Anyone who’s walked down the hallway in McDermott Hall or trudged up the stairs in Pope has probably seen a panoply of posters for nearly every organization on campus. They come in all sizes and colors and all are communicating the same message:
“COME TO OUR EVENT!”
Some have blown-up images of a guest speaker, others a carefully designed template that conveys just the right amount of information for a 8.5” x 11” size piece of paper. And then there’s my favorite: the ones with so much text, they look like they were torn out of the inner pages of The New York Times and tacked to the wall. Now, in my fourth and final year at this university, I can’t help but wonder... who are these for, really?
As a senior, I cannot recall a single instance where I read one of the posters among millions lining the hallways, carefully considered the message of the flyer and then went to the event. Oftentimes, if the designer creates a poster that has a unique, eye-catching design, my inner monologue registers, “huh, cool” and moves on. I hesitate to speak on behalf of everyone, but I have a nagging feeling that I may not be the only one having experienced this.
Why this is, I’m not entirely sure. I write for The Pauw Wow, so I can rule out a general apathy about the goings-on of the campus — I keep myself plenty busy with events to attend. Maybe, then, it’s simply a matter of fact that I don’t look to the walls for my news.
Not to offend any cave-dwelling readers we may have (your contribution to the early development of the visual arts cannot be understated), but the walls are simply not an effective place to gather information in 2019. I can say with certainty that the events I have attended were communicated to me either through my email, my admittedly infrequent use of social media or through the best publicity of all: word of mouth. When a friend tells me he’s hosting an event and I’m going to get a free slice of pizza, I’m going to go because I’m hungry and I need to maintain at least some semblance of a social life.
I think we continue to post on the walls primarily because it’s tradition; that’s how it’s always been done so we continue down the same path. There’s also a misguided notion that if someone sees a message through their peripheral vision enough times, they will have no choice but to go to the event. In practice, however, we know that there are far more effective ways to invite people to our ice cream socials.
And the practical arguments for giving up posters totally ignore the other blaring reason to quit: they’re environmentally atrocious! Our campus prides itself on pushing a green consumption model, but for some reason, no one bats an eye at printing hundreds of full-color copies of flyers. The massive amount of paper and synthetic ink used in this process, along with the endless plastic tape is hardly worth the very minimal impact the final product has on advertising events.
But this article would read like a rambling excuse to complain about something if I didn’t offer an alternative. What if, besides committing as a university to phase out the practice of printing flyers, we used the wall space currently cluttered with a myriad of posters to showcase student artwork like on the 5th floor of the Student Center? It would give a sense of character to the otherwise bland hallways and the campus community would be able to better appreciate the creative talent of our fellow students.
The takeaway: when you go to print another three dozen copies of a flyer for your next event, consider if all that paper, ink, tape and effort to put them up is really worth the likely outcome. In the digital age, there are so many ways to make sure that I can learn about your upcoming meeting, but I will expect that free pizza when I get there. I propose we use the wall space for something much more conducive to building campus community and ditch the age-old practice of wasting all that paper.