Global Education

Teacher resources to encourage a global
perspective across the curriculum

Poster art

Year level: 9-10

Students identify key elements of the genre of poster art and demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between historical and cultural periods and the artworks studied. They compare and contrast the ways in which ideas and art-making processes are used to communicate meaning in selected artworks.

A poster promotes covering bins to control mosquitoes and prevent the spread of dengue fever in the Philippines.

A poster promotes covering bins to control mosquitoes and prevent the spread of dengue fever in the Philippines. Photo by Rowena Harbridge for AusAID

Social justice and human rights, Sustainable futures

Australian Curriculum links

Learning areas


Year 9

Analyse how the construction and interpretation of texts, including media texts, can be influenced by cultural perspectives and other texts (ACELY1739)

Interpret, analyse and evaluate how different perspectives of issue, event, situation, individuals or groups are constructed to serve specific purposes in texts (ACELY1742)

Year 10

Analyse and evaluate how people, cultures, places, events, objects and concepts are represented in texts, including media texts, through language, structural and/or visual choices (ACELY1749)

Identify and explore the purposes and effects of different text structures and language features of spoken texts, and use this knowledge to create purposeful texts that inform, persuade and engage (ACELY1750) 

Media Arts

Years 9–10

Students will learn about specific media histories and contexts, including those in Australia.

General capabilities

  • Critical and creative thinking
  • Personal and social capability

Cross-curriculum priorities

  • Sustainability

Activity 1: What's in a poster?

Students will discuss the purpose and core elements of a poster and investigate how public health posters have evolved over time and in different countries.

The modern poster dates back to 1870 when the printing industry perfected colour lithography and made their mass production possible. Posters have been used for advertising products and events, and governments have used them for recruiting and health messages. In the 1960s, posters were used extensively by protest movements. The messages contained in posters are usually condensed and succinct, appealing to the values of the audience and often reflecting the zeitgeist of the time.

as a class the kinds of posters that exist in our society (examples might include movie posters, government-endorsed messages about road accidents, advertisements for concerts, advertising billboards, classroom rules, anti-littering signs, posters of sporting or pop-culture icons).

Collect some sample posters.

Consider the:

  • type of message (advertising, educational, aesthetic, educational, seeking behavioural change, propaganda, motivational, or combination of these elements or others)
  • appeal
  • impact in terms of promoting behaviour change.


  • Which posters have appeal or impact for the viewer?
  • To what extent are appeal and impact different concepts?
  • To what extent do the various aspects of the poster (typeface size and style, design, imagery, colour, symbolism, message, content, etc) influence the appeal and impact?

About a century ago, governments and public health professionals began to organise campaigns to change attitudes and behaviours in regard to health. They were: 

. . . inspired to present new figures of contagion, and recycle old ones, using modernist aesthetics, graphic manipulations, humor, dramatic lighting, painterly abstraction, distortions of perspective, and other visual strategies.

Health campaigns had to compete with billboard advertising, comic strips, monthly magazines, tabloids, animated cartoons, pulp fiction, Hollywood, and later television. The designers and artists who were recruited for such campaigns came out of the same commercial visual culture. They devised a new iconography of contagion that emphasized visual legibility and the pleasure of the view.

An Iconography of Contagion, US National Library of Medicine 

Campaigns were created to address health issues of the day – with influenza and tuberculosis as significant early focuses. Over decades, sanitation, unclean water, HIV/AIDS and SARs have all been the focus of poster campaigns in a number of countries around the world.

Review the images and read the essay in The Iconography of Contagion.

Write a short review of the exhibition.

Activity 2: Focus on malaria posters

Students investigate the different presentations of malaria health posters over time and in different countries.

Use the websites listed below or your own search of ‘malaria posters’ to investigate the message and techniques used in them. Select at least six posters from a variety of countries and time periods and work in pairs to respond to the following questions.

  • What is the message of the poster? What emotions does it play upon? (Consider the effect the poster would have been likely to have on people at the time. Is it informative, persuasive, scary, educational, motivational or designed to change behaviour, etc?)
  • Who is the target audience? (Clue – who produced it?)
  • How is the poster arranged? (Comment on symbols and images, media and techniques, design of words and images, colours, typeface size and style, art references, aesthetics.)
  • What techniques are used to catch attention? (For example – humour, striking imagery, drama)
  • What message does the text convey? Each person interprets messages differently.  Why might this be?
  • How effective is the poster as a public health message (Consider the time, place and culture it is directed to)?
  • Which is the most effective poster in your opinion?
  1. History of Medicine 
  2. Don’t go to bed with a malaria mosquito and Enemies both 
  3. Prevent malaria in your area 
  4. Spray to Kill 
  5. Preventing malaria 
  6. Chinese anti-malaria posters 
  7. Man-made malaria 
  8. Night raider
  9. Buy-a-Net 

Activity 3: DIY poster or exhibition

Respond to the exploration of public health posters by creating your own, or curating an exhibition of malaria posters.

Choose one of the following options.

1. Create a poster to raise awareness of an aspect of the fight against malaria around the world. The following bullet points may be helpful.

  • Decide on a theme. (The theme of World Malaria Day may be a good starting point.)
  • Locate the latest information. (A source may be the World Health Organisation. In 2011, the World Malaria Report 2011 Fact Sheet has a summary of progress for that year. This may help in selecting a theme for the poster.)
  • Consider the purpose, audience and the impact you wish to have on them.
  • Consider all elements including selection of media and techniques, design, words and/or images. The Iconography of Contagion provides interesting historical reference points.

2. Create an exhibition of malaria posters.

Hans Zinsser in his classic 1934 book, Rats, Lice and History wrote:

Infectious disease is one of the great tragedies of living things – the struggle for existence between different forms of life.

This struggle has inspired the imagination and creativity of visual artists who have portrayed this continuing saga in many ways over the centuries.


Create your own exhibition, using malaria posters as a focus, exploring the ways in which malaria has been depicted in different countries and in differing time periods.

Ensure that each poster has an exhibit label. The label may help explain why the poster has been selected for the exhibition, as well as providing background information. For more information about this topic, see Writing Exhibit Labels on the Museum Professionals website.

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A poster promotes covering bins to control mosquitoes and prevent the spread of dengue fever in the Philippines.
Photo by Rowena Harbridge for AusAID
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A poster promotes covering bins to control mosquitoes and prevent the spread of dengue fever in the Philippines. Photo by Rowena Harbridge for AusAID