It often happens that I see a poster where I ask myself "Haven't I seen this before ?". Locating the visual sources for a work of art is a whole branch of art history, and it is an interesting challenge to find the origin of two or more pictures that look remarkably similar.

There are many reasons why different posters may resemble each other:

  • "quotes", paying homage to a classic poster by introducing new elements or placing it in a different context, also called "appropriation", "retro", "remix", "tracing", "paint-over", "fan-art", "ripping", "referencing", "emulation", "sampling" ...

    There is a long discussion in the Typophile blog about where to draw the line between "homage" and "ripoff", and sometime the quoter is severely critized. (Shepard Fairey, Paula Scher ). Lincoln Cushing wrote some guidelines about "Suggested "best practices" for using the graphic artwork of others". Vandelay's blog gives practical tips for taking desing inspiration without copying, with many additional links. "Tracing" is discussed critically in deviantArt.

    If a work is quoted by many, it becomes a "meme", like Fairey's Obama poster which has now reached over 1 million variations, or Rodchenko's Lengiz, or Miller's Rosie, or Flagg's I want you.

  • "parody", joking about another poster
  • a student work in the style of a great master done for practice
  • the works of teachers and their students
  • using the same picture for a different country or language or year, quite common in cinema posters
  • reprints, misprints, different color versions
  • same poster in different formats
  • re-inventing the wheel, i.e. arriving independently at the same solution for a given problem
  • being impressed by a poster, forgetting it, and later thinking it was your own idea
  • re-formulating the same idea differently
  • taking a picture or an idea and placing it in a different context to develop it further. This device is actually one of the most powerful engines of progress. Many of internets most sucessful applications (ebay, amazon, web newspapers) are examples of transplants of traditional concepts into a new environment, and modern science would not be possible if ideas could not be shared.
  • using the picture of a famous person (Che Guevara, Lenin, Uncle Sam, Mickey Mouse) or landmark (the Statue of Liberty, the Muchina monument, the Twin Towers)
  • Fads and fashions in poster design
  • censorship
  • "plagiarism", stealing an idea or a picture and passing it on as your own, hoping that nobody would find out, or care.
  • pure coincidence

Combinations of these reasons and gray areas are also possible and frequent, and usually there is strong disagreement why posters look similar, particularly among those who designed them. I have tried to refrain from any value judgement, please classify the following examples yourself if you think this is necessary.

I know how much it hurts to be plagiarized, and keep a long list of websites that copy Posterpage without asking. But I also see the complete non-sense that current copyright law sometimes produces and the damage it does to visual culture. We live in an exciting but difficult time and still have to learn how to adapt our customs and rules to the rapid technological change. Needless to say, more than just posters are involved.

2006, Photo by Linda Dawn Hammond (Indyfoto) from a pro Lebanon demo in Toronto, found on flickr

2007, Ebuseleme Gülen, Peace to the Middle East

1999, Werner Jeker, environmental poster

2008, poster for an exhibition by Erhard Gruettner and Kan Tai-keung in Hong Kong

1925, Aleksandr Rodchenko, Lengiz, Books on all spheres of knowledge

2000, Markus Dressen, Book poster

2001, Tadanori Yokoo, personal exhibition in Toyama

2004, Anon, street poster in Mexico City

2005, Florine Kammerer, student poster

2005, Jason Reed, music poster

2006, Anon, street poster in Berlin

2008, Shepard Fairey

2008, Amber Wittenberg, theater poster

2008, Anon, record cover

2009, Anon, political poster

2009, Socialdesignzine, political poster

2009, Anon, for a cookie recipe web site

2009, Anon, decorative poster

2009, Anon, political poster

2010, Derek Peabody, self promotion student poster

2010, Addy Silver, student poster

2010, Anon, for a blog about cats

1960, Josef Mueller-Brockmann, Weniger Laerm

2001, Tadanori Yokoo, Art critic is noise

2006, Shepard Fairey, Obey with caution

1988, Vitalii Shostia, (Chernobyl)

1996, Vladimir Chaika, (Chernobyl)

