It is precisely the exuberance and energy of these posters that sets them off as interesting in a new way. However, this is not a fact noted in any manuals on technique or in design histories. Those texts see innovation in terms of form and philosophy; they rarely consider aspects of visual vocabulary such as the relationship between form and mood. This is precisely why they miss the American contribution.

Consider these two posters. The first is a British selection encouraging enlistment. It is the original, the "authentic" version, of which the second is only a copy. And yet its colors are muted, its army officer rather passive. The famous and "derivative" poster on the right, however, is full of colorful dynamic contrast. The figure of Uncle Sam stares intensely straight ahead, the curls of his white hair audacious, the jutting cheekbones belying his apparent age. He is vigorous and mature and clownish at the same time, in his red bow tie and his ludicrous top hat. He leans forward, left arm tucked behind him as if he were moving through the plane of the poster. Uncle Sam is a figure of American dynamism and intensity. He wants you, and he knows what you want.

The poster is not innovative in the classic sense. It does not extend the formal vocabulary. It has no manifesto, and it pretends to no philosophy. It does not even pretend to any political ideology. While the British version intones the hackneyed "God Save the King!", the American poster says simply "Nearest Recruiting Station", with childlike grammar. It seeks to implant only the most basic notions. It is an active design that requires action. Above all it is concerned that you do something in response to it. Act. Do not think. Do not pass go. Simply act. American design is made of impulse and intuition. It creates a "dreamscape", a place where all things come about through a play of spontaneous desires.

Perhaps none was a greater master of the American dreamscape than Norman Rockwell, whose images express precisely the kind of exaltation of humility that ad copy hacks could only dream of producing. In this Rockwell Poster from 1943 one can see the American dreamscape coming into full maturity. Simply by buying war bonds, this man has earned the recognition of a heavenly force, a divine light. He is not simply a grubby working-class joe. Instead he transcends his class status in order to gain the attention of the presumably white-collar gentlemen in suits and ties who surround him in church or at a town meeting. Rockwell's figures are rich in "realistic" detail, their every vein and wrinkle graven deeply into their faces, their grimaces pronounced, their eyebrows raised in almost vaudevillian exaggeration. The great irony of the poster, of course, is that the placement of Rockwell's work in this context reveals the quantity of petty prejudice and class-consciousness in his illustrations. This is a classic example of the way that advertisers were able to subtly connect hygiene, appearance, status, and their products. However, the dynamism of the image conjures a dreamy and fervent world where simple acts of consumption have limitless transformative potential, and the viewer's attention is thereby diverted from the act of manipulation.