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Susanna Vagt Jennifer Magathan RISD 2009

Efficient as it was, this process, renamed “Serigraphy” by Velonis himself, created a very different aesthetic than the painstaking posters of earlier times. The formal elements of the posters are far from impressive: limited color, small size, and uncomplicated shapes of color. One might have thought these limitations would stunt the creative process, but instead it nurtured a definitive style. The fast-paced nature of WPA poster making forced designers to think collaboratively and very quickly. The government guidelines of each poster project were also less strict than the typical commercial companies, which prompted designers to take high risks. Those, like Richard Floethe, a harbinger of the WPA style, who had studied at the Bauhaus and other Modernist/Cubist education, felt free to apply daring new ideas in simplicity and boldness. As a result, posters created for the WPA in 1935 melded high aesthetic standards with the dry and traditional

was to promote the campaigns of New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia. These initial creations were hand-painted in small number. That ponderous approach changed when a graduate of NYU’s Fine Art School, Anthony Velonis, came on board. Velonis had worked as a commercial artist and schooled introduced the silkscreen method. With this practice, a single person could create 600 posters in one day. To educate all designers, Velonis wrote and distributed a standard issue booklet on the silkscreen process and predicted: “The silkscreen process…will undoubtedly play an important role in the future of the arts.”

Posters for the People: The Art of the WPA by Ennis Carter

A Guide To Chicago’s Murals by Mary Lackritz Gray

Posters of the WPA by Christopher DeNoon

practice of poster making. This aesthetic remained daring long after FAP dissolved and encroached onto the world of practical arts many years later. Within three years, in 1938, the designers of the WPA began to be commissioned broadly. Community Centers, Band Concerts, the Federal Theatre Project even large cities like Chicago asked for beautiful and experimental endorsements of their own. As many as 35,000 individual designs were crafted during this golden era of design. At the onset of World War II, WPA funding was withdrawn, and finally ceased in 1942. But a distinctive American style had been forged, and one that would continue to influence and free commercial art principles. Not only that, a new value was placed on experimentation, the silkscreen aesthetic, loose guidelines, the assymetrical format, tension-filled placement, and simple message.

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Profile for Jennifer Magathan

RISD Portfolio  

Student work, teaching portfolio from the Rhode Island School of Design

RISD Portfolio  

Student work, teaching portfolio from the Rhode Island School of Design