1934, Herbert Matter, Schweiz Winterferien doppelte Ferien

1984, Paula Scher, Swatch

2008, Shepard Fairey, Obama

2008, Anon, Amy Winehouse

2008, Anon, Sarah Palin

2008, Anon, Pope Benedict 16

2008, Anon, Bob Hope
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  • 1891, Jules Alexandre Gruen, Enfin seul, first version

    1891, Jules Alexandre Gruen, Enfin seul, second version

    1975, Franciszek Starowieyski, White marriage

    1987, Peter Pocs, personal exhibition in Stuttgart

    1995, anon (PL), James Bond, Golden Eye

    1995, anon (JP), James Bond, Golden Eye

    1981, anon, movie poster

    1981, anon, movie poster

    1981, anon, movie poster

    1981, anon, movie poster

    1968, Raoul Martinez, Lucia, un film cubano

    1995, Manuel Marzel, music film

    1954, Hans Erni, Atomkrieg Nein

    1963, F.H.K. Henrion, peace poster

    1959, Henryk Tomaszewski, Henry Moore

    2007, Kolia Viatkin, Absolute Tomaszewski
    view more student homage to masters

    1922, A. Sokolov, (Lenin)

    1924, Adolf Strakhov, (Lenin)

    1930, Gustav Klutsis, (Lenin)

    2007, Androt, (Lenin)

    1930, Gustav Klutsis

    1993, Leonid Sokov

    2002, Lin Horng-Jer

    2009, Svend Gregory & Justin Flewitt

    1974, Shigeo Fukuda

    2002, Li Chien-chih

    2002, Leslie Chan Wing-Kei

    2002, Yang Chi-shun

    1942, J. Howard Miller, We can do it! (Rosie the riveter)

    2006, Mica Wright, Up yours, Bush!

    2007, Anon, We can do it!

    2007, Moomoney, We can do it!

    2008, "BoiseNoise", Yes we can

    2008, Anon, Yes we can!

    2009, Sepideh Riahi, We can do it!

    2009, Margarita Sada, Libertad

    2009, Turkeyonastick, Godzilla

    2009, Anon

    2009, Reiley

    2010, Anon, We can kick ass!

    2010, The Open Artist Movement

    2010, Palin greeting card

    2010, Tenqerbell

    2010, Derek Blanks, photo of Kelly Rowland

    2011, Anon, Occupy Victoria

    2011, Rahn Al-Ya?, We can drive

    2011, William Murai, We can do it!

    ?, Anon

    ?, Anon

    ?, Anon, Princess Leia

    ?, Thomas Sullivan, Princess Leia

    ?, Anon

    2000, Nous Travaillons Ensemble, Chaumont Festival poster

    2000, Anon, inofficial festival poster

    1961, Nikolai Tereshchenko, (Lenin)

    ca. 1970, Vladimir Sachkov, (Lenin)

    1979, Otto Kummert, (Lenin)

    1979, Grapus, Exposition d'affiches, Quimper

    2004, Wieslaw Grzegorczyk, Satyrykon

    2007, Anon, Premonition

    2009, Anon, The Goonies

    1896, Ludwig Suetterlin, Berliner Gewerbeausstellung

    1896, Edmund Edel, Alle 5 Barrison singen im Wintergarten

    2009, Zachary Johnson, The Brothers Bloom, movie poster

    1956, Boris Zelenskii, Othello (russian version)

    1957, Boris Zelenskii, artistic movies

    ca. 1956, Boris Zelenskii, Othello (chinese version)

    1998, Lex Drewinski, Homo sapiens?

    2006, El Jefe Design, The Gossip, music poster

    1952, Nikolai Sokolov & Arkadii Intezarov, Keep the military and state secrets strictly

    2008, Logvin Studio, Publicity for the pastry shop "Secrets & Rolls"

    1998, Anon, Bride of Chucky, movie poster

    1999, Fang Chen, We are one

    2005, Anon, Street poster in Basel, Switzerland

    2008, Anon, Benjamin Button, movie poster

    2009, Nikodem Pregowski, exhibition poster

    2001, Kari Piippo, We are them - they are us

    2007, Hector Villaverde, Cultural diversity

    1930, John Heartfield, Kaempft mit uns! Waehlt Kommunisten Liste 4

    1931, Paul Senn, Gegen Krise und Not

    1937, Viktor Koretskii, Privet bortsam protiv fashizma

    1937, Aram Vanetsian, Da zdtravstvuet soiuz ..

