Travel Posters

See America.

There is something about the style of classic travel posters from the 1930’s that feels timeless, and classic. The reduced color pallets, and posterized style of the illustrations make you want to get out and explore far away and exotic spaces. Illustrator Steven Thomas created a number of Travel posters in his  See America series for the  Print Collection. The posters are done in that same classic spirit of travel posters from years gone by. The imagery and style feels vintage and still manages to feel fresh and inviting. With the first day of summer just two weeks away, these make me want to get out and see the great expanse of the American landscape.

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Design Friday, Ilustrator David Klein.

There is a certain quality that can only be achieved by using traditional media in illustration. A softness, or naturalness that is hard to duplicate with digital tools no matter how good you are. I work on a computer everyday, in programs like Photoshop, and Illustrator, After Effects and Flash. No matter how long I have been using these digital tools, there are certain looks I simply can’t get unless I go back to the traditional mediums I was trained in. I think that is why I am so drawn to David Klein’s illustrations. This prolific illustrator was everywhere when I was growing up. His images appearing in so many locations they are time stamped on my mind. The thing is though, as I revisited them for todays Design Friday post, there was something about the natural quality of gauche, ink, pencil, and silk screen that struck a chord with me.

Illustrator David Klein was born in El Paso, Texas in February of 1918. in He moved to California in 1938 where he attended the Art Center School [later renamed the Art Center College of Design] in Los Angeles.

Early on during the 1930s, Klein was an active member of the California Watercolor Society. This group often chose to paint watercolors depicting scenes of everyday life in the cities and suburbs of California. One of the key factors was that they painted directly with little or no preliminary pencil drawings, and used paper as a ‘color’ in a new and creative way.

In 1941 Klein, like so many other Americans joined the army. During his service,  he illustrated numerous army manuals and technical documents. In 1947, the United States Air Force received more than 800 works of art from the United States Army and in 1953, in conjunction with the Society of Illustrators, in which Klein was a long-time member, the Air Force Art Program was formed. This collection features numerous works by Klein, some of which went on to be exhibited at the Smithsonian Institute.

In 1946 Klein relocated to New York City and settled in Brooklyn Heights, where he would live for the next 60 years. By 1947, Klein was working as an art director at Clifford Strohl Associates, a theatrical advertising agency. Through this connection Klein quickly became the illustrator of choice for many of Broadway’s best-known shows of the period. Klein’s posters and window cards from this period include: Death of a Salesman, Brigadoon, Most Happy Fella, The Music Man, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. This body of work remains one of the enduring hallmarks of this golden age of Broadway.

What Klein might be best known for though is his influential work in the field of travel advertising. During the 1950s and 1960s, Klein designed and illustrated dozens of posters for Trans World Airlines (TWA). Through his use of bright flat color, abstract style, and international style layouts, Klein defined the state of poster art of the period. In 1957 a TWA poster of New York City became part of the permanent collection of the MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) in New York. These works are much imitated and to this day define the excitement and enthusiasm of the early years of post-war air travel. They defined the Jet Set style and have become iconic.

In 1967, Klein’s cutting edge illustration for First National City Bank of New York (Citibank) won a Printing Industries of American National Graphics Award as well as an award from the Society of Illustrators. It was Klein use of overlays, and transparent colored acetates to create a series of animal prints made from geometric shapes that created the award-winning work. First National City Bank used these images in numerous displays, signs and campaigns over the next 5 years. The images were so successful that they were the produced as sets which were sold, ready for framing, right at its many New York branches.

Klein continued to work commercially up until the end of his life. In his 70s, Klein returned to his artistic roots, focusing his creativity on watercolors. The work from this later period in his life is the result of his travels in the U.S. and in Europe and features rural, natural scenes as well as architectural studies of buildings in Europe, particularly Venice. This work. Examples of Klein’s early and later watercolors are in the permanent collection of the Department of Interior’s Museum in Washington D.C.

Below is a series of images from some of Klein’s most defining work.

Japanese Travel Posters from the 1900’s.

I’m waiting for a very, very large HD video file to download from a FTP server tonight. This gives me loads of opportunity to surf the internet, and find things while actually waiting to get to work. Well actually get back to work. None the less I stumbled on this French website earlier tonight while doing some research on travel posters for another project.

These Japanese travel posters from the turn of the 20th century are absolutely wonderful for so many reasons. What I really like about them is the way they combine traditional Japanese cultural matter with a very western style of design and painting aesthetics. In some of them, there is something that is just a bit off, like the illustrator was purposefully trying to make the figures features look more western, even thought the women are in traditional kimonos. Then there is the additional symbology that shows up in almost every poster, the flowers. I love it, sumo wrestlers, winged birds, women in kimonos, men in suits…

Beyond that they are beautifully illustrated, and the layouts are absolutely classic for travel posters of the time.

Let’s Go On Vacation.

Not so long ago, before TV or the internet, travel was usually advertised with posters and brochures that were distributed through your travel agent. These items were designed to create a sense of atmosphere, and excitement based on the perceived exotic qualities of the location. The images and illustrations were set to create a mood and atmosphere that would give a feeling as to what you might encounter, but romanticized, and finessed in a way that is hard to describe. When I see these kinds of images, there is a certain level of simplicity that in many ways feels like the romantic visions of classic Disney cartoons, or Hollywood movies from the 30’s and 40’s where everything is perfect, everyone is happy, and there is a kind of Utopian atmosphere. I love old travel posters and the people at Poster Team have a huge collection that is also for sale. I just wish they had some higher resolution images so I could see more detail in them.

One last note, if you are ever in Kansas City, go to Le Fou Frog and check out the “Peureux” poster they have. It’s an original that is about 7 feet tall.