All posts tagged “ScreenFonts”

ScreenFonts Special: Fontbuster Game

The FontFeed celebrates the summer with the Fontbuster game. At the TYPO Berlin 2014 conference the public beta next.fontshop.com introduced a new functionality. The first version of the upcoming Tryout feature allows you to test typefaces in context, with full control of typographic and colour attributes. For now the deceptively simple-looking beta only works with webfonts*, but the initial preview version already takes you well beyond the scope of traditional live font-rendering. Inspired by the start of the blockbuster season, we invite you to create typographic posters for films – real or imagined. The only restriction is that the film title needs to incorporate a typographic reference; a type-pun if you will. Share your best and most original creations, and we will publish them in this post. By the end of summer we will award the winner(s) some cool prizes (to be announced). Have fun!


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ScreenFonts: Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Under The Skin, Hateship Loveship, The Quiet Ones

With all the excitement surrounding yet another great TYPO Berlin conference, I almost forgot to post this month’s ScreenFonts. Kick back, relax, let’s watch some film (posters), quick! By the way, prepare yourself for a quadruple dose of ITC Avant Garde Gothic.

We kick off this episode with a richly textured alternate design for The Unknown Known (don’t bother looking up the main theatrical poster). In this documentary former United States Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, discusses his career in Washington D.C. from his days as a congressman in the early 1960s to planning the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The interplay between the portrait of Rumsfeld and several (censored) texts overlaid on each other nicely visualises the film title. It suggests a life at the center of delicate government operations, where information is gathered, hidden, manipulated and steered. The combination of typewritten text, Times, Helvetica, black bars and the fragmented high-contrast portrait somewhat reminds me of Tomato’s astonishing artwork for Dubnobasswithmyheadman, Underworld’s debut album. Which turns twenty this year, imagine that!

Kajsa Björs and Dylan Marchetti’s poster for The Retrieval is deceptively quiet, yet when you examine the scene the desperation and angst become almost palpable. By having the trees and water almost monochrome blueish grey and enhancing the golden brown tones, the two figures making their getaway pop out of the image. The distressed text serif face enhances the period feel, hinting at worn metal type.

Whereas the “regular” posters for Captain America: The Winter Soldier are the usual action movie fare, this Imax poster yanks the design back into comic book territory. The stylised painted artwork looks like a classy cover for a trade paperback collection of Captain America comics. By toning down the reds and blues the mood (quite literally) gets darker, hinting at the 70s espionage thriller atmosphere of the storyline. The typography interacts nicely with the iconic star-in-a-circle motif by way of white and red diagonal stripes, which also provide structure for the image elements. I did not recognise the square sans; the stencil typeface underneath the movie title is Eurostile. This great, dynamic design stands out against the rest of the film’s campaign.

It’s always a joy to write an episode of ScreenFonts that includes work by Neil Kellerhouse. Neil not only is one of the most inventive and consistently brilliant film poster designers in the industry. He also manages to surprise me time and again because he does not really have a recognisable “signature style”. This means you never know what to expect (except that it almost invariably is an excellent design).

Despite Neil Kellerhouse telling me he never once thought of the eighties when working on the moody artwork for Under the Skin, I originally interpreted it as a contemporary interpretation of classic eighties science fiction posters. Neil makes only minimal use of Scarlett Johansson’s star power (pardon the pun) by making her face barely recognisable as it dissolves in the starry sky. According to Corey Holms all those stars were hand-painted; the fact that it was a rush job makes this design all the more impressive. Neil confirmed he ‘drew’ the planet/orb/stars and cleaned a lot of the smaller ones too, clarifying it was kind of a last minute surprise solution. The typography is almost bookish – Univers with generously spaced Sabon as a supporting typeface – which enhances the classic vibe of the superb poster. Having the movie title emerge from the bottom frame is an ever so subtle typographic play on the title.



Neil Kellerhouse also sent me the pieces above which were used as Flysheets in the UK and for a digital campaign in the US.

Searching for alternate posters for Under The Skin, I stumbled upon something interesting. For the Frames series on The Dissolve, graphic designer Sam Smith created a custom poster and wrote about the film and his inspiration for the design. Even though both posters are entirely unrelated, I seem to also detect an eighties vibe that is typographically suggested by the true and tested ITC Avant Garde Gothic.

Sam Smith sure seems to like the elementary shapes of ITC Avant Garde Gothic. They also feature on his beautiful retro poster for Proxy. Part of the impact of these posters is the strong contrast and the monochrome palette (blue and red, respectively) which both simplifies and unifies the design.

After having been subjected to too many brightly coloured designs with airbrushed, gorgeous youngsters frozen mid-dance, it is refreshing to find a poster for a dance movie that does not resort to the usual cliches. The artwork for Flex Is Kings draws from the roots of the urban dance style flexing, “forged in far east Brooklyn, at the dead-end of a handful of subway lines. Flex dancers channel the grittiness and crime of East New York into choreographed violence with gun movements, simulated bone-breaking, and the mimicked ripping of hearts from opponent’s chests.”

The poster visually translates this tense style by splitting up the dancer’s image into the three different “press runs” – cyan, magenta and yellow – as if his body fragmented, metaphysically ripped apart by separating the dance movement into its components. Instead of opting for an all-too-obvious distressed typeface, the designer created a great contrast between the grimy image and the sleek, seventies-style Grumpy Black 99. Finnish type designer Tomi Haaparanta loosely based the design of his fat face on the classic display type ITC Grouch.

There’s another dance movie in this episode, yet this one takes itself slightly less seriously. I almost glossed over the main theatrical poster for Cuban Fury until I noticed the stiletto-ed foot kicking that Gotham ‘E’ out of its spot. Cute.

I don’t know how much sense this alternate poster makes to anyone under 40, still the nod to Flashdance is actually quite funny. To mimic the hand lettering on the eighties poster, the designer of the Cuban Fury artwork has Mistral follow the curve of the cyan brush stroke underneath. Because of its magenta colour the movie logo bears a surprising and frankly bizarre resemblance to the poster for Drive.

