I have a specific idea to draw out an alternate society. My plan is to design propaganda prospects or posters. Do you guys have some tips how I could show/tell most through-out this medium to understand the alternate society I'm trying to create?

Which information would be essential to show?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Soviet propaganda posters. And also Google for same. The Soviets were the uncontested masters of graphical agitprop, by far. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Sep 26 '19 at 7:17
  • $\begingroup$ thanks lovely site to checkout some templates :) $\endgroup$
    – Izzy030
    Sep 26 '19 at 7:46
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding.SE Izzy030, glad you found us. We have a tour and help center you might wish to check out. $\endgroup$ Sep 26 '19 at 15:22
  • $\begingroup$ I changed your tags to better try to represent your question. I see you had science there and I'm not sure why. I removed it but if you think it's relevant, please let us know. $\endgroup$ Sep 26 '19 at 15:26
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks @Cyn for editing the tags. I'm just new and didn't know better. $\endgroup$
    – Izzy030
    Oct 8 '19 at 10:55

What is most important is that in real first world countries political parties rarely publish political posters and prospects outside of election campaigns. Why would they? They cost money and changing the oppinion of the voters is only relevant in the time before a vote.

On the other hand in times of political unrest, that fact changes, as you want everyone on the street to prostest for or against something. What this does is showing presence. You are living in a currently suppressing policital system and you see a poster of the resistence, you know you are not alone in your discontent.

So if you describe that there are posters and other propaganda year round, that would mean something is off. If only one party ist posting those, you know its not about the vote, its about something they want. They want you to keep in line, join the military, take your pills etc. Or they show you - like levitime said - that there are other in better condition than yourself to make yourself conform to the state and life a better life.

Alternativly if there are several posters yearround by different parties maybe the political system is diffent in your alternative world. Like a world where megacorps rule the world, then this propaganda is more like ads. In this case, the parties dont need votes, they need the consumers money.

So what you need to convey is:

  • Who is posting this, are there several parties posting?
  • Why are they posting? Just for votes, to keep you in line or to manipulate you?
  • How does the propaganda change? From "Join the military" to "New Settling grounds" or "Families, we need more young boys"
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    $\begingroup$ But first world has all year round propaganda posters, only instead of propaganda they're called something like "public service announcement" posters. $\endgroup$
    – user28434
    Sep 26 '19 at 9:36
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    $\begingroup$ @Izzy303: Welcome to worldbuilding! As a heads up, we generally recommend waiting 24 hours before selecting an answer. This gives people in other time zones or work schedules an opportunity to answer, giving you a greater variety of answers. (You can always go back and re-select the answer later if you still like it) $\endgroup$
    – DWShore
    Sep 26 '19 at 14:06
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    $\begingroup$ @DWshore thank for your advise I will keep that in mind for my further questions. $\endgroup$
    – Izzy030
    Oct 8 '19 at 10:56

I've produced "props" as a Game Master in pen-and-paper, tabletop RPGs.

Some of these were supposed to be more or less objective, like the printout of a map generated by starship sensors in orbit. Both the player characters and the players could trust them to show the truth, within understood limitations. Of course the world map did not have a big X for the villain's hideout even if that was the most significant feature on the continent, and so on.

Some were supposed to be subjective and to represent the opinion or propaganda by certain non-player characters. This could be a very good thing when the player characters and the players thought they were aware of some aspects of the fictional world, and suddenly a non-player character contradicts that. That's a big clue. In both Classic Traveller and GURPS Traveller, the Imperium is sort of benign but distant and careless. A character handing out pro-Imperial propaganda leaflets is strange and interesting times make good adventures ...

But that only works when the players or the readers have an understanding of the supposed truth to put the propaganda into perspective.

