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Comments (14) Posted 05.06.08 | PERMALINK | PRINT

The Editors

Chicago International Poster Biennial

Chicago International Poster Biennial, poster design by Yann Legendre, 2008

Posters, so beloved by graphic designers everywhere, have never felt at home in the United States. The European poster tradition, from Toulouse-Lautrec to Cassandre to Muller-Brockmann to Matthies to Troxler, has given us the profession's defining icons. American posters, by contrast, have never enjoyed as confident or ubiquitous a street presence. Consider the memorable products of San Francisco's psychedelic era, for instance, or Art Chantry's output on behalf of the northwest music scene, great images but tactical moves designed for display on telephone poles or behind shop windows.

Yet even in the face of relentless competition from the even more ephemeral world of new media, posters continue to obsess us. And that obsession has a new home in the American heartland: the First Chicago International Poster Biennial. Design Observer is pleased to be an official sponsor. The deadline is May 27, so read on...

The Chicago International Poster Biennial is a not-for profit organization established to promote visual literacy, multiculturalism, and international cooperation through the poster work of artists from around the world.

Contemporary posters published within the last two years are eligible for the competition and may be submitted by any poster designer in the world with no entry fee. Physical entries must be received in Chicago no later than May 27, 2008. Entry guidelines and submission instructions are here.

A world-renowned jury of 11 poster designers will select 100 winners. Three artists will receive medals, and one will be awarded the grand prize in the form of a gold medal.

John Massey, jury chair, will be leading an impressive group of international jurors that includes Michel Bouvet of France, Shigeo Fukuda of Japan, Yossi Lemel of Israel, Alfred Halasa of Canada, German Montalvo of Mexico, Yann Legendre and Jay Ryan of Chicago, and Luba Lukova, Lanny Sommese and Martin Venezky, also of the United States. More about the jury is here.

Concurrent with judging of the competition, a gala opening of the jury exhibition will be held June 7 in Mies Van der Rohe's landmark Crown Hall at Chicago's Illinois Institute of Technology . A larger exhibition of the winning entries will be mounted in Chicago in the fall of 2008.

The International Council of Graphic Design Associations (icograda) has endorsed this first Chicago poster competition. While icograda endorses many such open competitions around the world, this will be the first event of its kind held in the United States.

Official sponsors and partners include Design Observer, Society of Typographic Arts, Graphic Arts Studio, Handler Thayer & Duggan LLC, JCDecaux, Mohawk Fine Papers, STEP Inside Design Magazine, Tanagram Partners and World Business Chicago.
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Comments (14)   |   JUMP TO MOST RECENT COMMENT >>

Looks interesting. Will the results be shared online do you know?
05.07.08 at 12:36

"Entries can be no smaller than 16.5 × 23.4 inches (42 × 59.4 cm) or larger than 47 × 71 inches (120 × 180 cm)."
"Only printed posters by offset methods or silkscreen prints will be accepted."

Too bad the rules are holding to these qualifications. Many great underground posters don't even make it to these production methods or at these sizes, as smaller venues and promoters can't afford to produce their advertisements by these methods.

I'm thinking of many great grunge and punk and hardcore and indie rock posters over the years that have been produced on 8.5" x 11" or 11" x 17" sheets passed through a photocopier.
05.07.08 at 01:02

Entries can be no smaller than 16.5 × 23.4 inches (42 × 59.4 cm) or larger than 47 × 71 inches (120 × 180 cm).

Given those specs, the rolled up print in the hot dog bun on the show poster would be too small for submission.

Doug Bartow
05.07.08 at 05:31

I agree with Steven, I was thinking of submitting some show posters until the dimensions stopped me in my tracks.

Also, by requiring a TIFF are they ruling out posters that weren't designed digitally or would photographs suffice?
05.08.08 at 03:18

"Posters, so beloved by graphic designers everywhere, have never felt at home in the United States."