Another, maybe not so subtle typographic pun can be found on the poster for The Final Member. The ‘l’ in the movie title is perfectly positioned – and printed solid in both inks – in this lovely two-colour design. To come back to the Flex Is Kings poster, I wish the designer had used actual ITC Avant Garde Gothic instead of having a distressed version. The perfectly smooth, almost perfectly geometric letter forms would have contrasted beautifully with the vintage anatomical engraving. Because the engraving and the letters display a similar wobbliness the design lacks tension.

Agreed, it is not Trajan nor Gotham, but it’s just as obvious to use Edward Johnston’s P22 Underground on the movie poster for The Railway Man. The unsightly gap between the ‘R’ and the ‘A’ makes me wish the designer had paid a little more attention to the kerning. Those neighbouring letters are allowed to touch or even slightly overlap if the bowl of the ‘R’ is relatively small and its leg extends that far.

Continuing with the railroad theme, the movie poster for Last Passenger does something clever with Gill Sans Bold and one-point perspective. A stylised railtrack substitutes for the ‘A’ in both words of the film title. Simple and smart.

Some people think I hate Helvetica. I don’t. I just think you better have a very good reason to use it. Hateship Loveship for example is a perfect case. Just like Kristen Wiig (according to The Hollywood Reporter) Helvetica turns in a “beautifully restrained performance” on its movie poster. The lock-up of the two words in the film title is so perfect it almost hurts. See how the capitals ‘H’ and ‘L’ and the extenders in the ‘hip’ at the end reach towards each other, almost touching. This solid composition is ideally suited for the weight of the letters and the figure-to-ground ratio of the compact character shapes. In true Modernist fashion all the type is set uncentred and in one single weight of Helvetica in different sizes, in just two colours sampled from the wallpaper background. Add to this the perfect placement of Kristen Wiig, looking at the film title, and the colour scheme that seems to extend into her dress, hair and skin tones, and you end up with a truly gorgeous poster.

For all you Helvetica fetishists out there, currently the best digitisation bar none of Helvetica can be found under another name. Neue Haas Grotesk restores the quintessential Swiss Modernist typeface (if you disregard Univers of course) to its original glory, and is available in Text and Display versions.

Contrary to Helvetica, ITC Avant Garde Gothic, Trajan, Gotham et al FF Brokenscript is a typeface you don’t see on a film poster every day. This modern interpretation of the blackletter injects just enough gothic atmosphere into the artwork for Jim Jarmusch’s vampire movie Only Lovers Left Alive while keeping the overall feel contemporary.

These strictly square, minimal letters on the other hand make the movie poster for Short Peace look decidedly futuristic. They remind me of Pierre di Sciullo’s FF Minimum. The restricted colour scheme and the minimalist geometric design (mirroring the Japanese flag) are quite unusual for an animated feature. An uncharacteristic and striking poster.

Another uncharacteristic and striking design is Ignition’s main theatrical poster for horror movie The Quiet Ones. Again the monochrome approach guarantees the artwork stands out against collaterals for other movies in the same genre. The very nice painterly elements around the girl’s face look like something between funeral flowers and petrified flames. I am not so sure about the use of Georgia because it looks a little butch. I think one of the more delicate styles of Miller – Miller Display or even Miller Banner – would have looked more in tune with this refined design.

Ignition did a great job, but their artwork cannot compete with the astonishing alternate posters by Bond. Radically steering away from horror poster conventions, the actor’s portraits seem to be burning/melting, with the film title knocked out in bold, rough brush letters (the aptly named Face Your Fears). They are a breath of fresh air compared to all those same textured photos with distressed Trajan which are currently popular for horror movies. I talked to Peter Stark from Bond.

Peter Stark | “Tim and Doug at Lionsgate are two of the most creative and fearless marketing execs in the business, and the unconventional approach is something they really encourage with all of their projects. They really liked the posters from the start and were the inspiration for the making of the motion posters.”

“The whole film is done in 70s documentary style, when everything was obviously still done on film. The molten effect was used to illustrate the recurring fire/destruction theme seen throughout the movie, as well as simply to bump up the horror aesthetic. Much of the imagery was taken directly from the movie – a sort of twisted menagerie of evilness! The film is full of scary moments… we just cherry-picked a few of our favorites that related to the specific characters.”

This intriguing poster for Who is Dayani Cristal? is the official artwork for the film’s word premiere at Sundance 2013. It was created by Daniel Grieshofer, head designer at Pulse Films. The film revolves around the discovery of the body of an unidentified immigrant in the Arizona Desert. In an attempt to retrace his path and discover his story, director Marc Silver and Gael Garcia Bernal embed themselves among migrant travelers on their own mission to cross the border, providing rare insight into the human stories which are so often ignored in the immigration debate.

Daniel Grieshofer | “When I was working on the poster I was fascinated by the wall and what it represents. Throughout the film it struck me as its own character. It generates a lot of emotions and debate among people. I wanted to keep the layout simple and let the wall take up most of the space. My design was the first poster for the film before it premiered at Sundance and I enjoyed the freedom of creating something simple while dealing with a very complex issue affecting thousands of people each year.”

The poster for The Machine proves that branding with type is such a powerful means of expression that it can turn itself against the designer. Because it has been used on the posters for all six theatrical releases of the original Star Trek movies – from 1979’s original motion picture to 1991’s Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country – the typical lettering has become intimately associated with the cult science fiction franchise. Since it was eventually turned into the typeface Galaxy the signature typographic style can also be used for other projects, like this movie poster. Yet the close connection of the typography with Star Trek makes the design almost look like a knock-off, an unauthorised copy, and I have trouble believing it.