    1937, Enric Moneni, Homenatge a la URSS

    ca. 1960, Anon, (polish political poster)

    1977, Gerhard Voigt, Sowjetunion, Pionier des Menschheitsfortschritts

    1988, Iurii Bokser, East Side Story

    ca. 1990, Aleksandr and Svetlana Faldin, Slava sovetskoi zhenshchine truzhenitse

    1984, Werner Jeker & Erwin Blumenfeld, Vogue

    1988, Anon, Fright Night 2

    1941, Irakli Toidze, Rodina Mat (the motherland is calling)

    2004, Andrzej Pagowski, New russian cinema

    ca. 2007, Anon, The River City Rumours (a music group)

    1989, Holger Matthies, Das Liebeskonzil

    2007, Stephan Bundi, Boccaccio

    2007, Pascal Colrat, Vive la Re pudique Francaise

    2001, Alain Le Quernec, personal exhibition poster

    2007, Stephan Bundi, theater poster

    2001, Anon, Paris metro poster

    2008, Anon, True Blood

    2009, Anon, Jennifer's Body

    1917, James Montgomery Flagg, I want you for US Army

    1936, Lorenzo Goni, I tu? (Spanish Civil War)

    1942, Anon, Are you doing all you can?

    1981, Birney Lettick, Paternity (Movie poster)

    1995, Art Chantry, Idiot Flesh (Rock music poster)

    2002, Anon, I want you to invade Iraq

    2007, Shepard Fairey, I'm gonna kick your ass

    2007, Anon, Balls of Fury, movie poster

    2007, Anon, Mr. Woodcock, movie poster

    2009, Anon, Extract, movie poster

    1998, Chen Fang, Victory

    2009, Anon, Peace

    2001, He Jianping, Solidarity

    2009, freedomiran

    2005, Anette Lenz & Vincent Perrottet, theater poster

    2008, Orangetango, opera poster

    c. 1917, H.R. Hopps, war poster

    1935, Anon, movie poster

    1949, Giorgio Olivetti, movie poster

    1958, Anon, movie poster

    1963, G.R. Kareker, movie poster

    2009, Anon, exhibition poster

    2009, Anon, movie poster

    2001, Andrew Lewis, exhibition poster

    2009, Andrew Lewis, poster for a competition about autism

    1989, Lex Drewinski, Racism, Comments

    2009, Lanny Sommese, Iran, Comments

    1970, Olga Polackova-Vyletalova, movie poster

    2007, Anon, movie poster

    2009, Anon, Die Gestalten, catalogue cover

    1980, Rafael Lopez Castro, exhibition poster

    2000, Roslaw Szaybo, theater poster

    2005, Dimitris Arvanitis, exhibition poster

    2009, Anon, ad for camera with face recognition

    ?, Anon (North Korea)

    ?, Anon (North Korea)

    ?, Anon (North Korea)

    ?, Anon (China)

    ?, Anon (China)

    ?, Anon (China)

    1995, Gunter Rambow

    2001, Joze Domjan

    2009, Remi Gombert

    1959, Viggo Vagnby

    2009, Camilla Brodersen

    1996, Vladimir Tsesler & Sergei Voichenko

    2009, Abdul-Naser Wannous

    1914, Julien Lacaze

    1914, Julien Lacaze

    1962, Anon, movie poster

    1966, Fischer-Nosbisch, movie poster

    2008, Anon, movie poster

    c. 1930, Jean Don, golf poster

    1984, Folon, golf poster

    1967, Anon, movie poster

    1981, Anon, movie poster

    1981, Anon, movie poster

    1991, Anon, movie poster

    1992, Anon, movie poster

    2002, Anon, movie poster

    1964, Jan Lenica, theater poster

    2009, Sara Thompson, poster for a lecture

    2001, Luba Lukova, peace poster

    2009, Roberto de Vicq de Cumptich, book cover

    1998, Luba Lukova, theater poster

    2009, Anon, poster for a radio station in Ecuador

    1992, Anon, movie poster

    1992, Anon, movie poster


    home   previous exhibitions  page created on March 26, 2010, last updated on June 4, 2013 / this section is part of Rene Wanner's Poster Page /