Write: Ali Halit Diker
Everything started when humans first depicted their daily lives on cave walls.
Anadolu University faculty member Professor Tevfik Fikret Uçar, in his book on visual communications and graphic design, says that the roots of graphic design stretch all the way back to cave paintings. The wall paintings in the caves of Lascaux in France are considered the first examples of visual communication. Today, pictograms appearing before us in airports and many other areas of our lives are a part of a common language and consciousness comprehensible to all people speaking different languages all over the world. Comparing pictograms and cave paintings, it quickly becomes obvious that simplification and iconification are their common aspects.
Among one of the most important missions of graphic design is creating a universal language and making communication between masses easier. Through this mission, graphic design became an indispensable part of the advertising industry. Bringing masses closer together and the means to communicate are not, however, always used to ensure the spread of a product among these masses—they have become important tools to draw attention to such areas that are more sensitive and require more care as social responsibility projects, for example. One of the most important factors in the effectiveness of graphic design is its ability to produce and use icons. Icons allow us to perceive the whole by looking at a part, allowing the mind of the viewer to fill in the gap. To raise the subject of New York, one could just bring up the Statue of Liberty; likewise for Paris with the Eiffel Tower, and for Moscow with the Kremlin.
The Posters of Turkey project launched by Emrah Yücel—who designed posters for several important Hollywood productions including “Avatar,” “The Chronicles of Narnia,” “Kill Bill,” and “The Hours”—is promoting Turkey’s iconified images to the world. The most attention-getting aspect of this project is that instead of using a photographic language, it uses locations and/or certain trademarks to express Turkey in a very plain yet easy-to-understand manner. One senses an air of nostalgia in the posters’ visual language; they were inspired by art deco and the work of İhap Hulusi, a pioneer of graphic art in Turkey. Yücel explains the reason for this as follows: “When designing these posters, we used especially the travel posters of the ‘50s and ‘60s as a foundation. This era is described as the golden years in the history of world aviation. In these years, when travel usage of aircraft technology increased and commercial airliner companies started connecting people to one another, posters especially of exotic, unknown destinations found a place in graphic design.” Yücel states another reason for choosing this style as the prominence of graphic design relative to photography in those years and the more artistic manner of abstraction.
The art deco style emerged in Paris in the 1920s, coinciding with the years in which the Republic of Turkey was founded. Art deco thus became a symbol of modernization. Representing industrialization and development, it became a style adopted by the Republic of Turkey both architecturally and in graphics. One of the examples of architecture most openly exhibiting the art deco flair is the Turkish State Rail Administration’s train station in Ankara. In graphics, the posters created by İhap Hulusi with the purpose of supporting societal development are important examples of art deco in the republican era.
Another notable aspect of the Posters of Turkey project is that the posters can be downloaded free-of-charge from the Internet. Whether you run a business small or large in tourism or have no interest in tourism at all, you can decorate the walls of your workplace or home with Turkish posters. That the posters are used to add value to Turkish culture instead of having a commercial purpose shows the social responsibility side of the project. Yücel states that the process of making the decision for the posters to be free of charge was one of the most critical matters concerning the project. Before even finishing its third week, the posters were downloaded nearly twenty thousand times. Some companies wanted to print the posters on T-shirts and also sell them in large-format canvas, calendar, and postcard form. The benefit of the decision taken is that the posters are seeing wide distribution thanks to having no such barriers.
If you wish to help promote Turkey’s posters, you can go to www.turkiyeposterleri.com to download the posters designed by Emrah Yücel, after which you can hang them in your workplace or home, give them to your friends, or foster the growth of this cultural value by sharing them on your website or blog.
EMRAH YÜCEL IN BRIEF
Born 1968 to a screenwriter and director—his mother and father respectively—Emrah Yücel started his primary education in London when his father worked for the BBC. After finishing Hacettepe University’s Department of Graphic Design, he earned a graduate degree at Bilkent University. After proving himself international awards he won while working in Turkey, Yücel moved to the US and started designing film posters. He currently works at his self-owned company in Los Angeles, California.