The History and Evolution of Vintage Travel Posters: Exploring the Heritage and Cultural Impact


Vintage travel posters have captured the imagination of generations of travellers and art enthusiasts alike. They offer a nostalgic and colourful glimpse into the past, highlighting the beauty and allure of various destinations around the world. These posters have played a pivotal role in shaping the travel industry and popular culture while serving as visual masterpieces that have stood the test of time. In this blog post, we will explore the origins and development of vintage travel posters, delving into their impact on tourism, design trends, and popular culture.

Early Beginnings

The history of travel posters dates back to the late 19th century when advances in printing technology, particularly colour lithography, made it possible to produce vibrant, eye-catching images at an affordable cost. This development coincided with the expansion of railway networks and the growth of the tourism industry, creating a demand for promotional materials that could entice potential travellers.

In the early days, travel posters primarily focused on promoting rail travel and were commissioned by railway companies to advertise their services and the destinations they served. One of the earliest known travel posters, created in 1873 by French artist Jules Chéret, promoted a train route from Paris to the coastal town of Trouville. Chéret's innovative use of colour and typography laid the foundation for the visual language of travel posters.

The Golden Age of Travel Posters

The period between the 1920s and the 1950s is often referred to as the "Golden Age" of travel posters. During this time, the popularity of travel posters soared, and the designs became more sophisticated and artistic. Many renowned artists and illustrators, such as Roger Broders, A.M. Cassandre, and Frank Newbould, created iconic posters that have become highly sought-after collector's items.

During the Golden Age, travel posters were used to promote various modes of transportation, including ocean liners, aeroplanes, and automobiles. They also advertised specific destinations, featuring stunning landscapes, exotic locales, and architectural landmarks. The imagery and design of these posters often reflected the art movements of the time, such as Art Deco, Futurism, and Modernism.

One of the most famous travel posters of this era is Cassandre's "L'Atlantique" (1931), which showcases the streamlined form of an ocean liner slicing through the waves. This striking image captures the essence of the Art Deco movement, characterised by bold geometric shapes, clean lines, and a sense of movement and dynamism.

The Role of Travel Posters in Promoting Tourism

Travel posters played a crucial role in promoting tourism by creating a visual connection between potential travellers and the destinations they could visit. They used a combination of evocative imagery, bold typography, and vibrant colours to evoke the unique atmosphere and attractions of various places.

For example, vintage travel posters featuring the French Riviera often depicted the region's sun-soaked beaches, azure waters, and glamorous high society, enticing travellers to experience the allure of this famed coastal paradise. Similarly, posters showcasing the Swiss Alps would highlight the dramatic landscapes and outdoor activities that awaited visitors, such as skiing, hiking, and mountaineering.

These posters not only enticed tourists to visit specific destinations but also played a role in shaping the image and identity of these places. They often emphasised the most attractive and distinctive aspects of a destination, creating a romanticised and idealised vision that would appeal to potential travellers.

The Influence of Travel Posters on Design and Popular Culture

The designs of vintage travel posters have had a lasting impact on visual culture and design trends. They have inspired countless artists and designers over the years, who have incorporated elements of these posters into their own work, from advertising and packaging design to fashion and interior design.

Some key characteristics of vintage travel posters that have influenced design trends include the use of bold, saturated colours, dynamic compositions, and stylised typography. These design elements, combined with the romanticised and often exotic subject matter, create a sense of nostalgia and wanderlust that continues to captivate audiences.

Travel posters have also played a significant role in shaping popular culture, particularly in the way that destinations are perceived and represented. They have contributed to the formation of iconic and enduring images, such as the sun-drenched beaches of the Mediterranean, the bustling streets of New York City, or the serene beauty of the English countryside. These images have become deeply ingrained in the collective imagination, influencing how we view and experience these places.

The Revival of Vintage Travel Posters

In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in vintage travel posters, both as collectible art and as a source of inspiration for contemporary design. This revival can be attributed to several factors, including the growing appreciation for the craftsmanship and artistic skill of the original poster artists, as well as a renewed fascination with the romanticised, nostalgic vision of travel that these posters represent.

Modern-day artists and designers have drawn inspiration from vintage travel posters to create new works that pay homage to this classic art form. These contemporary interpretations often incorporate modern design techniques and digital tools while maintaining the distinctive visual language and spirit of the original posters.

The enduring appeal of vintage travel posters can also be seen in the popularity of reproductions and high-quality prints, which allow enthusiasts to bring the charm and allure of these artworks into their own homes. These reproductions not only serve as decorative pieces but also as a celebration of the rich history and cultural significance of travel posters as an art form.


The history and evolution of vintage travel posters offer a fascinating glimpse into the past, showcasing the allure of distant destinations and the creative ingenuity of the artists who brought them to life. These posters have played a pivotal role in shaping the travel industry and popular culture, influencing design trends and the way we perceive and experience the world around us.

Today, the legacy of vintage travel posters endures through the ongoing appreciation for their artistic merit, as well as the continued influence they have on contemporary design and popular culture. As we continue to explore new horizons and seek out unique experiences, the spirit of wanderlust and adventure embodied by vintage travel posters will remain an enduring source of inspiration and enchantment.

Back to blog