  • Imagine a poster "let's all work together for the common good," the way you'd see in Communist or Nazi propaganda.
    The setting could be a repressive police state, where government goons crack down on any dissent and brain-wash the masses with their propaganda.
    Or it could be a society under outside thread, heroically coming together to fight the enemy on the beaches, on the landing grounds, in the fields and streets.
  • Imagine a public service announcement on healthy eating habits.
    The setting could describe a prosperous and increasingly overweight society, with do-gooders in government to keep obesity in check.
    Or perhaps a famine, seen through rose-colored glasses.

Propaganda conveys information in a biased and idealistic way, in line with a political view. This political view often does not open itself to scrutiny. Fictional propaganda posters are a good way of telling about your society, both by what you show and what you don't show. This way of story telling can work as black humor, because your reader knows better and looks critically. This way of storytelling is often satirical to governments that employ propaganda. The coined term "fake news" shows propaganda is a danger for all democratic institutions as well.

If the propaganda poster shows laughing people of a certain color feasting on an exorbitant amount of nice nourishment with the text underneath Have you thanked our leaders for your feast today? then this may show that wealth is not fairly distributed in this society.

So in short:

By showing the extreme idealistic government view of the world conveyed through propaganda, the outside observer will notice the unjustices of the world.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks! That helps me a lot to point out the things i want to show in my posters! $\endgroup$
    – Izzy030
    Sep 26 '19 at 9:09

Propaganda strives to depict things which are not true as having already happened. The things which are actually true and obvious to the reader are not worth wasting the poster space.

So, if the propaganda poster depicts happy farmers with their hands full of grain and a caption like "To abundance!", this means that the food situation is rather dire, and it concerns both the people and the government. Corn is the source of abundance

If it shows a mighty soldier crushing cowering enemies, this means that the situation on the front lines has reached a stalemate (or that there's no war at all, but the state insists that the enemy will strike soon).North Korean soldier defeats America

If you see a poster condemning the brutality of the enemy, this means the state cannot stop them, is frustrated about that, and tries to, at least, portray them in a negative light.Nazi poster condemning terror bombings

In other words, let your posters convey the goals of your government that it can't achieve, but still wants people to think something is being done.

Upd.: posters about enemies can generally mean two things. Either the state wants you to believe it's winning against whatever (when it's not), or it wants you to believe there's an enemy (when they're not a reason for concern). This depends on the composition of the poster: whether or not there's someone to defeat the enemy there.

  • $\begingroup$ Good posters! Cite sources and get my upvote. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Oct 3 '19 at 23:23
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah really lovely posters. I'm also curious for the sources! $\endgroup$
    – Izzy030
    Oct 8 '19 at 10:58
  • $\begingroup$ So here they go. 1) "Кукуруза - источник изобилия!" (Corn is the source of abundance). USSR, A. Lavrov, 1960. 2) Can't find the source (can't read Korean), but this link claims it's something about the North Korean military prowess. theguardian.com/world/gallery/2017/aug/20/… 3) "Kultur-terror" (cultural terror). Nazi Germany, Harald Damsleth, 1944. $\endgroup$ Oct 14 '19 at 23:21

You could have a character working for or against this propaganda, and have them describe it in the way you want to.

I don't know if it fits in your story, but they would be an infinite ways to actually make it work.

i.e : an artist chosen by the goverment to draw the prospects

A rebel whose mission is to rip off from the city all the prospects

Someone distributing the news paper in the streets


Advertising Propaganda shares techniques with advertising and public relations, each of which can be thought of as propaganda that promotes a commercial product or shapes the perception of an organization, person, or brand. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propaganda#Advertising

Rather than government propaganda (which seems to me to have a uniformly earnest tone) I propose that you use movie posters.

Pick a year that suits your world and google image the movie posters. They are funny, sexy, scary, zany, serious, weird and everything else. Many have serious artistic merit. They are all propaganda because they want you to pay to see the movie. It would be easy to adapt movie posters for your use. and you can lift the layout and format of the ones you like and so get some of that artistic merit for your own endeavor.


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