After spending more than three weeks locked away in her two-room apartment in Palo Alto, Calif., Jennifer Baer felt the same pangs of helplessness and heaviness shared by the more than three-quarters of the country currently under stay-at-home orders. A creative designer at NASA, she already felt guilty for not doing more with all the extra time she was suddenly spending at home. Then, she had an idea.
Baer created a series of posters that spin the classic designs seen on vintage travel posters into a constructive message for cabin feverish Americans: “Stay the F* Home.” She published the designs on Twitter, where they quickly accumulated more than 20,000 retweets and 68,000 likes.
Though the series carries a stark title, the posters are vivid with saturated shades of blues, greens and deep purples, each with a brief call to action that everyone can relate to at the moment, such as “Take a Trip to Your Own Bathroom!” or “Surf Your Couch,” which shows a person surfing their futon, remote in hand.
“I can say ‘Stay the F Home’ and not worry about being offensive because I’ve given you something beautiful to look at,” Baer told Adweek.
Small details like the fictional credit line “Issued by the Coronavirus Tourism Bureau” are a nod to Baer’s inspiration: the posters created by the Work Progress Administration, a New Deal agency that funded out-of-work artists during the Great Depression to create art that captured and inspired national pride. In addition to the travel posters from the 1920s and ’30s, these throwback designs have become an effective template to flip simple, inspirational call-to-action advertising into something more deliberate.
“They’re so simple,” said Baer of the style of vintage travel posters. “Verb, noun, ‘travel here.’ They weren’t giving you more than you needed to know, and they glamorized it.”
Reinventing vintage travel posters has been something of a trend in recent months: In December, the creative agency FF Los Angeles created posters for climate activist Greta Thunberg’s Fridays For Future organization, turning the classical advertisements into a grim look into the future. Although Baer’s posters are more tongue-in-cheek, both remind us of the heightened crises we’re living through, whether it’s coronavirus or climate change.
It took Baer a little less than a day and a half to knock out the project and since its release, she’s been overwhelmed with the response thus far, which included a retweet from J.K. Rowling.
“That’s the thing that finally made me cry,” Baer said. “What I have to offer feels less than what the front-line responders are doing, but messaging is also critical.”
She added: “I have the toolset available to make something people will appreciate, hopefully, make them laugh and unite us in a little moment of humor.”