I choose the “We can do it!” poster by J. Howard Miller in 1943 as the theme of the imaginary interview.
Good morning Mr. Miller. It’s an honour to have you on our interview show tonight.
Hi, I am so glad to be here. Thank you for inviting me.
Q: So let’s start the interview. I have so many questions want to ask you. Could you tell us something about yourself?
A: Yes, I am a graphic designer. I was studied at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and I graduated in 1939. During the war I was living in Pittsburgh. I was hired to create a series of posters for the Westinghouse Company.
Q: Could you tell us something about your significant graphic design poster “we can do it”?
A: Yes, sure. This is a poster of a female worker in a blue suit. She looks attractive and strong through the muscle on her arms. She is an iconic figure of a strong female war production worker. The image representation and the slogan give audience a clear message and it is about female workers also can make achievement if they work hard in the factory.
Q: Does the company gives you lots if restrictions and requirements when you work on this poster?
A: I work for Westinghouse Company and this Company has a strict policy. This particular poster was only displayed during February 1943 inside our company. Actually, we can consider this poster was not showing up officially in the public at that time period. Basically, I followed the requirement from the company and I want to use simple elements to express the intention of the poster. It was not a stressful work for me.
Q: What is the specific theme of this poster? Is it about to inspire women workers to join the war effort? Or it was a poster of recruitment during the war?
A: From the poster, we can realize the main character setting is based on the working-class employees and she represents the whole group of working-class women. This poster definitely is not about recruitment. It is about inspiring women workers to join the war effort. It is a poster to encourage women to work hard and to contribute to the country. That is the intention of the poster.
Q: As a graphic designer, sometimes it is a little bit tricky to get a brilliant idea in the project that you get involved. What inspire you to create this poster? Do you use any reference?
A: Yes. I was inspired by Norman Rockwell’s work. He is an Americana and Realist artist and he created a painting for the Saturday Evening Post. The painting is about a woman works in a factory. The most interesting part is he added the name Rosie on the woman’s lunchbox. Rockwell gave me a fantastic inspiration. I used the same outfit that the woman he painted. I also used some figure of female workers as reference for the design of the poster.
Q: What the story behind this particular woman figure and could you tell us about who is she? Is she a friend that you familiar with?
A: Because Rockwell painting, the woman became known as Rosie the Riveter. She is not my friend. She is a “strong and competent woman that dressed in overalls and bandanna”. At the same time, she is also an iconic symbol of “patriotic womanhood.” When the U.S government was facing the problem of labor shortage, women were needed in the defense industries, even the civilian service and the armed forces. In that time period, companies want to build a figure of woman in the public to encourage women to make more effort to the war. Women were described as confident, brave, attractive and “resolved to do their part to win the war.” She is the strong connection between the war and the working-class female employee.
Q: What is the background when you create this work?
A: After the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese military, the U.S. government was in a serious situation. American government called manufacturers to produce greater amounts war products. There are a few conflicts between management and labor unions throughout the 1930s. The corporations were facing the problem of labor shortage. They need more women to make products and work in the factories. Making posters is a great idea to make women believe they are strong and confident to make contribute to their own country.
Q: Could you provide us with some useful advice to up-and-coming designers in graphic design?
A: Yes, I would like to…I mean as a graphic design, self-development and opportunities are important. The study and working environment can provide you so much space to improve yourself. I got attention from Westinghouse Company in my early career, I appreciate the opportunity that the Westinghouse Company gave to me.
Thank you so much for joining our interview.
“J. HOWARD MILLER.” Art.com.
“We Can Do It! Rosie the Riveter Description.” 24 May 2017.
Miller , Howard. “Michgan Played Early Part in Women’s Suffrage.” Wkar , Current State , 5 Nov.2013.