Tattle-Tales: Interview with Poster House’s Joseph Brichacek

Mar 12th 2024

Tattle-Tales: Interview with Poster House’s Joseph Brichacek

Did you know that posters and buttons actually have a lot in common? I spoke with Joseph Brichacek at Poster House. We help make multiple products for them to make sure their gift shop is always stocked for their visitors! I’ve helped with a few of their orders in the past, so I reached out to find out more! I hope you enjoy our chat below.

ED: Could you tell me a little bit about Poster House? What is your favorite thing about your job?

JB: Poster House is a museum dedicated to presenting the impact, culture, and design of posters. We opened in 2019 and we're located in New York City's Flatiron District. We have a gift shop where we sell custom buttons and stickers alongside posters, prints, stationery, and a large selection of books on design. I'm the Director of Retail at Poster House and I started in 2021. I manage the buying, merchandising, and administration of our museum gift shop. My favorite thing about my job is also my least favorite thing: remerchandising the shop during exhibition changovers. It's exciting and harrowing to have to move everything around and fit all the new products into a finite space.

ED: How does Poster House use buttons and stickers?

JB: Buttons, stickers, and posters are cousins! Like posters, buttons have a rich history of being used as tools of mass communication and persuasion, which can be explored in Busy Beaver's Button Museum! Buttons are often exhibited at Poster House alongside posters, including recent exhibitions about the Black Panther Party and environmentalism. Because of this symbiosis, and because everyone loves them, buttons were an obvious addition to the Poster House Shop. We take images or slogans from our current exhibitions and turn them into cool buttons and stickers. We just had an exhibition on 1920s advertising posters so we created a sticker with a dapper Cubist-inspired figure that advertised a French clothing company and an androgynous Expressionist-inspired figure that advertised German cigarettes.

custom stickers

ED: I noticed that most of your buttons have our matte finish, why does your organization choose to use this special finish?

JB: Our staff and customers have provided feedback that the matte finish adds that extra touch of specialness to the buttons to make them feel more like merchandise, rather than freebies.

ED: Do you have a favorite exhibition? Why?

JB: My favorite Poster House exhibition showcased 1920s Soviet film posters. These posters are extremely rare and feature incredible avant-garde designs that mirrored the dynamism of the still-new medium of film. They advertised anything that was released in Soviet cinemas—from Buster Keaton imports to documentaries about railroad construction in Soviet Kazakhstan. The designers didn't always get to see the film before creating the poster, so the works are often conceptual and quite striking—in a way that today's formulaic superhero movie posters are decidedly not. Seeing this exhibition felt like glimpsing into an alternate future. What would our movie posters look like if they were held to the visual standards of our finest cinematography? What if the Soviet avant-garde was able to flourish for many decades instead of Stalin forcing an artistic pivot to socialist realism? Many of the actors' faces were beautifully illustrated to convey pure drama, and we used those details to create a series of buttons for our shop.

historical poster

ED: If you could have one of the posters from the museum’s collection on display in your home, which one would it be?

JB: I'm fond of a c. 1926 billboard (billboards are posters!) that advertised a magic show starring "Carter the Great." There's so much going on to hold your focus, and if you use a billboard as home decor, your wall is covered and your job is done!

ED: How do you decide what artwork to put on buttons and stickers?

JB: Usually there are a few "hero" images for an exhibition that we use for merchandise and marketing. These will depend on current tastes, historical or artistic significance, and whether we can clear the original designs for commercial use. For buttons, it's also a question of circling a square. Posters are rectangular so we'll only turn a small detail or a tight composition into a circular button. Alternatively, we may turn the exhibition title and graphic identity into a button. This is especially effective when the title works as a slogan, such as "I Am My Own Property."

matte buttons

ED: What made you choose to order with Busy Beaver?

JB: Busy Beaver Button Co. has buttons in the name! Other promotional merchandise vendors do a little of everything and not always well. I've loved working with Busy Beaver because you are the sticker and button experts and you provide low minimums at affordable prices.We're certainly not the largest museum in New York City, so it's great to be able to provide custom merchandise without a huge overhead.

Thank you so much, Joseph, for taking the time to talk with me. If you find yourself in Manhattan, make sure to pay them a visit. I myself can’t wait to visit Poster House in-person one day! We’re looking forward to seeing their future designs and what they plan on making in matte next. 

Read More