Design Faculty Publish Book on Iconic IBM Posters
Famed graphic designer Paul Rand was the driving force behind the development of IBM’s famous logo and visual identity. Faculty members Shea Tillman and Robert Finkel of Auburn’s School of Industrial and Graphic Design (SIGD) discovered that the three designers who worked under Rand also deserved credit for the company’s striking internal corporate communications. Finkel and Tillman’s newly published book, entitled “The IBM Poster Program; Visual Memoranda,” tells the story of this design team and shares illustrations of their work.
A major force in the corporate world in the late 1960s, IBM had a quarter of a million employees in dozens of countries creating the most technologically advanced computers for business. Designers Ken White, John Anderson and Tom Bluhm were responsible for the creation of a poster program to be used for internal communications at IBM. These innovative posters, displayed in the halls of IBM campuses around the world, covered a variety of workplace-related topics. With bold colors, creative typefaces and hand-drawn illustrations, the posters are examples of midcentury corporate graphic design at its finest. Because they were originally intended only for internal communications, IBM did not archive this work. Finkel and Tillman have worked closely with IBM to recover, restore and digitize the posters, and thanks to the generosity of several former IBM employees, SIGD now has a permanent collection of over 100 posters.
In 2018, Finkel and Tillman curated a show at Auburn’s Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art featuring 20 of the posters. Finkel designed a gallery website which attracted media coverage and lead to a 2019 exhibition at Type Directors Club in New York City. Finkel and Tillman began to receive requests from visitors to both the museum and the website to publish the school’s collection of posters, and the idea for the book was born.
“The IBM Poster Program: Visual Memoranda” includes a detailed look into the relationship between the three designers as well as excerpts from interviews Tillman did with Bluhm and IBM staff photographer Rodger Ewy, who contributed photographs to many of the posters in the collection. The book showcases 111 full-color poster illustrations, organized into 15 categories of topics including extracurricular events, sustainability, health and safety and professional development. Finkel and Tillman’s book is available now on the publisher’s website or for pre-order on Amazon.com.
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Robert Finkel, Shea Tillman