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Graphic Design in American History

Graphic Design in American History

Memorable design that conveys a clears message, brand identity, and/or call to action is a hallmark of almost all “good” branding and advertising material. Done well, a logo or advertising campaign can help build a business worth billions of dollars. Iconic designs and campaigns can become culturally ingrained, keeping the associated brands relevant long after the design work has fallen out of use. In fact, good design work is so powerful that it can help win wars and bring nations together. In honor of Independence Day, we’d like to take a look at two instances when graphic design and marketing transcended money to achieve something bigger.

Graphic Design in Colonial America

One of the most well-known political cartoons from the American colonies is “Join, or Die”, usually attributed to Benjamin Franklin. It depicts a snake divided into 8 segments, with each named for a colony or group of colonies (all of New England is represented by a single segment, and Georgia is excluded). Though the cartoon was originally intended to promote colonial unity in the Seven Years’ War, it was later widely adopted by colonists during the Revolution and endures as a symbol of that struggle to this day—and it all comes down to good design work.

The graphic representation of a snake severed into 8 distinct segments named for the colonies immediately and clearly communicated the message that if domestic political differences got in the way of unity against the crown, our fledgling nation would be as a dead as a snake hacked to pieces. It also conveyed the idea that, together, the colonies were like a snake—something to be feared and treated with respect, not toyed with. Without that cartoon—and others like it—to enforce the idea that they were stronger together and powerful enough to succeed as an independent nation, the United States may not exist as we know it today.

Graphic Design in World War II 

Perhaps one of the most well-known instances of graphic design bringing our nation together was World War II. Countless designs from the era—the “We Can Do It!” poster that found new life in the 1980s, the “I Want You for the U.S. Army” poster featuring an image of Uncle Sam, “Loose Talk Can Cost Lives” posters that cautioned Americans with knowledge of the war effort to watch what they said in public—have become icons in their own right. Others successfully encouraged civilians to buy war bonds and ration scarce goods so that the military was adequately supplied. Memorable, clear designs helped us coalesce around supporting our military, our allies, and one another.

At IDMI.Net, we understand the power and history of solid design. We look to forward without forgetting the past and the giants whose shoulders we stand on today. To our friends and extended family, happy Independence Day. To the men and women who have served or are currently serving in our military, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

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