Although I am a fan of Jay Shaw’s work, I am a little dissatisfied with his very literal approach for the movie poster for Marvin Seth and Stanley. When we read the synopsis of the movie, suddenly every single element in the poster makes sense. Too much sense. The movie centers around two quarreling brothers and their father, hence the three profiles nested into one another to accentuate the family ties. The three estranged men join on a weekend trip in rural Minnesota, symbolised by the profiles forming some sort of trajectory with the car at the end. Finally the ITC Avant Garde Gothic letters tumbling down visualise the weekend comically devolving into a series of daytime drinking episodes and botched outdoor pursuits. Honestly, this is all too obvious for my taste.

The movie poster for Blue Ruin by PalaceworksErik Buckham does a great job by having the compact sans serif typography immense and serve as a framing device for the image in gorgeous sunset hues. The broken glass effect on the movie title echoes the gut-wrenching violence in the backlit scene at the bottom.

Funny story – studio mates Akiko Stehrenberger and Erik Buckham were both working on their own posters for Blue Ruin in their own offices and didn’t realise they were on the same job until everything was almost finished. The Weinstein Company even made Akiko use Erik’s logo on her poster without her knowing it was his design. Akiko’s original idea was to have the blood splattering from the exploding head blood be blue. She thought blue would be more metaphoric and artsy fartsy while red would never pass MPAA, yet unexpectedly the client encouraged the red. This makes the poster appropriately unsettling.

Akiko Stehrenberger | “The concept behind his head exploding was definitely more metaphoric than literal. The film follows a man seeking revenge and watching his world shatter as his actions set off unexpected chain reactions. Originally Radius-TWC wanted to see a flying bullet. Luckily, I was able to talk them out of it. I think it’s more powerful when an image lets the viewer draw their own conclusions without spelling everything out for them.”

The skyline sans is Heroic Condensed.


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ScreenFonts: Grand Budapest Hotel, 300: Rise of an Empire, Enemy, Muppets Most Wanted, Nymphomaniac

When my brother and sister and I were young, we always had impassioned discussions with my stepfather about coincidence. His theory is that there is no such thing. Even though he doesn’t believe in fate or that anything is preordained, he is convinced any event can be traced back to a series of preceding events which made said event inevitable. Then of course we would argue that those preceding events were pure coincidence, at which point the whole discussion started all over again, ad infinitum. To cut a long story short – my stepfather would argue it is no coincidence I did a Creative Mornings talk about sex the same month I review the movie collaterals for Lars Von Trier’s Nymphomaniac. What do you think?

Where I had a ton of information about Wes Anderson’s previous film Moonrise Kingdom thanks to designer & letterer extraordinaire Jessica Hische, this time I didn’t find anything about who designed the movie poster for Grand Budapest Hotel. Anderson seems to have left his signature face Futura behind him, as this is the second movie where the classic (and tired) geometric sans is conspicuously absent. The typeface used for the movie titles and the secondary type on the poster is Archer; the Grand Budapest Hotel logo however looks hand-drawn. I would have been interested to find out who designed the slightly squarish, slightly awkward monoline with spiky serifs, and where their inspiration came from.

Alternative posters really are a big thing these days. Any major film release that sparks our collective imagination spawns the obligatory gallery, and Grand Budapest Hotel is no exception. After celebrating Wes Anderson’s previous offering Moonrise Kingdom in similar fashion, ShortList.com again asked some of their favourite designers to create their own alternative visions for Grand Budapest Hotel. Both galleries are definitely worth a virtual visit.

When it comes to highly collectible alternate (film) posters Mondo rules the pack. The Austin, TX company is famous for their limited edition screen printed posters for classic and contemporary films (amongst others). They teamed up with Legendary Pictures and Cruel & Unusual to create this poster for the premiere event of 300: Rise of an Empire and for alternative marketing for the film. Designed by Alex Pardee, the artwork represents a mask of the Immortals, the personal guard to King Xerxes, the Persian warrior elite. Rendered in swirling blood splashes that almost look like Arabesque ornaments, it incorporates story elements from the film like King Xerxes himself and a Spartan shield riddled with arrows. You can examine them in detail on Neatorama.

Rats, this could have been so much better. The poster for The Activist – a political thriller during the Wounded Knee insurrection in 1973 – taps into the spirit of Reid Miles, the legendary art director of Blue Note Records. Unfortunately the design falls short due to the weak choice of a compact extra bold sans serif for the movie logo. Impact is about the most pedestrian option available, while there are countless more interesting alternatives available. Squooshing the face only makes matters worse.

I am not saying this is the perfect solution – the proportions and the rhythm of the photos also need quite a bit of work – but see how resetting the film title in Aurora Condensed for example, one of the signature typefaces in Reid Miles’ repertoire, already improves the artwork. Selecting the “right” typeface and using it properly is as important as the choice of images and colour palette.

This on the other hand is a great choice of typeface. The strong, simplified shapes of Kino turn the movie title of Sparks into an instant superhero-worthy logo. Even though I usually am not a fan, the metallic three-dimensional treatment decidedly enhances the typography, making the word look more epic, more dynamic – exactly what the artwork asks for. The starburst, lifted from the main character’s costume and integrated in the ‘A’, is the icing on the cake. The supporting typeface Agency dutifully performs its function as signifier for action movies. But what the heck happened to the kerning between the ‘P’ and the ‘A’ in ‘SPARKS’?

Comparing the original Chinese poster for Stephen Chow’s latest kung fu extravaganza Xi you xiang mo pian (Journey to the West) (above) with the one sheet by Paul Shipper (below) makes abundantly clear why certain films benefit from having illustrated artwork. Even though there is nothing inherently wrong with the Photoshopped composition in the original artwork, the illustration is far superior. The crisp line-work and warm, vibrant colours unify all the elements into an organic whole, turning the characters into living and breathing entities that pop off the page.

