During World War I, the Allied Forces and the Central Powers used varying approaches to their propaganda posters, but the goals of both poster campaigns were similar: recruitment, resource conservation, sales of war bonds and the strengthening of morale. The posters produced by the Central Powers, which were led by Germany and Austria-Hungary, tended to feature symbolic images designed to inspire traditional national pride and relied upon economical design concepts with simple messages, bold shapes and a skillful manipulation of typefaces. The Allied Forces posters used a more illustrative and literal approach and often emphasized atrocities, alleged or real, that were committed by the enemy, with much of the focus on the Central Powers' invasion of neutral Belgium.
World War I propaganda posters were designed to be reproduced easily and could be resized to fit in the spaces above cable car windows or featured on magazine covers. They could also be placed conveniently in the windows of homes or pasted on the outside walls of buildings. The compelling graphic elements used in the posters were designed to attract the attention of people passing by them and to elicit a strong emotional response.
During the 3 years between the start of the war in Europe and the entry of the United States in 1917, American propaganda posters were designed to convey the message that the Allied Forces in Europe were waging a just war that was clearly delineated in terms of good and evil. The posters' message was that the suffering in Europe must not be ignored and that it was necessary for the United States to participate in the struggle.