Change. Today. Now.

Published:  April 21, 2010
Brendan McKnight
Change. Today. Now.

Look out world, you are about to be positive-postered. Starting from last weekend, the Positive Posters team has begun their global distribution (world-domination) by distributing the 2009 winning poster around Melbourne – think under bridges, in city lane ways and next to that poster for Temper Trap.

So what’s it all about? Well, the aim is to convert prominent global cities into positive cultural canvases. To challenge and inspire people to make a positive change in the way they live their lives.

The simple winning poster was designed in Slovakia, and has already visited Antarctica and is currently on its way to the North Pole, as well as 30 other cities in 2010.

2009 winning poster down south

2009 winning poster down south

Positive Posters began last year, and is the brainchild of young graphic designer Nick Hallam. It is a non-profit annual international poster competition, based in Melbourne and publishes positive design in and around city streets all over the world. Aiming to inspire individuals and make a positive difference in the lives of people everywhere, the PP gang are a small group of young volunteers, mostly students and new graduates who are all passionate about positive design and the power it can have in our communities.

We caught up with Nick to find out a little bit more..

A selection of the 30 finalists

A selection of the 30 finalists

Hi Nick, so what is your story?
I graduated high school in 2005 and went straight into a 2-year diploma studying graphic arts. From there I spent a year gaining my degree and in 2009 I finished an honours degree in graphic/communication design.

You started Positive Posters last year, could you please tell me a little more about this?
A friend and I set our selves a brief to come up with a project that we could work on during our final year of study that would in some way help and inspire people. After a couple of months of brainstorming I rang him one Sunday morning and said “wouldn’t it be cool if we covered Melbourne in amazing posters that all had positive messages?” That was the start. We called out to all of our friends explaining that we were going to start a poster competition, and listed the roles and things that we needed help with. There were about 50 people at our first meeting and from there we managed to get a bunch of them to volunteer for the year to help us set up and run the competition. Everyone involved in Positive Posters are local twenty-something’s who love design.


Why did you choose the poster medium to promote this ethos?
It hadn’t been done before. When we looked into it we found that lots of people had websites, books, videos etc, about the idea of positive thinking which are great, however you need to go and actively find those for yourself. By choosing billposters as a medium we are placing positive design in the streets for people to see everyday.


You say that you are passionate about Positive Design – what are some examples of this and what is the power it can have?
I think that positive design can be defined as any man made image that inspires action, brings attention to an issue or even just makes your day brighter. Graphic or communication designers have an incredible and unique ability to successfully communicate thoughts, ideas and messages to people via printed images. Most of the time these talents are tied up in studios working on commercial jobs for clients, but when a designer uses his/her skills to present an issue or a call for action, then we start to see positive minded design. Design for the sake of people.


When talking about positive design I often refer to a poster designed by Paul Garbett, a local Sydney designer, ‘Aids is Fucking Africa’. It is a brilliant example of a designer using his trade to communicate a very serious issue to the world. The poster has now become one of those ‘iconic’ images that will always be referred to when talking about aids. There would be tens of thousands of people all over the world who have seen that poster. Who knows what action that poster inspired or what good deeds came of it!


Adversely, what are some examples of Negative Design?
I think that negative design is any piece of communication that attempts to deceive or trick the viewer by the use of photography, typography, colour etc. In addition, any design that supports or helps immoral or harmful organisations I would view to be negative design. We all know that successful companies and organizations need to look good. They need to have logos, websites and business cards. Somewhere right now, there is probably a group of young talented designers working on the branding and advertising for a cigarette company, using their skills as a designer to encourage people to buy cigarettes. Imagine if all these designers walked off the job for a year. The companies would go into chaos simply because all of their print ads, billboards and websites would come to a screaming halt.


What type of entries did you receive this year? Where were they from? How was the competition promoted?
The entries overall were brilliant. A large number came from design students, however we even had some entries from non-designers. We found the most successful entries kept things simple. We asked the entrants to design posters that would stand out against the mass media that exists around our streets.

We received 339 entries from 53 countries. Needless to say we were blown away. Not surprisingly the highest number of entries came from Australia and the second most from America. What was surprising though was that the third highest number of entries came from Iran. We are still trying to figure that one out.

Thanks to our media and industry partners the promotion of the competition was made easier for us. International Council of Graphic Design Associations (Icograda) helped us reach a large number of our international entrants. Locally we presented at all of the major design institutions in Victoria, talking to students about the project.

2009 winner: Smile by Peter Chmela (Slovakia)

2009 winner: Smile by Peter Chmela (Slovakia)

The winning entry is from Slovakia. Who designed it and what is it all about?
The winning entry was designed by Peter Chmela, a local Slovakian graphic designer. Our judges chose it as the winner because of its simple design and message. He really considered the fact that his poster would be printed and pasted up in repetition on the streets of Melbourne. It is a clever take on the more traditional yellow and black smiley face that was popular during the 90’s. His message was simple, “change, today, now.” And the change he was referring to was smiling. Smile, why not?


What is next for Positive Posters?
To use the old cliché, PP is aiming for bigger and better things. This year we have taken on four third year students who are studying PR, marketing and design to help us run this years competition. We are hoping for more entries from more countries and hopefully we will find a sponsor to help us distribute the 2010-winning poster to more places than last year.

To find out more and to enter the 2010 Competition (opening July 1st), head to



8 Responses

  1. JessicaL

    Love the winning entry – it’s so simple and clever – a modern take on the 80s smile logo!

  2. zpped

    so much yellow! this will look ace as a street poster, plastered everywhere. can’t wait 0_o

  3. leah

    they are some pretty neat designs.. like them!

  4. fART

    “It hadn’t been done before.” ?

    Are you kidding me? Postering/Paste Ups/Street Art have been the MAIN medium for pushing for postive change in the world by independant artists/activists. It’s one of those mediums that isn’t limited by a budget or exposure etc. I don’t know where you ‘looked in to it’, but it musn’t have been outside.

    Other than that, good job. Any competition that stimulates artists to create and inspire is to be commended. Some great results have truly come out of this.

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