A Mid-Spring Night’s Dream

Mirko Ilić & Steven Heller discuss this Thursday's Shakespeare exhibition opening

Here at ADC, iconic names such as Herb Lubalin, Massimo Vignelli and Ray Eames carry a lot of creative weight. But as esteemed as those stars are, when it comes to cultural impact… they ain’t got nothin’ on The Bard.

Ahead of the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare‘s death, legendary designer Mirko Ilić teamed up with ADC Hall of Fame laureate Steven Heller to create a book that compiled posters for presentations of the playwright’s famous works. Entitled Presenting Shakespeare: 1,100 Posters From Around The World, the book is a jaw-dropping display of visual interpretations of some of the world’s most renowned plays.

This week we are fortunate enough to present the opening of an exhibition of some of these prints. We had a chance to catch up with Mirko and Steven to discuss Much Ado About Posters.

Steven Heller & Mirko Ilic: The Comedy & The Tragedy

Steven Heller & Mirko Ilic: The Comedy & The Tragedy

Before the exhibition, there was the book. What was the impetus for publishing such a tome?

Mirko: Originally I was looking for some Shakespeare posters, and I was trying to find a book on it. Shockingly, there was not one single book in the world on Shakespeare posters. So I started to do my research and I found there were many posters. In the process of doing all this I noticed there was a major anniversary coming up, so I suggested to Steve why don’t we write the book.

Going into such a project, one probably already has an appreciation for the The Bard, but was there anything you learned while amassing so many works of art that really surprised you?

Steven: We knew the bard’s most iconic work, but hadn’t studied his lesser known work. The guy had chops! He wrote amazing tragedy, comedy, romance and history. He has to be the most oft quoted of the English language poets and authors.

Shakespeare conjures up so many singular images: Yorrick’s skull, a floating dagger, Nick Bottom’s donkey head etc. Is it more difficult to break away from such icons, or do you find it more of a challenge to use the familiar effectively?

Steven: Sometimes being too fresh is a drawback. Using the singular images and a multiplicity of ways is a virtue. Familiar yet surprising is a challenge.

The exhibition, while extensive, is only a small segment of those in the book. How did you curate what would be on display?

Steven: The exhibition includes some from the book, as well as some found after the book went to press. In fact, Mirko continued to change images until the last minute. You’d say he was posessed by the Bard.

Which Shakespearean play speaks to you best and why? Which single poster in the exhibition does the same?

Steven: This is an unanswerable question. We do not have the temerity to judge one play over another. They are brilliant. As for the posters, you don’t want us to upset our contributors do you? What kind of fools do you take us mortals to be?!!


Presenting Shakespeare: Much Ado About Posters opens with a reception this Thursday, May 5, 6PM–8PM at the ADC Gallery.