Poster - Environmental Awareness Week - National Museum of Natural History. Record Unit 503, Smithsonian Institution Archives. Image courtesy of Mitch Toda.

Design + Archives: Posters

Posters at the Smithsonian feature a wide range of exhibitions and programs, each with a design that is visually intriguing and purposeful in conveying information.

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Exhibition poster - "Today and Tomorrow in Space: Paintings and Drawings by Robert McCall" - Arts & Industries Building, 1970. Record Unit 503, Smithsonian Institution Archives. Image courtesy of Mitch Toda.

Poster - Environmental Awareness Week - National Museum of Natural History. Record Unit 503, Smithsonian Institution Archives. Image courtesy of Mitch Toda.

Exhibition poster - Poster competition to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Peace Corps, National Museum of Natural History, 1971. Record Unit 503, Smithsonian Institution Archives. Image courtesy of Mitch Toda.

Poster - Photographic competition sponsored by the Black Womens League, National Collection of Fine Arts, 1971. Record Unit 503, Smithsonian Institution Archives. Image courtesy of Mitch Toda.

Exhibition poster - "Contemporary Black American Artists", Arts & Industries Building, 1969. Record Unit 503, Smithsonian Institution Archives. Image courtesy of Mitch Toda.

Exhibition poster - "Field to Factory: Afro-American Migration, 1915-1940" - National Museum of American History, 1987. Accession 15-199, Smithsonian Institution Archives. Image courtesy of Mitch Toda.

Exhibition poster - "Duke Ellington: American Musician" - National Museum of American History, 1989. Accession 15-199, Smithsonian Institution Archives. Image courtesy of Mitch Toda.

Exhibition poster - "The Indomitable Major John Wesley Powell: Scientific Explorer of the American West" - National Museum of Natural History, 1969. Record Unit 503, Smithsonian Institution Archives. Image courtesy of Mitch Toda.

Exhibition poster - "1876: A Centennial Exhibition" - Arts & Industries Building, 1976. Record Unit 551, Smithsonian Institution Archives. Image courtesy of Mitch Toda.

Exhibition poster - "A More Perfect Union: Japanese Americans and the U.S. Constitution" - National Museum of American History, 1987. Accession 15-199, Smithsonian Institution Archives. Image courtesy of Mitch Toda.

Advertising poster - Radio Smithsonian. Record Unit 503, Smithsonian Institution Archives. Image courtesy of Mitch Toda.

Adverting poster - National Zoo. Record Unit 503, Smithsonian Institution Archives. Image courtesy of Mitch Toda.

There are an enormous number of talented designers, both past and present, who contribute to the visual richness found in the exhibits, books, brochures, educational guides, catalogs, websites, and signage at the Smithsonian. Yet despite the public nature of their work, the designers behind what the public sees remain mostly unknown since much of their work is unsigned and unattributed. With enough research, it is usually possible to determine who the designers are; case in point, I was able to figure out who designed the star logo for the National Collection of Fine Arts (now Smithsonian American Art Museum). It would be a wonderful thing if Smithsonian designers were more personally recognized, as their work plays an integral part in how visitors experience the Smithsonian. I do not want to speak for the designers, but perhaps how they think about their work can be conveyed in the following quote from graphic designer Saul Bass:

I want to make beautiful things, even if nobody cares, as opposed to ugly things. That's my intent.

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