- Title: Design For Victory: World War II Posters On The American Home Front
- Authors: William L. Bird, Jr. and Harry R. Rubenstein
- Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press
- Release Date: June 1998
- Paperback, 120 pages
- My Rating: 4/5 stars
If you’re looking for high-quality images of iconic World War II posters, this book delivers. A must-see for anyone interested in mass media, advertising/marketing, and graphic design. And a good fit for our Twitter culture this Veteran’s Day weekend.
I have always been interested in this era, because my Grandfather served in the Navy during World War II. But this book resonates today, especially with the wars going on in Iraq and Afghanistan, and how they are “marketed” to the American people back at home in the age of 24/7 news media. The parallels? Fascinating… Especially when you consider that this book was published in 1998, pre-dating both of these military actions. Funny how so little in American cultural psychology has changed in sixty-plus years.
But what truly sets Design For Victory apart from other collections are the writings of historians Bird and Rubenstein. Their strong written arguments are backed up by visual evidence right on the same page, which is a format I definitely prefer over more “serious” books on visual media with the graphics included in grainy black and white as endnotes to each chapter. Bird and Rubenstein not only write about a visual medium, but their analysis becomes a visual medium all on its own. It has a beautiful way of folding in upon itself, like a mobius strip. In particular, their analysis of class and gender really sparkle. Everything from the mother and daughter (notably not the son) canning food for the winter — a poster I definitely plan to feature on the next Wordless Wednesday — to the iconic Rosie The Riveter gets examined.
I’m not easily impressed by these types of books. Too common they’re coffee table fluff, designed to be pretty, but never to be read or analyzed beyond the cover. (The Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum’s offering, Fly Now!, comes to mind as an example of this waste.) Design For Victory is the rare exception, and I hope you all will check it out.