Paul Shipper belongs to a new generation of poster artists that work in the tradition of the legendary Drew Struzan. They keep the classic, epic images of our youth alive, injecting them with new vigor and updating them for the upcoming generations of film goers. This makes me hope they will eventually also look for contemporary interpretations for their typography, and leave faces like Friz Quadrata behind them at last.

This is not to say that every single Paul Shipper creation is a masterpiece. Even though technically it is as accomplished as the previous one, I find his illustrated one sheet for Falcon Song not as strong. My beef with this design is twofold. On the one hand the composition seems too loose – it basically is a floating heads poster, very well drawn. On the other hand the free font Still Time is a lousy typeface. I understand what its designer tried to achieve, yet the uneven and sometimes downright illogical letter forms and the spacing issues make this angular neo-script an amateurish mess.

Then there are art directors and designers who go the extra mile to create surprising, innovative lettering or typography in their poster designs. One such example is Mark and Karen Crawford of Los Angeles boutique design firm Blood & Chocolate. By figuratively weaving the trees in the foreboding forest photo for the teaser poster they have them spell out the film title Haunt, towering menacingly over the illuminated house. The actual typography is ITC Avant Garde Gothic, so there still is room for improvement though. ; )

Another inventive use of type can be found on the movie poster for Grand Piano.

Knocking out white skyline sans letter forms on a black background and then cutting away thin rectangular shapes at their top creates an illusion of piano keys. An ingenious solution from ImageMassive.

Good typography doesn’t necessarily need to be elaborate. Even a simple play with letter forms can turn a movie title in an interesting composition. On the poster for Blood Ties, the two ‘O’s were tilted and connected, like two links in a chain. This symbolises the bond between the two brothers. As the story is actually set in the 1970s the recognisable period design style and use of Rockwell are fine.

Typography can also carry a whole poster, as exemplified in this one sheet designed by Little Mule Studio for Big Joy: The Adventures of James Broughton. James Broughton was a pioneer of experimental cinema in the 1930s, and a trickster poet who was a precursor to the beat movement in San Francisco. The documentary explores the twists and turns in the life of the artist, who proved art has the power to save lives and make the world a better place. Overlaid over a simple black-and-white photograph of an ecstatic Broughton, the distressed skyline sans letters – as colourful as the character – just scream “fun” to me, loud and joyous. The supporting typeface is Metroscript.

Some films somehow manage to spark the imagination more than others, with inventive and fascinating poster designs as a result. One of these is Enemy, the story of a man seeking out his exact look-alike after spotting him in a movie. The teaser poster for TIFF does exactly what it needs to do. The skyline emerging from Jake Gyllenhaal’s cranium – an image reminiscent of the award-winning opening titles credit sequence for True Detective – surprises and intrigues, and the spider crawling amongst the skyscrapers only adds to the mystery. By the time you’re done trying to figure out the artwork you just want to see the movie and find out what it is all about. Mission accomplished.

On a purely aesthetic level the artwork works very well. The toned-down dark browns and skin hues give the introspective image a balanced and calm appearance, while the simplified character shapes of Alternate Gothic and the elegant Didone lend poster a literary touch.

I do like the retro vibe of the semi-abstract illustration paired with ITC Benguiat in the main theatrical poster. Yet I am starting to wonder if this seventies style is becoming a schtick – I cannot shake the feeling I have seen this type of design using classic ITC typefaces from the 70s and 80s quite often lately. Also, do I like this because it references a time period when graphic design was conceptually strong, or simply out of nostalgia because it brings back warm, fuzzy memories of my youth?

Sam Smith’s theatrical poster for A24 cleverly connects the film’s theme of a man and his exact look-alike with the mirrored bittings of a symmetrical key defined by Jake Gyllenhaal’s profile. The key also works on a second level as the key to the mystery of the two identical-looking persons. As the mysterious spider makes another intriguing appearance, I asked Sam Smith about it, but he didn’t want to reveal anything.

Sam Smith | “The spider is an important symbol in the film, but it’s part of the film’s puzzle and I wanted to include it as an ambiguous symbol of the film’s psychological mystery.”

The nostalgic typeface du jour is a condensed weight of ITC Cheltenham, matching the retro design.

I use the Muppets in my movie poster talks as examples of how to do film poster parodies well. They always have a recognisable and fun thematic connection, unlike Tyler Perry whose spoof posters are completely unrelated to the films he uses them for. Even though the mock trailers are missing this time, Muppets Most Wanted still delivers in the poster department. The main theatrical poster is predictable and not very interesting with the obligatory extra bold sans serif. However as soon as we leave this behind the fun really starts.

The theme of mistaken identities, evil twins and espionage hijinks provided lots of inspiration for the spoof posters. The first one plays off the “good guy impersonates bad guy / bad guy impersonates good guy” theme of Face/Off, perfectly copying the poster and its glowing Futura caps.

The espionage theme is fully exploited in this homage to the fairly recent spy thriller Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, which also reprises the original’s Gotham.

Seeing Miss Piggy as “Bond girl” in this parody of The World Is Not Enough made me notice how the woman’s body in the original artwork is impossibly proportioned. Where are her hips, where are her buttocks, why are her thighs so ridiculously thin? Is it any wonder that so many girls and young women end up with body dysmorphic disorders and eating disorders?

More Bond action, this time referencing Daniel Craig, the latest incarnation of Ian Fleming’s secret agent in Skyfall. This one plays it a little fast and loose with the typography – the original Neutraface has to make way for Microsoft’s butt-ugly system font Trebuchet and the classic architectural sans Eagle.

The Oh My Disney blog has a gallery with an additional 18 spoof posters. They’re kind of cute, but not interesting enough for this column.

And here is where we have a brutal transition from a family comedy to some of the most explicit sexual imagery in mainstream movie posters. You have been warned.

When Nymphomaniac originally was announced, it made me wonder what the marketing campaign would look like. How could the compulsive, often joyless sexual experiences of a nymphomaniac be translated into posters that would be acceptable in a public environment? How do you visualise a sexual obsession without having it look exploitative or tacky? Most of all the gruesome posters for Antichrist made me fear for another series of shocking images.

