"Motivational Posters: How Much Do They Inspire You?"You’ve seen them everywhere. They are in the break room and lobby at work. They were on the walls of different classrooms while you were growing up. They might have even been in the waiting rooms of doctors’ and dentists’ offices. Maybe you even bought one or two for your own room.

Motivational posters have become so ubiquitous that we almost don’t notice them anymore.

So… if we barely notice them, why do we still buy them?

Those motivational posters you see all over the place are called “Successories,” and they were invented by Mac Anderson. These posters seem a little bit passé now—more often the subject of funny memes using their template to produce “demotivational” posters to make your friends laugh. At one point in time, before selling the company, though, they were netting Anderson more than seventy million dollars a year.


Do these simple words and basic images really inspire us?

They must because Successories (and their derivative works) are still in high demand. Right now one of the most popular types of motivational or inspirational poster is the “Keep Calm and…” poster. The original said “Keep Calm and Carry On,” but now you can find variations that involve slaying zombies, being awesome, carrying big sticks, etc.

So why do they work so well? Why, even if we think they are cheesy, do they remind us to keep going?

Mac Anderson believes that it goes back to our love of quotations. People love quotations. We use them to help define who we are, what we’re about, what we’re trying to accomplish, and to better say the things we wish we could eloquently express all by ourselves. They provide us with the means to say the things we don’t know how to say. We can point to them and say, “Yes! That’s how I feel!”

When you pair that up with a pretty picture—it’s pretty much a win-win…especially if you’re already working on a project and might need some help staying focused.

People who are working toward an active goal tend to respond better to motivational posters than those who don’t have a specific project or goal holding their attention.

This is why these posters are so popular among teachers—they remind kids who are stuck on problems or projects to keep working. A guy climbing a wall might not feel motivating while you’re out shopping. When you’re stuck in a classroom and have been trying to solve the same math problem for the last half an hour, though, you identify with the guy in the seemingly impossible situation and his “words” (i.e. the caption) remind you that if he could do it, so can you.

Obviously the success rate of any given poster is going to depend upon the person viewing it. For some people, sayings meant to motivate feel manipulative—they respond more to actions than simple words and pictures. For others, though, a quick inspirational quote can remind them of why they are doing what they are doing and help them keep going until their goals are reached.

So what about you? Do you find these posters help you or hinder you? Do you have a favorite?

Erin Steiner has a soft spot in her heart for motivational posters—her favorite is Keep Calm and DFTBA. Erin writes on a wide variety of topics, including online reputation management.