Sixth Annual Poster Design Awards Winners

Here’s your chance to learn from the successes—and mistakes—of three seasoned and talented designers. Moira Cullen, Joel Templin and Terry Marks join moderator John Foster to discuss lessons learned over the years & the things they wish they’d known when they began their careers.

John Foster, principal and superintendent of Bad People Good Things LLC, had his work cut out for him as judge of HOW’s Sixth Annual Poster Design Competition & Awards.

john“It’s always difficult judging to a set number,” he says. “You always have a few deserving pieces that just miss the cut, and the battle for those last spots can take twice as long as the entire judging process had up until that moment. When I’m writing books, or as is the case with most of my other judging assignments, you stop at the point where the quality drops off from the truly elite projects. Locked in at ten meant that I could zero in on the top 40 pretty easily. The separation there was pretty evident, and taking a fresh appraisal, I could see how to chop that into a final 20. But getting that 20 into 10 was painful! One of the toughest design decisions I have ever had to make was narrowing this field.”

Seeing as Foster is a world-renowned designer, illustrator, author and speaker on design issues, as well as an expert on poster design, that’s saying a lot.

After Foster selected the top 10, the readers of had the opportunity to select the Reader’s Choice Award Winner, which will be featured in an upcoming issue of HOW magazine. We’re excited to announce that you’ve chosen the AIGA—Design for Good/American Red Cross posters as the winner!

“I do want to say that a few entries that did not make the final 10 really impressed me and made me wish there were a few additional spots,” Foster says. “Two in particular are worth mentioning, for very different reasons. Santa Fe University of Art and Design produced a number of amazing entries, with several in the final 40 and two in the final 20. I wish one had made the final cut and been able to represent what was an eye-opening offering of work from one program. The other was the in-house team at Starz, who are knocking out really brilliant commercially focused posters. For the posters with the most likely restrictions on the client side, they were really doing some amazing work, and I wish I could have found a place to recognize that.

“However, these ten entries [below] just would not be denied and have rightfully earned their spots before you. All for different reasons,” Foster continues. “I hope you visually enjoy each and every one of them as much as I have.”

The HOW team hopes so too. So sit back and soak in the creative inspiration. Maybe you’ll even get the urge to tackle your own poster design that could make waves in next year’s design contests.

The Poster Design Awards Reader’s Choice Best of Show: AIGA—Design For Good / American Red Cross Posters

FirmLewis Communications
Creative Team: Roy Burns, III
Client: AIGA
Judge’s Comments: “Lewis Communications had a number of really strong entries this year, but this was the one that just cut through everything with an amazingly simple and strong concept. The execution is just right, and the message is conveyed loud and clear, while still remaining a sophisticated piece overall. Brilliant.”
Featured Voter’s Comment: “I voted AIGA-Design for Good because of its effectiveness in communicating information instantly. I knew without reading the words that it meant the Red Cross was low on donations. That’s a pretty important capability, since I doubt many people read each poster they see.” —Stuart

AIGA—Design-For-Good-_-American-Red-Cross-Posters; poster design; design competition; design contest

Bankov Posters

Firm: Designdepot
Creative Team: Peter Bankov
Client: Teater Gogol Center, Golden Bee
Judge’s Comments: “Peter Bankov is prolific, and he was actually competing against himself with several other incredible examples of his work, but this set won out for its mix of outstanding hand-done typography and his raw and brutal execution of imagery. I love every last paint splatter on these prints, and Bankov’s mode of attack never fails to excite.”
Featured Voter’s Comment: “It’s a really great example of organized chaos and cleaver placement of typography. Plus the splash of color is powerful.” —Kyle

Bankov-Posters; poster design

David Foster Wallace on Leadership for HOW Design Live Conference

Designer/Firm: Debbie Millman/Sterling Brands
Client: HOW Design Live Leadership Conference
Project Description: Millman selected an excerpt from David Foster Wallace’s 2000 essay “Up, Simba: Seven Days on the Trail on an Anticandidate” for a handcrafted felt-on-felt typographic art piece and poster print.
Judge’s Comments: “It would be easy to dismiss this as a production trick more than a design triumph, but that would be missing what really makes this poster special. As much as I do love the embossed effect, it is really the claustrophobic typesetting that makes the poster so incredible. Even if this was a black-and-white copier print, it would scream out to you and emotionally pull you in.”
Featured Voter’s Comment: “Love the white on white.  In some way, it forces you to read the content. Beautifully done.” —George

