community spirit, and, most importantly, ‘Britishness’ to help people cope with the tragedies of war.
Not many people were into it. Around 2.45 million posters for this campaign were printed, yet ‘Keep calm and carry on’ was never authorised for display and the other two designs had a very limited showing before being scrapped. But why?
The original poster had different slogans on it, which many viewers thought to be unnecessary. They were designed under the misconception that the nation would be hit by bombing after bombing, resulting in massive destruction and countless casualties immediately following the declaration of war. So, when war was declared, and this didn’t happen, these dramatic mottos just didn’t make much sense. Many also interpreted the ‘your courage will bring us victory’ as soldiers and the general public must make sacrifices on behalf of the upper classes and high-ranking army officials, which added to their lack of appeal.
In 2000, an original copy of the poster had been discovered in Alnwick. Now, the image is ingrained in our minds after becoming a phenomenon on social media!
The Women’s Land Army
You’ll likely be familiar with The Women’s Land Army poster, which was used throughout WWI and WWII. By the end of the first year of World War I, more than one million men had been recruited to the British Army — a number that hit around five million by the end of the conflict. As a result, the country was suffering from a significant workforce shortage and needed to employ the help of women to feed the people left at home.
During the First World War, this poster was there to encourage young women into agricultural jobs — traditionally held by men. Often referred to as ‘Land Girls’, some farmers were hesitant or even completely against using female workers, despite the dire situation. Others even felt that the choice of WLA uniform was too masculine.
To someone who was deemed unsuitable to participate in front-line combat for her country and who perhaps wanted to break free of the domesticated lifestyle and dress code that she was compelled to follow, this image of a woman dressed in loose dungarees and working in a field showed that this was the time to prove how equally capable female manual labourers were to their male counterparts. Just two years after its launch in 1915, there were over a quarter of a million women working on British farms, with approximately 23,000 in the Women’s Land Army.
Dig for Victory
Encouraging home-grown produce across Britain, this poster made its debut throughout WWII. During the 1939-1945 conflict, feeding those left at home became a great concern and something needed to be done to reduce the country’s reliance on imported produce.
With the aim to reduce reliance on rationing, the Ministry of Agriculture at the time published this campaign. However, this also caught international attention, with ‘victory gardens’ proving just as popular in countries like Canada, Australia and the US.
Believe it or not, people took this poster extremely serious and more allotments were popping up all over urban areas. Even the lawn next to the Tower of London was used to grow vegetables!
The reason behind its success was its simplicity. The slogan ‘Dig for victory’ has all the tools to inspire a response: a simple action (dig) to secure an essential outcome (victory). Utilising the eye-catching quality of bold red and a simple close-up of a ‘Brit at work’, the poster grabs the viewer’s attention and implants a sense of ‘taking action’ to make a difference. Reportedly, the number of allotments across the country reached around 1.75 million following the launch of the ‘Dig for victory’!
Britons Join Your Country’s Army
You’ve definitely saw this poster before! It features the British Secretary of State for War, Lord Kitchener, pointing at the reader above the slogan ‘wants you’. At the time, Lord Horatio Kitchener was a well-known and very respected military leader and statesman to the public — an opinion not necessarily shared by all of his cabinet peers.
When the poster was released in September 1914, millions of men signed up to join the army – meaning that the poster was incredibly successful.
Through designing the poster in such a way, the response was actually what they wanted. The emboldened ‘BRITONS’ text and insertion of ‘God save the king’ were hugely influential in inspiring patriotism, while the image of the pointing Lord Kitchener made the poster seem personal to each viewer as an individual. The call-to-action — ‘Join your country’s army!’ — is also clear and concise, while the use of red is an excellent choice to grab attention.
With the design of this poster and its directness, people felt that they needed to do something to aid the war effort.
Air Raid Shelter warning poster
As you can imagine, air raid shelters was a new concept and there were many of these temporary places of safety all over cities. In fact, up to 300,000 people used underground stations from 1915 onwards!
These posters were usually placed outside of the air raid shelters to inform people what they could take with them in the event of a raid.
Although it was boring in design, it did what it needed to do. Using different-sized fonts, it separates each piece of information into level of importance: the first being that the location is a place for shelter, the second that any injury here is not the fault of anyone but the wounded person, and the last that certain creatures and objects are forbidden.