News - National Theatre Posters: A Design History


National Theatre Posters: A Design History is a new book which showcases a stunning array of posters from the earliest days of the National Theatre in London right through to the present day...

Written and compiled by Rick Poynor, Professor of Design and Visual Culture at the University of Reading, this full-colour hardback is a celebration of the very best of theatre and graphic design.



For more than 50 years, the National Theatre has used posters to promote and give visual expression to the enormous range of productions that it stages and it has developed a strong in-house relationship with its poster designers with all the posters through the decades being the responsibility of just five different individuals from the theatre's first graphic designer Ken Briggs, through Richard Bird, Michael Mayhew, Charlotte Wilkinson to the current Creative Director Ollie Winser.


An enormous range of graphic approaches - typographic, illustrative and photographic - reflects the designers' own styles and skills, the fashions of the time and the change on concepts of the most effective way to communicate with the theatre's audiences.



The book accompanies the current exhibition, National Theatre Posters, curated by design critic and writer Rick Poynor, now on in the National Theatre’s Wolfson gallery. Curated by Rick Poynor, the exhibition includes original posters, interviews with past and current Art or Creative Directors and will trace the changes in process, design and function over the past 50 years.



Curator Rick Poynor said: “An exciting theatre poster manages to capture the essence of a play. It grabs your attention with something surprising and draws you in. The National Theatre has a long tradition of producing adventurous poster designs that encapsulate the inventiveness and energy of its productions.”


“The NT’s first graphic designer, Ken Briggs, collaborated closely with the theatre for a decade. That set the pattern and the theatre went on to appoint a succession of designers – Richard Bird, Michael Mayhew, Charlotte Wilkinson and Ollie Winser – who have worked in-house on the posters and other graphics. Each designer has maintained a very high standard of creativity and the posters’ graphic styles have evolved to reflect the changing needs of the theatre and its audiences.”

The exhibition will be accompanied by a programme of related events:

Exhibition Insight with curator Rick Poynor

27 October, 12-1pm, Wolfson Gallery, £3
A walk around the current exhibition with curator Rick Poynor, please meet in the Wolfson Gallery.

Talk: Where is the Poster Now?

8 November, 6-7pm, Cottesloe Room, £7/5
A talk on the art of poster design by Rick Poynor, design critic and Professor of Design and Visual Culture at the University of Reading, featuring his research for the exhibition currently running in the Wolfson Gallery, National Theatre.

Talk: Graphic Design at the National Theatre

21 November, 6 – 7pm, Cottesloe Room, £7/5
An exploration of the working design process by the Graphic Design Studio (GDS) at the National Theatre with Creative Director, Ollie Winser and members of his design team focussing on real campaigns for recent NT productions.

On Screen: Helvetica

27 November, 5.30pm, Cottesloe Room, £5/3
Gary Hustwit's brilliantly designed feature-length documentary, Helvetica, explores typography. The film features contributions from National Theatre Posters exhibition curator, Rick Poynor.

National Theatre Posters is on at Wolfson Gallery, National Theatre until 31 March 2018

Buy the book direct from National Theatre

Images - National Theatre