David-Foster; poster design; design competition; design contest

Falling Skies

Firm: Saatchi & Saatchi Ukraine
Client: 4th Bloc
Project Description: A poster on the theme of Malaysian Boeing crash, known all over the world. Against terrorism, against war.
Judge’s Comments: “In a year when the minimal poster perhaps reached its saturation point, you had to really step up your game conceptually and execution-wise if treading in those waters. The style leaves you no place to hide. This is minimal in design, yet delivers the maximum impact in every way. Truly an amazing poster. When I saw that it was an entry from the Ukraine, it packed an even bigger punch.”
Featured Voter’s Comment: “Love the simplicity of the design, yet such PUNCH. Also love how the design creates dimension with an otherwise flat-illustrative approach.” —Justin Eddy

Falling-Skies; poster design; design competition; design contest

Interactive Social

Firm: Braley Design
Creative Team: Michael Braley
Client: AAF Lexington
Project Description: AAF Lexington hosted the Interactive Social conference designed for the forward-thinking.
Judge’s Comments: “Michael Braley really nails the concept of the nuts and bolts of an interconnected, digitally driven world, using only type on paper. So strong in both visual appeal and concept and execution.”
Featured Voter’s Comment: “I voted for Interactive Social because the use of typography is clever.” —JK

Interactive-Social; poster design; design competition; design contest


Firm: Go Welsh
Creative Team: Craig Welsh
: Society of Design
Project Description: Society of Design event featuring KieranTimberlake Architect, Planning, Research.
Judge’s Comments: “Funny that the most playful design is a stark black-and-white piece. Go Welsh plays with perspective and depth using only the point size of their type to manipulate our minds for this event featuring the architectural firm Kieran Timberlake.”

KieranTimberlake; poster design; design competition; design contest

Sounds 80 Attack

DesignerKrzysztof Iwanski
Client: Spaleni Sloncem
Project Description: Series of 4 posters made for 4 DJ set gigs.
Judge’s Comments: “These posters from Krzysztof Iwasnki led a funny life throughout the judging process. I kept expecting to eliminate them with each round, but every time I looked at them they revealed another little touch of structural joy, or the classic Polish mix of the clean and the rough, the hand and the machine. They were just a visual feast and so spot on for their subject matter that suddenly I unveiled the final ten and there was an Italian greyhound staring back at me.”
Featured Voter’s Comment: “There is a perfect balance and harmony in this poster.” —Anna

Sounds-80-Attack; poster design; design competition; design contest

Unfamiliar Places

DesignerJordan Hu
Project Description: “Unfamiliar Places” is a hypothetical 25” x 36” poster designed for RISD Global.
Judge’s Comments: “Jordan Hu’s piece for RISD’s international exchange program was another that continued to reveal new joys with each viewing. The playing with angles and perspective and colors can leave everything flat one moment, and floating ten feet in the air the next. It is the little touches that make the final sell though, and the couple involved in a passionate kiss on the street makes the most of their little cameo. They also highlight the strongest aspect of this poster, which is a jumble of visual hierarchy that creates a feeling of excitement and exploration.”
Featured Voter’s Comment: “This poster catches my attention from a distance in a provocative and unique manner. Upon closer investigation it pays off engagement in a rewarding way.” —Jimmymoss

Unfamiliar-Places; poster design; design competition; design contest

Unicorn Theatre

FirmDesign Ranch
Project Description: A set of illustrated posters to advertise Unicorn Theatre’s alternative show lineup
Judge’s Comments: “Small theatre posters might be the dream job for most of us, and due to their inherent creative expectations, and their short performance runs, they naturally should be jaw-dropping. That means that they are held to the highest standard, and this series from Design Ranch more than meets that challenge head-on. Conceptually strong at every turn and illustrated in a raw and playful way that is truly engaging, I love each and every one of these so much. They instantly seem both modern and classic at the same time.”
Featured Voter’s Comment: “Smart AND good-looking?! I’d totally date these posters.” —Claire

Unicorn-; poster design; design competition; design contest

 Unity is Flexible

Designer/Firm: Dankook University
Creative Team: Hoon-Dong Chung
Client: Dankook University
Project Description: Poster focuses on creating motivation for social unity.
Judge’s Comments: “Hoon-Dong Chung inverts the glossy and slick presentation with an undeniably engaging visual as the smaller ball pulls and stretches the larger one, stressing his themes of flexibility in trying to attain social unity.”
Featured Voter’s Comment: “I voted for this poster because it is expressing an abstract concept that is difficult to communicate. The image and design depict the idea that unity is not equivalent to uniformity. Unity is a dynamic relationship that allows for change, growth, and individual movement and creativity. The designer expresses this concept both in the contrast between the size and color of the two balls and with the illustration of motion.” —Matthew Sallas

Unity-is-Flexible; poster design; design competition; design contest


Special thanks to Polstir for designing the Reader’s Choice voting!

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