The IBM Poster Program: Visual Memoranda
By Robert Finkel and Shea Tillman
In the late 1960s, IBM was one of the world’s pre-eminent corporations, employing over 250,000 people in 100 countries and producing some of the most advanced products on earth. IBM President Thomas J. Watson Jr. sought to elevate the company’s image by hiring world-renowned design consultants, including Eliot Noyes and Paul Rand.
As well as developing the iconic IBM logo and a corporate design guide, Rand also brought together a remarkable team of internal staff designers. One of the designers he hand-picked was Ken White, who, along with John Anderson and Tom Bluhm, headed up the design team at the IBM Design Center in Boulder, Colorado. Together, they initiated a poster program as a platform for elevating internal communications and initiatives within the company. These posters were displayed in hallways, conferences rooms, and cafeterias throughout IBM campuses, with subject matter including everything from encouraging equal opportunity policies, to reminders on best security practices, to promoting a family fun day. Designers often incorporated figurative typography, dry humor, visual puns, and photography to craft memorable and compelling messages.