Philip Einstein Lipski and Maria Einstein Biilmann, operating as The Einstein Couple in Copenhagen, Denmark, however produced a brave, thought-provoking poster series that is as appropriate as it is confrontational. The main theatrical poster zooms in uncomfortably close on Charlotte Gainsbourg’s face, contorted in the midst of an orgasm.

This image is in fact a close-up of her character poster, which is part of a larger series, most of which were reprised on this ensemble poster. It is a brilliant idea – all the actors were photographed from the chest up against a neutral, off-white background while they are experiencing sexual pleasure. Or is it pain, because it is striking how similar their facial expressions are to those of people in agony. The climax is expressed in its most raw and naked form, with the actors at their most vulnerable. Witnessing such intimate images makes for some uneasy viewing, yet there is an underlying feeling of compassion shining through. The campaign made me think of the multimedia project turned alternative erotic website Beautiful Agony which “tests the hypothesis that eroticism in human imagery rests not in naked flesh and sexual illustration, but engagement with the face.”

The teaser poster is rather cryptic. Is the fishhook a symbol for the main character being hooked on sex? Or does it suggest how she enthralls and captures her sexual partners? Or is it more sinister, a literal visualisation of the pain that comes with the pleasure? As I have not seen the film, I can only guess.

The typography throughout the series is simple Minion caps, with the ‘O’ substituted by parentheses. Again there are different possible interpretations – either the shape symbolises the vulva, or the void between the parentheses hints at the meaningless compulsive sex experienced by a nymphomaniac. It struck me that the letter forms are a little dark, which makes me think Minion Display would have made the typography more refined.

The last poster translates best the emptiness of the repetitive sexual encounters. There is a certain ennui present in the image, almost palpable in the emotionally detached expression in Charlotte Gainsbourg’s face, reading a book and absent-mindedly holding an apple – a biblical reference to the original sin of Adam and Eve? – in her outstretched hand while Shia Lebeouf closes in. This is movie marketing at its most controversial, but also at its best. We can only hope for more film collaterals that make us pause and think. Let’s see what next month brings.


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ScreenFonts: The LEGO Movie, A Field In England, Robocop, Son Of God

Hunh? What is this, a second episode of ScreenFonts this month? Well, if you checked the URL of the previous one, you may have noticed it said “January 2014”, which meant it technically was one month late. Valentype kept me busy at the beginning of February, and ScreenFonts kept being pushed forward in my schedule until it eventually ended up in the first week of March. So forgive me this little hopscotch in time and enjoy your double monthly dose of movie goodness, where we discuss one trend in film poster design I haven’t touched upon yet, an alternative to the infamous and oft-ridiculed “floating heads”.

When Mondo asked Tom Whalen if he was interested in designing a poster for The LEGO Movie, it didn’t take him long to decide. As his 5-year-old son is an absolute Legomaniac, this was a no-brainer. Whalen decided to heavily focus on the iconic minifig. From his website:

Since most of them are made with the exact same pieces, it seemed like a pretty straightforward assignment, but creating all of the clothing/facial details for each character proved to be way more time-consuming than I had envisioned. Copious amounts of coffee were spent on this one to make sure it was completed and approved (just) under the deadline.

The poster beautifully conveys the fun and mischief of the film. But it is the execution that truly makes the design shine. With its isomorphic perspective and lovely simplified colour scheme the artwork pays tribute to the familiar building instructions that have sparked the imagination of so many children over the decades. Yet, even more so, it is the seemingly random assortment of minifigs that encompasses the Lego experience so well. Because that is what it truly is all about – going beyond the instructions, recombining bricks and characters to create undiscovered new worlds of wonder. The typographic treatment of the film title is very cute – partly letters built with bricks, partly letters printed on bricks, with the misaligned ‘o’ in ‘movie’ as a little in-joke. … but wait a minute, isn’t this yet another orange-and-teal poster? ;&#8202)

As a type designer you really don’t have any control what your creations are used for. I feel for Hannes von Döhren, whose fine Brandon Grotesque ended up on this sad, shoddy excuse for a movie poster for Love & Air Sex.

On the website of A Field in England Kenn Goodall shares the design process through which the official posters came together. Kenn is one half of The Twins Of Evil, the occasional design partnership he forms with Luke Insect. It is interesting to get a glimpse of how the poster design took shape, and how exactly the two collaborated (Kenn did the photo-realistic illustrations, and Luke took care of the composition and typesetting). They started with generating imagery from ungraded stills from the shoot, while at the same time exploring different typographic treatments and creating different variations of the ‘orb/dot’. The article shows the many iterations of those design elements. The typography varied from the stark retro-futurism of Microgramma / Eurostile Extended to the curved elegance of Art Nouveau letters to spiky shapes loosely based on runic symbols, created by hand by Kenn. Eventually they settled for CG Lisbon, a legacy Agfa Compugraphic clone of Warren Chappell’s 1938 design Lydian. Once the various components were finalised, the teaser poster came together very quickly. The end result is breathtaking – textured and menacing, a painterly masterpiece with the oppressive blood moon-like orb framing the knocked-out movie title.

The theatrical quad poster expands on this design, adding more characters illustrated in the same stark, scratchy style, plus extra type for the credits and hyperbolic quotes. The landscape format works just as well, and the consistent typography nicely ties everything together.

It’s almost criminal that a movie with such great official posters gets equally stunning alternate posters, and yet here they are. Drafthouse Films commissioned these two designs from Jay Shaw, this time with a fairly extensive brief.

Jay Shaw | “Drafthouse Films were adamant about achieving a particular aesthetic. Colorful, psychedelic, bold. Luckily I had the exact same thing in mind so the process was completely harmonious. In these designs I wanted to focus on the psychedelic nature of the story first and foremost. The film is a period piece told with a very modern voice. I didn’t want the poster to feel ‘classic’ or ‘stuffy’.”

