The Ephemera Society advertisements

The Brief/Client

The Ephemera Society is a non-profit body devoted to the collection, conversation, study and educational use of handwritten and printed ephemera. Our brief was to create half page advertisements to advertise the society’s fairs and bazaars and encourage more people to visit them. These adverts would then feature in The Ephemerist journal. The society was looking for a concept to illustrate ephemera through the four centuries – 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st. The journal is issued quarterly providing us with an opportunity to develop a series of advertisements for the year.

The copy:

The Ephemera Society Fairs and Bazaars 2014

Sundays · 18 May · 7 December
Holiday Inn London Bloomsbury, Coram Street, London WC1N 1HT
11am-4pm (from 10am for members). Entry £3

Sundays · 2 February · 6 April · 6 July · 7 September
Doubletree by Hilton, 92 Southampton Row, London WC1B 4BH
11am-4pm (from 10am for members).  Entry £2

Enquiries: 01923 829 079

Before our first meeting with the client we discussed many different ideas and concepts for the brief. We decided upon the idea of a typographical design, designing each advert in the style of a certain time period stretching from the 18th Century to the 21st. Used in succession it would therefore produce a series of designs in chronological style. Using our knowledge of period typefaces gained from our history lectures we knew that we would be able to create adverts that looked very authentic. We pitched this idea to the client and they seemed very happy with it, we then went on to start the design process.

We decided to work on two adverts each; this way we both had the same work load.

Design Process

The 18th Century advertisement

With research it was seen that a typical 18th Century piece of ephemera would be set in black. Because of the printing processes available, the typography would often by centre aligned. There would also be a variety of sizes in typeface, along with ornamental flourishes or ornamental lines printed to segment and organise the elements. With this in mind we started to design an advertisement in this style. The following images show the progression of design.

Initial Ideas for 18th century ad

18th c v.2_Page_1

18th century ad portrait


Initially, as you can see, the design was too flat and not convincing as a piece of ephemera. We therefore explored different typefaces, and methods to manipulate the image to make it look as though it was printed onto paper, with the imperfections that letterpress gives. The last image was the finalised design, and after confirmation from the clients, it was sent to print.

The 19th Century advertisement

The design for the 19th century advertisement began with in-depth research into ephemera from the 19th century. We visited the ephemera collection within the department to gain an insight into the style of design and typefaces used within this period. The design went through many changes before it reach the final design. It was hard to make this advert look authentic as at this time the majority of the type was printed using letterpress. Our task was to create an authentic looking piece of ephemera on screen using digitalized typefaces. We had to consider the features that made an artefact look letterpress printed, such as the line length and spacing around the letters. Below shows the progression.




The 20th Century advertisement

For the 20th century advertisement we decided to create the advert in the style of Swiss design. We already had a good understanding of Swiss design from our history lectures but we undertook more in-depth research into designers such as Jan Tschichold and Josef Muller Brockmann. After clearly identifying what design elements featured within Swiss design we created the advert. We used a sans serif typefaces, a simple colour palette of primary colours, geometric shapes and an asymmetrical layout.




After gaining feedback from the client they thought that their audience weren’t that familiar with Swiss design and thought it would be better to take the advert down a different design route. We then decided to take inspiration from the Curwen Press. This design allowed us to use decorative borders, bright colours, and traditional centred serif type. The client was happy with this outcome as they thought the audience would be able to appreciate it more.

The 21st Century advertisement

Trying to decide on how exactly to define 21st Century ephemera was very challenging. As we are living in the time now, it is hard to be able to spot trends that will be considered as ephemera in the future. The definition of ephemera is ‘things that exist or are used or enjoyed for only a short time’. With this in mind, it was proposed that an email could be considered the ephemera of today, and so we set out to create an advertisement that looked like an email.

21st Century Ad_Page_1 portrait email v.1

However, the clients were unenthusiastic about the concept, and suggested instead on a pastiche of post 1980’s design.

Epehemera 21st century_neville brody v.5

This resulted in a design inspired by Neville Brody. Although this was not strictly 21st Century ephemera, it was obviously a concept that tied in with the other designs better, and so overall we felt it was more effective within the series.


Looking back at the finished adverts after a lot of design discussion we can be proud to say that they have full filled the brief and the client seemed very happy with the finished designs. We are aware that this project took us longer than expected and we think this is down to a few factors; a very busy work load with other university work, a small lack of enthusiasm for the style of design, and a lack of a fixed deadline from the client. Without a fixed deadline there appeared to be no pressure on us to create a finished product quickly. When gaining feedback from the client and Rob it was sometimes helpful to gain two sets of feedback but in others it seemed hard to please both parties. Taking all this into consideration we think that the job has been a real learning experience in terms of dealing with real clients, and gaining more of an insight into different periods of ephemera.