How Posters Work

How Posters Work installation

About How Posters Work

On view from May 8, 2015 to Jan. 17, 2016

As a medium of communication, the poster has a long history and a wide range of social functions, from selling a product to promoting a cause. Despite the rise of digital media, the print poster remains a vital and oftentimes radical form of visual communication.

Featuring rarely-seen posters from Cooper Hewitt’s permanent collection, How Posters Work demonstrates how some of the world’s most creative designers have employed and pushed the boundaries of two-dimensional design, harnessed the mechanics and psychology of perception, and  mastered the art of storytelling to produce powerful acts of visual communication. Many of the posters on view are the work of revered American designers, such as Paul Rand, Ivan Chermayeff, and Milton Glaser. The exhibition also includes a large number of prominent contemporary designers, as well as posters created by unknown designers.

The exhibition dissects the designers’ creative uses of design principles and visual expression to underscore the significance of a designer’s and the viewer’s eye to the design process.



The exhibition is accompanied by a 224-page catalog, published by Cooper Hewitt, which serves as a rich primer in visual thinking. List price: $29.95. Order your copy.


Explore all the objects in the exhibition through our online collection interface.

Demystifying Graphic Design: A Skillshare Class with Curator Ellen Lupton

An Online Skillshare Class by Ellen Lupton

How Posters Work is made possible by major support from

Additional funding is provided by the Consulate General of Switzerland in New York and the Dutch Culture USA program by the Consulate General of the Netherlands in New York.