So I’m on vacation with the kids and we happened to stop in to Finelli’s Pizza in Ellsworth, Maine. On the wall in Finelli’s is a mural-style poster of a banner opposing the Free Trade Area of the Ameircas from Beehive Collective, which reminded me that I had intended to give them a plug after seeing their work displayed at The Common Ground Country Fair (AKA Unity Fair) last fall in Unity, Maine. So that’s the context, and here’s the plug.
I don’t agree with 90% of the political ideas espoused by the folks involved in Beehive Collective, but I do admire the work which they do. They are a printing and design collective – a business model which I think has a lot of potential and is underused here in the US – and they do work which is unique and fascinating even if I find some of the political content naive and unappealing. They specialize in printing large posters and banners – and I mean really large. The minimum size printing job they will normally take on is 20 square feet. They also tour the country selling posters and banners and reproduction prints of their works at fairs and art shows, mostly in the northeast and midwest.
What’s particularly interesting about their work is the peculiar design style which they’ve developed in these murals, which are crowded with messages and images which are striking and even disturbing. They’re kind of a combination of Where’s Waldo and the work of Heironymous Bosch, telling a story with multiple little vignettes and images mixed in together in a gigantic maze of information and political statements and allegory and just pure bizarreness. The style of their work owes something to the underground comics of the 60s and also to editorial cartoons of the 19th and early 20th centuries, plus a sold dose of pure paranoid mania. It’s also interesting that they work only in black and white. They are what they call “narrative posters” and every one tells a story, but they are so complicated that it helps to have a guide to explain them, and they do have several pages on their website where they break down the content of the poster and explain the included elements. See this example from their Plan Colombia column-style banner. Or check out the more traditional shaped banner for their Free Trade Area of the Ameircas campaign which they also explain in detail.
They use a lot of interesting hand lettering in their posters and tend towards certain styles which you can also find preserved in our font designs. They seem to like Art Nouveau styles, or maybe they’re just influenced by 1960s concert posters which were heavily influenced by Art Nouveau. You’ll find fonts similar to those they use in our Art Nouveau and Psychedelic Fonts collections. They particularly favor the more topheavy Art Nouveau styles like our Fnchley, Gehenna and Estoril fonts. We may have more fonts along similar lines in a forthcoming collection of fonts which sort of bridge the gap between Art Nouveau and psychedelic styles.