One thing is for sure – the designs definitely look psychedelic. The background of this first alternate poster looks straight out of an acid trip (not that I have any personal experience as I have never done any drugs, nor do I even drink alcohol). The overall atmosphere is very seventies, with its yellow, orange and purple hues, and the black mirrored characters pointing guns at each other, as if they’re seen through a drunken haze. The latter cleverly create an upside-down silhouette of the man in the hat from the original teaser poster. By using the sharp, geometric Art Deco features of ITC Juanita Condensed Jay Shaw makes the movie title pop out.

Even though they don’t have the same psychedelic effect as the Psilocybin mushrooms – which aren’t terribly interesting visually – the multicoloured rings of Trametes versicolor on the other alternate poster certainly look the part. They beautifully contrast with velvety wine-red clouds of the top section. The glyphic titling face is Aldo Novarese’s classic mid-eighties creation ITC Symbol.

I am blown away by the exceptional quality of the collaterals for A Field In England. Honestly, with four posters in a row that good, this episode could just as well end here for me.

But whaddayaknow, it doesn’t… : )

I’ve taken up the habit of occasionally comparing posters for movie remakes with their counterparts for the original films. The movie poster of the re-imagined eighties cult classic Robocop seemed like the perfect candidate. Just like the design of the cyborg policeman, the visual style of the poster is much sleeker, with the bright blue and red police lights reprising the blue shades of the buildings and the red visor. The movie logo looks custom designed. It shows hints of the obligatory Bank Gothic for action movies and Clicker for sci-fi flicks. The supporting typeface is Mark Simonson’s Changeling Neo, whose science-fiction credentials were cemented by its use for the displays in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboot. The red underscore preceding the tagline is a nice typographic detail, suggesting computer data entry.

Even though this moody design is very nice, it still cannot hold a candle to the undiluted badassery of…

… the poster for the 1987 original. Yes, it looks a little dated, especially the arcade game-style beveled metallic letters of the movie logo. But nothing beats the iconic image of Robocop stepping out of his squad car, ready to utter menacingly: “Dead or alive, you’re coming with me.”

Four years ago the popular Olly Moss took a crack at the cult classic for the Alamo Drafthouse’s 2010 Rolling Roadshow Tour. This tour went across the country showing free screenings of classic movies outdoors in the places they were filmed and/or where they take place. For example you were able to catch Dirty Harry at San Francisco’s Washington Square Park, or The Blues Brothers at Chicago’s Joliet Prison. Amongst the posters that Olly Moss drew up for each film on the tour, his Robocop cleverly substitutes the visor of the cyborg policeman’s helmet with his signature gun on this cool two-colour screen-printed poster.

The Russian poster for Snabba Cash II (Easy Money: Hard to Kill) made me do a double-take. What at first sight looks like a very dirty shirt actually is a “floating heads”-style collage integrated into the fabric. The poster pays tribute to the artwork for the original Swedish poster of the first movie in the trilogy. It used the same device to cram as much information as possible in the movie collaterals. Now keep this poster in mind …

… because you are about to see a whole lot more of those. The movie poster for Dutch black comedy Black Out immediately reminded me of Vantage Point, reviewed three-and-a-half years ago – the pose of the silhouette with the gun is almost identical, yet the multicoloured photo insets turn the composition into a restless mess. Nevertheless I think the movie title with its shaken up characters and integrated gun and axe is well executed.

According to Jan Pieter Ekker however – a graphic designer, (freelance) journalist and advisor who writes for Het Parool, Cinema.nl and De Filmkrant – Black Out doesn’t just look like Vantage Point; it is part of a much larger trend in movie posters.


Some distributors deem it necessary to show as many actors as possible: the infamous “floating heads” posters. Others try to condense the entire film on its poster. This results in a whole bunch of characters awkwardly Photoshopped against and next to each other, with no consideration for perspective nor proportions. In the somewhat more modern variation the silhouette of the main protagonist either is filled with a spectacular image or a crucial scene, or the shape is subdivided in a multitude of little frames – sharply delineated or fading into each other – each holding a portrait or scene from the film. One of the better examples of this style is Michael Jackson’s This Is It, with the characteristic silhouette of the late King of Pop against a smokey backdrop, filled with colourful images of the preparations for what was supposed to be his final tour. Jan Pieter Ekker found quite a few more examples, either with complete bodies or only hands filled with photo collages.


I don’t know if this can really be considered a (typographic) genre in film posters as well, but I have seen it recurring often enough to point it out: carved letters for historic movies. The engraved Trajan on the movie poster for Pompeii kind of makes sense, even though the destruction of the city by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius predates the erection of the Trajan column by some thirty-odd years. Because the design of Trajan is a direct interpretation of the letters carved on the base of the Colonna Traiana, giving them an engraved treatment is perfectly legitimate.

The engraved Gotham on the movie poster for Son of God – set in roughly the same time period as Pompeii – however seems gratuitous. The letter shapes are inspired by vernacular architectural lettering in New York City, so they don’t bear any relation with neither the time frame nor the technique.

To be honest I wasn’t expecting to find any worthwhile poster designs for Son of God – given its origin and the motivation for filming the story – yet the prolific Gravillis Inc. once again managed to concoct some excellent artwork.

This first poster translates the anguish and despair – come on people, seriously, being crucified is not a picnic, whatever divine intervention may or may not come – in rough brush strokes over a beautifully textured photograph. Positioning the figures low in the frame makes them seem frail and vulnerable under the oppressive sky.

The second poster focuses on the figure of Jesus, wearing his crown of thorns. The red haze in the bottom right corner and the single red “God” in the movie title set in ITC Avant Garde Gothic refer to the blood spilled by Christ.

