Michigan State University

Radicalism Posters Collection (MSS 431)

Special Collections’ Radicalism Poster Collection (MSS 431) includes 288 posters from U.S. social movements and activist groups, primarily from the 1960s and 1970s. The posters chosen for digitization illustrate three common graphic strategies of that period.

Deskilling refers to the creation of communication pieces by non-designers using very basic tools: typewriter, scissors, and glue. Hand-lettered headlines, or headlines composed of letters cut from newspapers, are common examples of deskilling, as in the poster "Smash ROTC!" The use of fonts which resemble handwriting, seen in the poster “Not All the Prisoners Are Home” might be considered an imitation of deskilling, which had come to have associations with authenticity.

Montage is a collage technique drawn from the fine arts. Many small images, cut from numerous sources, are combined into a much larger whole; the small images then reinforce the overall message. The poster “Nov 3 Elections Are a Hoax!” is a fine example of montage, in this case used to add depth to the portrayal of protesters.

Détournement , a French word meaning “hijacking,” denotes the practice of using a well-known symbol in a satirical context which challenges its meaning. The posters “Listen Brother, I Want You Dead” and “We Want You” both use James Montgomery Flagg’s symbol of American patriotism, Uncle Sam, to criticize the U.S. government.

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Or start with these randomly selected posters from the collection.