John Maggard - 36 Posters to Heal the Heart


John Maggard has provided the art of 36 mini-marathon posters for the Cincinnati Chapter of the American Heart Association. The appeal is to both long distance running enthusiasts and the public alike. The posters in this series have become a collectable in some quarters, so the challenge every year to John is remaining fresh and interesting.

John shares the overall goal of the posters since the inception of this series has been to produce posters that break from the norm of art that usually depicts runners, and instead works with themes seemingly unrelated visually to the actual event. Want to know more? Then read on…

John, could you walk us through the creation of a Marathon poster? Creating a sports poster, specifically a running poster, with a different point of view or image than what we perceived as the current genre: typically illustration or photo imagery of running figures. Additionally, creating fresh imagery that would identify the event as being unique to the city and contain eye-catching content.

After all the audience is the general public, specifically runners, would-be runners and walkers. More recently, they have been used as team-building motivational pieces as opposed to public display advertising posters.

I see. How do you approach the process of understanding your client’s needs? By consciously working with themes that runners would identify with (struggle, effort, danger, pain, etc) but using images of anything besides running humans. Generally the images have had a direct connection to the race (location, landmarks, course or running accessories like shoes), even if very tenuous some years. We have used song titles, quotes and other related themes to build some of these on.

In what ways did the initial concepts differ from the finished work? Depends from year to year...some years the final reflects the first concept out of the box, other times it's a refinement of the original idea, but many times ends up being a completely different approach than where I initially thought it would go. I've avoided a lot of unworkable, cliched or crazy ideas that way - but not always.

How would you describe the feeling you get when you know you have satisfied your client? The posters have placed first in Runner’s World magazine competitions several times. People are also continuing to purchase posters for races they or others ran in years before. It's great seeing and hearing from some of the same people who either participate in the race year after year, collect the posters or are introduced to the series somehow; many of them associate the posters with various milestones in their lives and like to share them with me - it's a great feeling.

Personally, I see the poster as playing a small part in helping fund the activities of a great organization. Every year at the poster event we’re introduced to someone, often a child, who directly owes their life to the research funded by the Heart Assoc., and they represent hundreds or thousands of families and individuals who have benefited directly from the Heart Association’s efforts. I’ve come to believe very strongly in volunteer activities – no matter what your level or expertise or experience is, you can help make a difference by contributing something of your particular time and talents.

I would be remiss in not recognizing that The Heart Association has never, in all this time, put restrictions (or even suggested) subject matter for these prints so it remains a personal creative challenge each year. It is truly rewarding to be given such creative freedom, in that I am able to create art that can help change lives. I am able to really give back—to give the gift of art. And nothing is better than that.

Thank you John! We're looking forward to poster 37.

Click here to see John's portfolio!