This final design brings back the image to its bare essence: a close-up fragment of the crown of thorns. The interlocking three O’s in the movie title represent the idea of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

The religious symbols in Holy Ghost People are far more sinister. The synopsis on IMDB explains:

On the trail of her missing sister, Charlotte enlists the help of Wayne, an ex-Marine and alcoholic, to infiltrate the Church of One Accord – a community of snake-handlers who risk their lives seeking salvation in the Holy Ghost.

The artwork was created by Otto is the One, alias for the Malaysian-born writer, director and designer Yen Tan. Even though this pulp literature-style design looks really nice, I feel there may be too many concepts competing with each other in this movie poster. First, you have the cross towering over the two main protagonists apparently defending themselves, who are in turn towering over the followers of the Church of One Accord. Then, inside the cross is the movie title set in a compact sans serif morphing into a face (the church leader?) facing a rattlesnake. That is a lot of different snippets of information in one single design. Nevertheless the stark posterised treatment of all these elements, each in their own colours, keeps the poster sufficiently stylised to be perfectly intelligible.

The sole reason why I included the movie poster for Highway is the movie title which strangely made me think of a potato print rendition of Orgovan. Do I need a life?

And here’s another example of the photo-montage-within-a-silhouette type of poster. As always Tom Hodge provides plenty of information and context about his movie poster for trashy sci-fi horror flick Almost Human, even revealing his sources of inspiration this time.

The film tells the story of Mark Fisher who disappeared from his home in a brilliant flash of blue light almost two years ago. His friend Seth Hampton was the last to see him alive. Now a string of grisly, violent murders leads Seth to believe that Mark is back, and something evil is inside of him.

Tom explains the preview of the movie conjured up visual impressions of sci-fi horror classics from the eighties like Altered States, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and most importantly The Thing – John Carpenter was a big inspiration. This was mainly down to this distorted scream that Mark lets out, which is such a powerful image that he really wanted to lead with it. The other strong image he got from the film was of Mark getting hit by a blue beam of light in the introduction sequence. Both elements provided Tom with the main visual hook for the artwork, with added inspiration from 80s posters like The Beast Within, Drew Struzan’s iconic artwork for The Thing, Madman, Friday the 13th Part III (Tom’s personal favourite of the series), even Berserker, Prince of Darkness and the Altered States poster itself. His other big inspiration was the John Saul novel Comes The Blind Fury which had an image of a blind girl lit from the below.



Tom Hodge drew inspiration from all those images to compose a montage design, as per request by director Joe Begos. Tom wanted to interpret it in a different way, framing the imagery into the main scream. To convey a sense of fear and loss of control in the characters, and to keep an air of mystery to draw the viewer in, Tom only showed some of the action in the montage without giving away too much. His design gives a trashy, painterly twist to the silhouette poster style.

The title treatment is perfectly in tune with the artwork. Tom experimented with different letter forms to create one of those typical retro movie logos with an alien vibe, very much inspired by classic 70s designs and reminiscent of compositions using ITC Avant Garde Gothic with its numerous alternates.

Because I care about the quality of your sleep and don’t want to send you to bed with nightmares tonight, I am ending on a much sweeter topic. The movie poster for The Lunchbox struck a chord with me because its premise was the subject of an engrossing article in the first issue of the slightly fantastic Works That Work, winner of Magpile’s Best New Magazine of 2013 Award (if you haven’t subscribed yet, you are seriously missing out: the magazine is inspirational, surprising, uplifting, and beautifully designed).

Mumbai’s Dabbawallahs are a community of 5000 dabba (lunchbox) deliverymen. Harvard University analyzed their delivery system and concluded that just one in a million lunchboxes is ever delivered to the wrong address. This film is the story of that one lunchbox.

The pale yellow tint throughout the image and the faded background make for a coherent poster with the two main protagonists clearly in the front plane. The typography is interesting; maybe I am reading too much in it, but I think the curved, wavy letter forms of the sports script Metroscript symbolise the feminine, and the skyline shapes of Univers Ultra Condensed Light 49 represent the masculine. The way they merge together seems to suggest the unexpected meeting of two lonely souls, with red – the colour of love – blending with the austere black. A very lovely typographic solution.


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ScreenFonts: Free Ride, Maidentrip, Big Bad Wolves, 24 Exposures

Some months I truly despair when going through the film posters for the upcoming episode of ScreenFonts. Especially so many of the posters for movies in wide release (the “big” ones, as opposed to the films in limited release) turn out to be faceslappingly asinine. This is why there is no popular title in this post’s heading; no Nut Job with its obligatory extra bold sans; no Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit with its middle-of-the-road skyline sans; no Devils Due nor I, Frankenstein with their fallen-from-grace Trajan, no That Awkward Moment with its equally obligatory H&FJ Gotham. Fortunately there will always be some smaller movies that still dare to take risks, some of them showering us with scores of fascinating poster designs. Fortunately there is Big Bad Wolves this episode, or Breakfast With Curtis and The Selfish Giant in the last one. And I am pretty sure there will be others next month. And the next. This is what makes this series so enjoyable for me to write (and hopefully for you to read).

Sometimes what I like in a film poster is a small, easily overlooked detail. For the movie poster of The Truth About Emanuel it is a simple yet very effective typographic trick. Cutting the ‘N’ in two and shifting right-hand part of the ‘N’ downwards suggests a hidden truth, something unknown that is revealed in the film. Please observe the attention to detail: the tiny cut-off corner at the bottom of the ‘H’s right leg, and how the “about” is shifted down as well. The wide grotesque lends itself very well to this kind of typographic treatment, akin to Ignition Print’s stellar design for Brothers from four years ago.

The poster for The Rocket sends out a cautionary message to teenagers worldwide, warning them for the dangers of anal fireworks. Said warning is set in Futura, which is entirely inconsequential, yet – noblesse oblige – as this is The FontFeed I am kind of obliged to mention it. This somewhat reminds me of Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow performing that impressive “fart with lighter” trick on Iron Man 2’s main theatrical poster.