What about the great WWI and WWII recruiting and cautionary posters? And movie posters? I think you're not going back far enough.
05.08.08 at 04:41

To answer the most popular question regarding entry sizes and printing methods, I can say that this issue was debated at length by the CIPBA board, but in the end, we felt that in this inaugural event, it would be best to stick with the rules format of all of the other icograda-endorsed poster biennials throughout the world. We even asked one of the most celebrated underground rock poster designers in Chicago for his opinion, and he agreed we should not change the rules for this first edition of the Chicago Biennial. There has been one case so far, however, where the jury president has made a special consideration for a designer in Amsterdam who prints large format laser printed posters for a museum. Since they are produced in quantity, are of a very high quality, and are commissioned by a client, the entries were accepted. Special requests will definitely be considered.

An important issue to consider is that the Chicago Biennial is attempting to bring international poster design out into the broad daylight of public scrutiny. The winners will not be exhibited in a museum but outside, in a large public park. So we are trying to take a step beyond celebrating underground poster "art" for a small audience and, instead, would like posters to be seen as a viable, available, and powerful form of communication art.

Concerning the history of poster design in the USA, it is certainly true that great posters have been designed here in the past and, at times, in the present. But it is impossible to argue the reality that while contemporary poster design is alive and well throughout Europe, Asia, and South America, posters are a form of communication that thrives in the US mostly in vintage poster shops and museum archives... or hawking iPods on billboards.
Lance Rutter
05.10.08 at 10:01

Also, by requiring a TIFF are they ruling out posters that weren't designed digitally or would photographs suffice?

Photographs or scans of high quality submitted as a digital file are allowed for posters not created on a computer.
Lance Rutter
05.10.08 at 10:06

The contention I take with the rules is not really the exclusion of the underground poster movement r community (though that is a concern since they are one of the primary groups keeping the medium alive and relevant) but with the old world view of legitimacy — that of being only commissioned work printed by traditional methods.

It's just a very myopic viewpoint, especially at a time when the poster medium is both in a renaissance and on the precipice of irrelevance (they win all the awards and everyone loves them but not many people actually see them applied in the real world).

By excluding certain sizes and low quantity but legitimate methods of reproduction (giclée and archival ink jet) I feel the decision was an overly safe one, not one that aimed at really looking at the future of the poster and celebrating powerful communication in all it's poster forms.
05.12.08 at 11:10

It's just a very myopic viewpoint, especially at a time when the poster medium is both in a renaissance and on the precipice of irrelevance (they win all the awards and everyone loves them but not many people actually see them applied in the real world).

What is myopic more than the design profession's happy acceptance of competitions that are singularly focused on selling annuals to the design community? You're right in that "not many people actually see them applied in the real world." That's the problem. True relevance will return only with hard work--the kind of work that forces us to speak strongly and publicly about the value of ideas and artistry, not about methods or technology. A plea for posters has to start somewhere, and this initiative to bring a world view of what posters can be is a good one. I prefer to focus on this event's potential, not brush value aside and jump straight to its flaws. The rules can easily be changed from one competition to the next. As I mentioned before, the jury is willing to make concessions based on sound reasoning, but that reasoning will not be found justified if the argument goes no further than the fact that there was no budget to actually print the poster. I'm sure designers with these concerns will always be able to find a competition willing to accept their entries.
Lance Rutter
05.12.08 at 01:16

No letterpress?
Bennett Holzworth
05.12.08 at 01:51

How is it possible that AIGA Chicago isn't pushing this event in every way possible? This is such a great opportunity to promote graphic design not only in Chicago but the U.S. Those are some amazing judges attending. I didn't even know about this exciting event until Design Observer posted it. Thanks for the heads up, D.O.!
05.12.08 at 03:07

Lance, Is letterpress really not allowed or is that just an oversight? Seems like the CIPB is discounting an important segment of poster design (historic and current). I don't understand why one would include silkscreen and not letterpress. If you want to not allow short runs, then just make a minimum run requirement, don't discount a specific medium.
Bennett Holzworth
05.13.08 at 11:44

This is an amazing opportunity for designers to showcase their work and be graciously awarded for it. It also gives the public an inside eye into the design world. If you'd like to know more about finding the perfect paper to compliment your designs visit
05.13.08 at 12:08

Yes, letterpress posters will be accepted into the competition. Thanks for asking.
Lance Rutter
05.13.08 at 03:23

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Design Observer is edited by Michael Bierut, William Drenttel, Jessica Helfand, Julie Lasky and Nancy Levinson. William Drenttel is Editorial Director and Publisher.
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