Why do these gloomy posters cheer us up so much?

Why do these gloomy posters cheer us up so much?

UK-based lettering artist and type designer Oli Frape has encapsulated the country's mood in his latest personal project, ‘Sign of The Times’.

Drawing inspiration from vintage signs and adverts, these hand-drawn posters address the nation's current state with a wry smile.

It turns out it’s not just you—Britain in 2024 is indeed rather dismal, with its failing public services, ever-rising cost of living, and a palpable sense of exhaustion. And, to encapsulate this national ennui, Frape has created a series of beautifully crafted yet sardonic hand-drawn posters.

Fashioned in the style of early to mid-century temporary advertising signage, ‘Sign of The Times’ employs a charming, fleeting aesthetic to deliver cutting, satirical reflections on life nowadays. These include vibrant letters spelling out somewhat contradictory messages like 'Hopes & Dreams Sold Out' and 'Fresh Horror Daily', alongside witty phrases echoing 'advertising speak' such as 'Doom, Dread & Malaise guaranteed!'. One relates.

Frape employed lettering heavily influenced by traditional signs commonly seen in grocery stores and market stall displays. Known as 'show cards', these signs offered the perfect medium for conveying his message in an instantly engaging and impactful manner.

Our take

I read a quote from Radiohead’s Thom Yorke recently: “I've never believed that pop music is escapist trash. There's always a darkness in it, even amidst great pop music.”

I was reminded of this observation when viewing Frape’s posters. The surface artifice of ‘50s optimism’ that his posters evoke is simultaneously infectious and… a bit depressing, given that in many ways the optimistic mood of the mid century was burst by a Cold War, Vietnam, race riots, and then the 1970s and 80s.

The nostalgic fonts he opts for still carry this strange dichotomy, which is why they work so well in 2024: an era when social media influencers grin at you through YouTube as world tensions escalate and society fractures at its core.

Why then, does it still make us smile? Because, well, there is always cause for optimism, and we can always take solace that others feel the way we do. That’s where hope and real change springs from.

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