Vintage Posters – A 150 Year Anniversary

2016 is a very special year for DFDS as this December we'll be celebrating 150 years since our formation. Our century and a half of history began in Denmark in 1866 with the famous Danish industrialist Carl Frederik Tietgen, who created Det Forende Dampskibs-Selskab (The United Steamship Company). Since then DFDS has navigated through the 19th and the tumultuous 20th century to become the world-renowned ferry company it is today, delivering passengers and freight to their chosen destinations in France​HollandDenmarkGermany​, Norway, Sweden, Baltics and the UK.​

To mark the occasion, we’ve commissioned the creation of a series of stunning posters that hark back to the golden age of travel. We’ve drawn inspiration from our 150-year history, and chosen an era that we feel represents the elegance and the glamour of travelling at sea.​​

A Golden Age of Travel​

When DFDS was founded, mass produced posters were yet to be widely seen. It was only with the introduction of lithography that companies could create full colour posters to advertise with and it didn't take long before travel companies and operators were making the most of this new medium to inspire and entice the public. 

With its sleek geometrical forms and use of bold colours, the Art Deco style found its voice during this golden age of travel

Nowadays the Art Deco aesthetics of the 20s and 30s perfectly evoke the elegance and excitement of that era, bringing to mind the sleek, powerful transatlantic ships that conveyed passengers across the seas to their chosen destinations. It was at this time that the appearance of DFDS ships changed, curvier structures allowed for smoother crossings. Interiors became more modern, with bespoke furniture and bold colours that, looking back on today, perfectly reflects the style of the time.

In fact, 1937 was a milestone year for DFDS, not only was the iconic Maltese Cross first introduced to the bow of each ship but it was also the year passengers could take their vehicles abroad for the first time - all be it, by sharing cargo space with livestock. ​

​​Research to Realisation

Art Deco, as a style, allows a lot of opportunity to create exciting images using negative space and bold shapes to represent specific concepts. It's possible to be as realistic or imaginative as we want, a concept legendary poster designers of their day, such as A.M. Cassandre and Raymond Loewy made full use of.

During our research it became apparent that we had three core themes that needed to be visualised in order to retain the integrity and style of the original posters. However, it was also important that we portrayed our modern offerings in order to make them relevant to today's traveller.

Our core themes are:

  • Current ferry routes
  • Reasons to travel
  • Onboard services

We hope you agree with us that whilst the below takes inspiration from the age of Art Deco, there is a strong modern message that shows DFDS is very much a 21st Century company.​

Vintage Posters for the 21st Century


​Dover To Calais

Long sweeping lines and simple shapes are used here to make up the body of the ship, purposefully taken out of perspective and scale to give it an overbearing presence and lend a solid quality. This was a common ploy in travel posters of this era to help inspire a degree of trust due to the sheer size and scale of the ship. The lighthouse in the background whilst in the distance also serves to give context and scale to the ship dominating the poster.​​​


Newcastle to Amsterdam

As with many Art Deco posters of this era, this poster is made up of simple shapes with the bow of the ship being most prominent. Out of perspective it gives the impression of an imposing force powering towards Amsterdam. The red sky coupled with the white bridge and the blue of the ship reflects the flag of the Netherlands so that from a distance it could easily be mistaken for one. A clever use of double meaning often found in travel posters of this era.​​


Wine Regions

The French countryside was a mainstay of travel posters right through the 1900's as it was easily within reach for the majority of Europe. Using vibrant colours to reflect the personality of the area and drawing more from an impressionist's style, the scene is indicative of the era and the colours of Art Deco.​​​



Two things spring instinctively to mind when Holland is mentioned, Tulips and Windmills. Stereotypical yet iconic these elements have featured heavily in travel posters to the region for the last century. Couple this with the country's association with cycling and you have an inspired, graphic poster encouraging those visiting Holland to explore it on two wheels.


Onboard entertainment

Cabaret, or live music and entertainment was almost always typified by a beautiful woman mid-song or dance to display the revelry that was to be had, when recreating this 100 years on we wanted to focus more on displaying this through the use of form and negative space rather than being overt. The long sweeping lines reflect the treble clef, integrating it into the picture.​


Onboard dining

Researching posters of the time it became apparent that the interactions between men and women were subtly nuanced, reflecting social norms of the time, hence the lack of detail on the faces. The subtleness of the couple is in stark contract with the obviousness of the Martini glass. Another common tactic by travel companies t​o add that aspirational touch to their posters.​​

And finally, font choice. Oddly enough, a large proportion of posters had hand drawn fonts, when selecting the fonts, an obvious choice would be Futura, a classic typeface invented in 1927 that we still use today. However it is the fact that it is used today (see any Wes Anderson film) that makes it unsuitable as it is often recognised as a modern typeface. So we chose to opt for fonts that were overtly stylized to be Art Deco looking, or have elements that we as an audience in 2016 consider to be Art Deco, even though they may not be.

Alongside this project we've also enjoyed listening and learning from some of our loyal customers over the years about what made a DFDS journey special to them. This has led us to create some 1930's inspired tea towels, a common holiday memento of the era, for some of those taking part. For more details on how to enter please visit the blog post here. ​


We are Europe’s Leading Ferry Operator 2012-2017 & the World’s Leading Ferry Operator 2011-2017!​​