WEB POSTER PAPER - How to predict gold medal winners?
Abstract :
A method to rank poster designers and other poster related questions is proposed using the search machine Google. It is illustrated with numerous examples.



Google, Google on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?

The quote above refers to the famous mirror consulted by the evil queen in the fairy tale Snow White and the seven dwarfs. We all would like to have such a magic device to tell us who is best, and preferably, that it is us.

On the assumption that gold medals in poster competitions will go to the best designers, the next question to ask is: Who are they and how can we find out? The well known search machine Google is such a magic mirror, and I have done some research in what it could tell us about posters and poster designers.

The origin of this method, called citation analysis, goes back to the 1970's and it has been used successfully in the natural sciences to predict Nobel Prize winners, and to distribute Soros grant money. It's basic idea is to look at the scientific literature and see how often somebody is quoted in the articles of his peers. This was found to be more reliable than just counting the number of somebody's publications.

The method was of course controversial, there were endless discussions whether "popular" also means "best" and so on, and it also required enormous library and computing resources.

One day, it occurred to me that the Internet search machine Google is reported to pay particular attention to web sites to which links from other sites are pointing, and so we have in fact the whole "quotation counting machinery" already implemented and available at our fingertips, free and instant.

Explanation of the method for a test case: 3 swiss poster designers

Who has most entries in Google? As I did not want to check out all swiss designers, I just arbitrarily picked 3 top people and looked them up in Google: Imboden, Jeker and Troxler.

There are so many Imbodens and Troxlers living in Switzerland, that I had to include their given name, in between quotes (for a discussion of Google syntax see their advanced search tips). There were still politicians and tennis players among the results, which I filtered out using poster as an additional search term, so that the final search expression for our example then looks like that:

Here is the result, sorted for the number of web sites found:

Niklaus Troxler 200
Werner Jeker 47
Melchior Imboden 40

Of course, it is entirely possible that somebody with even more Google points than Troxler can be found. Google can not by itself suggest those with most points, but if I propose some names, it can tell me whom it considers most popular among them.

As the ranking of the list agreed more or less with my perception of the international standing of these artists, I felt sufficiently encouraged to try to rank more, using the same simple principle.

Ranking poster designers in various countries


Toulouse-Lautrec 41000
Alphonse Mucha 5830
Cassandre 2630
Jules Cheret 2060
Paul Colin 1440
Raymond Savignac 146
Alain Le Quernec 122
Philippe Apeloig 100


Jan Lenica 2710
Waldemar Swierzy 2690
Henryk Tomaszewski 2650
Roman Cieslewicz 2540
Mieczyslaw Wasilewski 2400

While the high quality of the polish poster is well known, the magnitude of these numbers compared to those of other countries needs further study.


Ludwig Hohlwein 810
Gunter Rambow 210
Lucian Bernhard 191
Uwe Loesch 151
Julius Klinger 88


Milton Glaser 1210
Ben Shahn 843
Seymour Chwast 463
Edward Penfield 345
Paula Scher 209


Kazumasa Nagai 264
Ikko Tanaka 210
Tadanori Yokoo 180
Shigeo Fukuda 168
Yusaku Kamekura 94

Other alphabets

I have tried the method with cyrillic text, where it works well (see the example below for Andrei Logvin):

and also with chinese text (see the example below for Wang Xu), where it does not work: No results are returned as soon as the filter "poster" is added.

Content of posters

Poster designers and poster subjects

It is always a good idea to include Pablo Picasso as a test person when playing around with models like these. His poster work is relatively limited in quantity, and the bulk of what is commonly called "Picasso poster" consists of reproductions of his paintings, often produced by art dealers long after his death.

One would therefore not expect a very high ranking of Picasso when compared to other poster designers, but the opposite is true, he is second only to Toulouse-Lautrec!

The reason becomes clear when we include other famous painters, and the table below reminds us of the millions of Mona Lisa posters on the market. The posters were certainly not designed by Leonardo, but they have as subject a painting made by him.

The result below is also of some concern for the Google poster ranking theory: If it can not distinguish between author and content of a poster, we must conclude that Leonardo will sweep the Warsaw, Brno, Toyama and Mexico poster competitions easily next year ..


Leonardo da Vinci 51900
Vincent van Gogh 30600
Pablo Picasso 28000
Marc Chagall 16000

I leave the pleasure of comparing Louis Armstrong, Elvis and Mozart to the reader, and also Potter, Chaplin and Bogart, but can not resist to check out some other celebrities:


Marilyn Monroe 81200
Brigitte Bardot 41900
Claudia Schiffer 39800
Snow White 20000


Mao Tse-tung 80600
Che Guevara 39800
George W. Bush 26400
Vladimir Putin 2100

Remember, we are only talking about posters here! And the numbers keep changing almost every day. There is no reason to start a war simply because somebody may not like his poster ranking.

Further applications of Google poster ranking

Spelling checker

You are not quite sure how to spell Leonetto Cappiello, and he is not in your spelling directory? Try Google poster ranking :

Leonetto Cappiello 4960
Leonetto Capiello 27
Leonetto Cappielo 2

The meaning of life

The hard times have almost brought you to your knees, and you are no longer sure what are the most important things in life? Let Google poster ranking tell you :

Posters 223000
Money 200000
Sex 187000
Hard work 96300
Paying taxes 1710

Any theory that produces these insights can not be all that bad.

Conclusions Google poster ranking is a quick, free, and powerful tool to rank poster designers that requires no training in graphic design, no esthetic judgement, nor detailed knowledge of the artists work. In addition, the technique can be used to assess the popularity of a wide range of topics connected with posters, for example poster content, and to easily monitor their development in time. Extension to other topics than posters seems possible and easy.

Rene Wanner
(Google poster points: 808)

home   previous exhibitions    page created on January 19, 2003 / this section is part of Rene Wanner's Poster Page /