A century of political design: Dole Queues and Demons

Saatchi & Saatchi’s famous Labour Isn’t Working poster of 1978

In his forward to Dole Queues and Demons, Maurice Saatchi claims that posters are to politics ‘what poetry is to literature: the only possible words in the only possible order. They should instantly convey the core message in a memorable way. This requires a handful of words, each of which is perfectly chosen, married to an image which reinforces them. When this happens posters can be the single defining medium of a campaign.’

This poster, from 1929, plays on the idea of unpopular government regulators ‘sticking their nose’ into the Englishman’s home


Dole Queues to Demons: British Election Posters from the Conservative Party Archive offers powerful insight into the impact of poster design on a political campaign. From the early Edwardian posters – colourful in both pigment and content – to the pointed posters of Saatchi in the 1980s, many of the political themes have remain the same, but the ways in which they were expressed had the power to make or break campaigns.

Early posters like this one from 1909 often addressed issues like free trade and protectionism (and here, Lloyd George)


Divided into chapters based on political periods, the book offers over 200 examples of posters drawn from the Conservative Party Archive Poster Collection. The images are accompanied by historical background written by Dr Stuart Ball, political historian from the University of Leicester, with a foreword by advertising guru Maurice Saatchi.

By 1992, Saatchi & Saatchi’s simple and bold posters had become the Party norm. Here, an ‘L’ plate hinted at what the Conservative’s believed to be Labour’s inexperience


The book will be available from the Conservative Party Archive stand at the Party Conference next month (stalls P10 & P11 – Hall 3 in the Party Zone) as well as from the Blackwell’s Bookshop stand. 

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