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A motivational poster in the style of those produced by Successories.
A WWII British precursor.

A motivational poster (or inspirational poster) is a type of poster commonly designed for use in schools and offices.



Successories, the originators of the motivational poster, had intended motivational posters to make people achieve more, or to think differently about the things that they may be learning or doing.[1] This is not how everyone views such posters, however. Art Petty,[2] for example, in discussing innovation writes that it "cannot be mandated or legislated, and it definitely is not inspired by the corporate motivational poster".


Motivational posters can have behavioral effects. For example, Mutrie and Blamey,[3] of the University of Glasgow and the Greater Glasgow Health Board, found in one study that their placement of a motivational poster in front of an escalator and a parallel staircase, in an underground station, doubled the amount of stair use. These studies all support the finding that such motivational posters, placed at the point of decision, can have a behavioral effect, with this effect decreasing back to zero gradually over a period of weeks after the removal of the poster.[4]

Parodies and demotivational posters

This kind of poster has been repeatedly parodied, and parodical demotivational posters have become an Internet meme. One famous motivational poster features a kitten hanging from a tree branch along with the phrase "Hang in There, Baby!" This has been the target of various reproductions and parodies, such as an appearance on The Simpsons episode "The Twisted World of Marge Simpson" where Marge Simpson notices the copyright date (1968) and comments, "...determined or not, that cat must be long dead. That's kind of a downer."[5] Another reference to the poster is The Onion's 1999 "In the News" photograph titled "Inspirational Poster Kitten Falls To Death After 17 Years".[6]

Despair, Inc. has made a business out of such parodical and cynical posters, with demotivational posters ranging from a picture of a tree bent over by wind with the caption "ADVERSITY: That which does not kill me postpones the inevitable." to a picture of a sinking ship with the caption "MISTAKES: It could be that the purpose of your life is only to serve as a warning to others.".[7]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Art Petty and Rich Petro (2007). Practical Lessons in Leadership: A Guidebook for Aspiring and Experienced Leaders. Trafford Publishing. p. 191. ISBN 1425122493. 
  3. ^ Nanette Mutrie and Avril Blamey (2000). "Encouraging stair walking". British Journal of Sports Medicine 34 (144). 
  4. ^ Stuar J.H. Biddle and Panteleimon Ekkekakis (2005). "Physically active lifestyles and well-being". in Felicia A. Huppert, Nick Baylis, and Barry Keverne. The Science of Well-being. Oxford University Press. p. 161. ISBN 0198567529. 
  5. ^ "The Twisted World of Marge Simpson" episode capsule at The Simpsons Archive
  6. ^ "In the News, June 23, 1999 Issue 35-24". The Onion. Retrieved on March 2007.
  7. ^ Frank Ahrens (2001-07-30). "Frames of mind: the cubicle culture wars". The Washington Post (The Seattle Times). 

Further reading

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