While motivational poster in today’s age defines the characteristics of millennials, in reality, they are an invention of as early as the 1920s. If you think motivational posters are an invention of today’s internet era and memes, you are not to be blamed.

The History of 90s Office Décor

 These posters have been inspiring us since the 1920s and their design has evolved over time to motivate masses. Successories poster was an icon of office décor, the layout was always the same, black border, and bold words.

If you are acquainted with an office layout of the 1990s, you are likely to be familiar with posters of mountain peaks, sunrises, with thick black borders quoting inspirational mantra. These posters have adorned the walls of thousands of offices, conference rooms, and waiting areas. The posters depicted a certain management lesson, for example, in teamwork, commitment, or excellence.

Mac Anderson – The Brainchild behind Successories

This was the brainchild and concept of the travel company owner Mac Anderson. During the peak successful years of the company, Anderson was shipping at least 2,000 prints a day. While he sold these successories about 10 years ago, the company is still in the business of printing same classic motivational posters. The posters were meant to inspire people lingering in the break rooms, sitting in the boss’s office, or simply just waiting for their turn at their doctor’s office.

The posters now have become ironic memes or parodies of office artwork as against their popularity in the 90s. Anderson sold successories 10 years ago but did not leave motivation behind.

Business Idea behind Successories Posters

Anderson loved quotations and owned the largest travel company in the Midwest. He once created a book of quotes for one of his customers and decided to test this idea in gift shops and hotels. Within 18 months he had sold 800,000 copies of these books. He later came up with the idea of using these quotes on posters, he created with his designer Mike McKee and this idea really took off and their business flourished.

Reason for Success

Anderson believed that there are millions of people who share his love for quotes. It’s like you are looking through a camera lens, you focus and things become very clear. Similar is the case with a quote, when you read them you know this is how you feel. You put them on your desk or wall and they become a reminder of what is important in your life and how will you achieve that goal.

Anderson envisioned the idea that could add a purpose to the bland walls of offices and motivate employees to perform their best. They got the rights for freelancing or stocking images, combined an inspirational phrase and image together to make an appealing poster.

The impact of Posters

One of another prominent contributor to 1920s motivational posters was Park- Holladay, the company’s most notable character was ‘Bill Jones’. Bill Jones was a character specifically developed to encourage workforces to embrace positive habits of teamwork, punctuality, respect and positive work attitude.

The line of these motivational posters was sold to employees on a subscription basis until the Great Depression when more than one-quarter Americans lost their jobs.

With WWII in full swing, in the 1930s and 1940s, the motivational posters took a major swivel, when motivational posters weren’t targeted to get people to have good teamwork or punctuality at work, but it was about getting them to contribute in the efforts of war. These posters took home only one message that it’s the civilians’ civic duty to support the war effort by any way possible.

The design was targeted to inspire patriotism and loyalty. These were no other stupid people quotes but had a much-targeted message to take home. The primary poster colors were white, red, and blue, and the message uniform as to how important it is to rally together to support war efforts.

The precise reason for these motivational posters to work is not known, however being exposed to an image which may be as simple as nothing can impact the subconscious mind and its behavior, commonly known as the priming effect.


Then came the internet era that changed everything. The internet’s humor changes a lot faster than the office décor, relying on memes and demotivational posters. Successories still sells posters, but their designs are slightly refreshed as compared to their 90s design theme.