Posteritty: how we built a business on posters

We chat to Paul and Rob from poster design company, Posteritty, to find out how they got started, how they like to market themselves and what it exactly means to ‘posterittize’ someone…

How did Posteritty come about? Was it an active business plan or did it grow organically?

R: For several years I had played around with spray paint and stencil art (as Ramart79) the learning curve of which generally starts with single-layer stencils where the purpose is to convey the subject using one single colour flat image. This gave me an appreciation for minimal detail but maximum recognition. The initial process often involved digitally manipulating the source image so the basic elements were already there.

It was never an intention to make a living from it, we figured if we could make enough to have a few drinks one night from doing something we love then happy days, but it seemed to appeal to people and it’s been non-stop since, which has been amazing.

I was an accountant for 12 years until I realised that it just wasn’t ‘the dream’ so 11 months ago I bit the bullet and went Posteritty full time (it was a calculated risk, I still can’t resist a spreadsheet) spurred on by the adage “If you don’t build your dream, someone will hire you to help build theirs”.

P: As Rob has already said, we didn’t really come up with the concept of Posteritty to create ourselves full-time employment, but as the first few months went by it became more and more apparent that we were creating designs in a style that people enjoyed.  My other passion is amateur photography, so being able to transform an image from a customers photograph into minimal art is the side of the design work I enjoy the most.

You have a very distinctive minimal style. You know who you are portraying in your designs without including their face. What makes a good subject and was this style developed over time or was it a style you have pursued?

R: I first played with the idea when I applied the now ‘Posteritty Style’ to a family wedding photograph, which friends and family really liked (and still sits proudly on the mantelpiece at my mum’s house).

Surprisingly we have yet to come across a face that has really been unrecognisable after the Posteritty treatment. It’s not just the hairstyle and eyebrow shape that are key, but hairline to brow ratio, brow-gap spacing, side-burn sizing and many other hirsute measurements! But saying all that, a long haired guy with a great big beard and glasses is the ideal—the hairier the better!

P: I’d certainly say that over the past two years we’ve honed the way in which we create our designs. Each time we start work on a new piece we find quicker and easier ways to do things.  I remember quite vividly the first time I was challenged to give the Posteritty treatment to a photo of a guy in a crazy patterned shirt. It took at least three hours to vectorise the patterns that made up the shirt but the response we got from the customer once the design was finished was well worth all that effort.

You feature quotes on some of your designs, what makes a good quote and what is the creative process like when you bring it to life?

R: We’re huge fans of all aspects of pop-culture and are known to obsess over film, music and TV so we have focused on quotes that make us laugh, evoke nostalgia or resonate with us. We also love a good inspirational quote and have a range of our favourites coming out soon.

P: All of the famous TV shows have quotes most people seem to be familiar with, but one thing we learnt very quickly was the desire of customers to add those lesser known quotes to our designs, quotes which meant something very specific and important to them and their friends. Luckily we can create bespoke requests very quickly so there’s no request too ridiculous.

You focus strongly on posters on your site, what is it about posters that made you want to launch this as your first product?

R: Many years ago I noticed that three different friends had exactly the same IKEA print in their living rooms and it amazed me that more original art wasn’t easily accessible. We try to create our prints in sizes that make framing easy as we feel this makes them a more contemporary addition to a wall. As all designs are in limited edition runs, it’s unlikely that everyone in the same street will have the same one (though that would be a street we’d like to visit).

I grew up in the 80s when cinema was a much different industry to that of today, where a film poster played a key part in the films promotion. I remember staring at the one sheet posters of films like Indiana Jones, E.T and Back to the Future outside my local cinema and being in awe at the artistry while having to guess what the film would be about. How old do I sound!? It was a simpler time, when all this was just fields, when I was a lad! Kids today don’t know how good they’ve got it and all that…pass me the pipe and slippers!

We were hugely honoured to be asked to design the promotional posters for the 2014 ceremonial events for the Household Division (Beating Retreat, Trooping the Colour and Changing the Guard) and again this year. Seeing our posters hanging on the railings at horseguards, travelling around London on buses and even in Prince William’s hand was an extremely proud moment indeed.

P: As a massive fan and collector of music memorabilia I’ve always had posters and prints on my walls.  As it was something we were familiar with, it seemed like a very good starting point for us.  Another important factor for us was the premise of making our prints affordable to everyone.  On a couple of occasions we’ve even managed to trade design work for skills offered by other people.  I do believe we’re still owed a voiceover recording from a guy in the USA who we designed a logo for!

Now we come to marketing, how do you market yourselves and do you have any tips?

R: We’ve been massively fortunate to have been noticed from literally the day we launched in 2013 by Ricky Gervais who has been great to us and helped get our designs seen by a huge number of people. We’ve just completed a series of T-shirt designs for his official ‘The Office’ range which has been pretty humbling.

We try to keep on top of all social media channels, which plays such a huge part in getting the word out. We do a weekly #minimalmonday competition where we posterittize (yes we have made that word up) a follower’s avatar. It keeps people interested (though hopefully we also post engaging content without the freebies?!).

P: Marketing via social media has been key for us.  Our Facebook fans and Twitter followers seem to engage pretty well with the content we put out on those channels and it’s a fantastic way of showcasing our latest designs to the public.  We can quickly and easily see what works and what doesn’t work, allowing us to tailor the timings and content of the items we post via our social media channels.

What software couldn’t you live without?

R: Illustrator and Photoshop are the tools we couldn’t live without and Dropbox has made life so much easier, but I never leave the house without my notepad and pen. It’s amazing how many ideas creep up on you while out and about.

I’d go along with all three mentioned above along with a little splash of Spotify, which certainly helps kick start those early mornings or later night hours in front of the computer screen.

What designer would you love to shadow/be for the day and why?

R: I’d love to shadow Ben Eine to see the birth of some of his Typography designs from notebook through to final painting.

It would have to be a chap called Rop van Mierlo whose work I stumbled across whilst looking for some prints to hang in my son’s room.  The colour and style of design he uses just captured my imagination instantly.

Where do you see yourself heading next?

R: The beauty of this ‘job’ (we absolutely love what we do so it rarely feels like work in the conventional sense) is that every day can throw open whole new avenues and opportunities. Just last week, we supplied 80 prints to adorn every room in a Taiwan hotel. We are nearly finished designing this year’s Household Division Posters and we are about to start work with American musician, Ryan Hamilton, to help promote the release of his new solo Album ‘Hell of a Day’.

So basically, who knows!? But it’s going to be a lot of fun finding out.

P: Rob has summed that up perfectly. Opportunities seem to be hiding around every corner at the moment and it’s just a case of waiting to see what other exciting projects come along.

Please come and check us out over at posterity.com, we’d love to hear from you!

About the author

Bex is our Senior Content Manager and lover of all things community. When she's not glued to her phone you can find her out cycling in the Chiltern Hills or braving the London commute on her Brompton.

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