Visual Memoranda—The IBM Poster Program: 1969-1979

Archival Research, Exhibition, and Digital Restoration

In the years following World War II, Thomas J. Watson Jr., president of IBM, sought to elevate the company’s image as a forward-thinking, technologically-advanced organization by hiring world-renowned design consultants, among whom included Eliot Noyes, Charles and Ray Eames, and Paul Rand to lead strategic design efforts.

As a creative extension of Rand’s influence, IBM-Boulder graphic designers Ken White, John Anderson, and Tom Bluhm developed a poster program in the late 1960’s as a platform for elevating internal communications and initiatives within the company. These poster designs represent some of the most creative examples of mid-century corporate graphic design, while offering a unique commentary into corporate employee communications of the period. They also showcase the full extent to which Thomas J. Watson Jr.’s mantra, “Good Design is Good Business” permeated every facet of the IBM organization.

SIGD faculty Robert Finkel (Graphic Design) and Shea Tillman (Industrial Design) began the archival research on these posters following the gift of over 100 originals from former IBM designers John Stram and Tom Bluhm. Research efforts have included conducting contextual interviews with those involved with the designs, documenting the credits and background stories, developing a website gallery and an exhibition of the original silkscreen and offset lithograph posters, and the digital restoration and assimilation into IBM Corporate Archives located in Poughkeepsie, New York. The exhibition entitled ‘Visual Memoranda – The IBM Poster Program: 1969-1979’ was exhibited at Auburn’s Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art in 2018, and in New York at The Type Director’s Club and IBM’s offices in Greenwich Village in 2019. The collection can be viewed online at the following link: https://www.visualmemoranda.com

Courtesy of International Business Machines Corporation, © International Business Machines Corporation. Research and exhibition made possible by a grant by the College of Architecture, Design, and Construction.

Related people:
Shea Tillman, Robert Finkel