Posters for documentaries are a mixed bag. Their main problem is that designers too often feel the need to either treat the material in an overly literal way, or they try to cram as much information in the image, turning it into a jumbled-up mess of concepts within concepts within ideas. The architectural theme of If You Build It however was inducive to an interesting poster, with the barn-like construction as focal point. The repetitive geometric components create a nice rhythm and structure. Having the construction align with the text elements set in Alternate Gothic reinforces the flush-left Modernist typesetting. The complementary orange-and–teal colour scheme – very popular in Hollywood since several years – injects some comforting warmth in what otherwise may have turned into a rigid, clinical poster. A very nice, unusual design.

Even though not complementary, the deep-green-and-pale-yellow colour palette also looks very good on the movie poster for Free Ride. The movie title is set in ITC Bookman with swash capitals. Personally I am not too fond of this slick interpretation from the mid-seventies of the 1936 original by Chauncey H. Griffith and Alexander Phemister. For me the best possible contemporary version with all the swashes and more is Mark Simonson’s Bookmania.

When I discovered this rather mediocre theatrical poster for Maidentrip in the list on Metacritic, I could have never guessed this independent documentary had such lovely and poetic alternate designs.

The three posters above are festival posters for the 2013 SXSW Film Festival, where Maidentrip received the Audience Award in the Visions category. They all revolve around thirteen-year-old Dutch girl Laura Dekker’s quest to become the youngest person ever to sail around the world solo, with each poster relating to a different aspect of the film. Leah Koransky – designer, art director and illustrator of the poster – created an intimate atmosphere by writing by hand the movie title in an informal style, in combination with delicate watercolour backgrounds by Moth Collective, who animated the maps for the film.

Now that we are on the topic of alternate posters, Big Bad Wolves has an impressive series of great, eclectic designs. In this Israeli thriller a series of brutal murders puts the lives of three men on a collision course: the father of the latest victim now out for revenge, a vigilante police detective operating outside the boundaries of law, and the main suspect in the killings – a religious studies teacher arrested and released due to a police blunder.

The first two posters I would like to single out belong to the original Israeli movie collaterals. Both are beautiful illustrated designs in simple black and red. The poster above visualises the classic idiom “wolf in sheep’s clothing” by having a wolf wear a sheep’s mask as a metaphor for the sexual predator in the movie. The design reconnects with the tradition of classic high-concept designs of the seventies that convey strong messages with very simple means. Hand-lettering the movie title – the style reminds me of the FF Dirty Font FF InnerCity Brixton – and coupling it with ITC Avant Garde Gothic for the credits cements the period style.

The other poster in the same retro style cleverly overlays three silhouettes: the little girl is enclosed in the “happy” wolf who symbolises the sexual predator acting out his obsession, and the even larger “sad” wolf represents the father, grieving for his little girl and exacting revenge on the abductor. Here the hand-lettering channels the deconstructed swash shapes of NotCaslon or Zanzibar, with the credits set in ITC Bookman, another perfect combo for this type of artwork.

Visual communication agency Gravillis, Inc. is responsible no less than five posters for Big Bad Wolves. Not for special screenings nor film festivals nor specific territories, but simply because the client loved all the iterations and decided to use more than one. The design above uses a striking and strangely familiar yellow-and-black colour combo to stylise the photo of the three men, faces cropped and each a weapon in hand, looming over the girl as Red Riding Hood entering the forest. The nadirs of the ‘W’ and ‘V’ in the hand-lettered angular brush caps, similar to the recently released LiebeDoris, were extended downwards to suggest wolves’ teeth. The secondary typeface is the geometric slab serif Rockwell.

These weapons come back in this illustrated poster, covered with feverish pencil hatching and modified with bloody wolf jaws.

Image and letters are wonderfully merged in this variant, as high-contrast portraits of the three main protagonists function as counters in the forceful, extra bold rough brush sans caps.

British illustrator and Association of Illustrators 2011 Critic’s Choice Award Winner Peter Strain designed a stunning painted poster for this year’s FrightFest, where Big Bad Wolves was the closing film. The artwork is one seamless, organic piece with hand-painted lettering. The idea behind the illustration and its execution are brilliant: the hole symbolising the grave dug by the small figure morphs into the buried girl’s profile, with a wolf’s head savagely invading the innocent silhouette. A powerful, emotionally arresting piece of art.

Mondo too commissioned a variant design, a stark black-on-white silhouette of the girl’s head with hands clenching weapons or torture as some kind of hair braids and a thin, bright-red stream of blood running down the obscured face into a shoe. The psychedelic typeface Lazybones was customised and transformed to fit the shape of the head. ITC Benguiat is another typeface that gets associated with the seventies.

It’s fun to see so many illustrated posters popping up left and right. This movie poster for the comedy Back in The Day (a.k.a. Old Days) was designed by Janée Meadows, another artist I wasn’t aware of yet.

Janée Meadows | “Michael Rosenbaum asked me to create the poster as a teaser for his film (it’s hilarious by the way). The concept was all his. He wanted it to look and feel like the 1977 film Slap Shot with Paul Newman: fun, retro, and full of great characters. I worked closely with Michael to bring out each individual characters’ personality by getting their poses and actions just right. It took some fine tuning with a few rounds of sketch concepts, but in the end it was worth it. I’m really proud of the end result!”

The faceted typeface is in the typical style of Collegiate Athletics.

I get a weird feeling when I examine the posters for 24 Exposures, the last movie for this episode. They look nice, however the underlying misogynist tone disturbs me. This design is a strong graphic image. Even though it approaches the film’s storyline in an almost abstract, deconstructed manner, the viewer has a pretty good grasp what the movie is about. The limited colour palette is very effective, with the dark pink lips dripping into the policeman’s silhouette pointing his gun at his head as a powerful eye-catcher. Film perforations (how many young children still recognise those?) at both sides of the yellow area hint at the photographer, one of the main characters in the movie.

The typesetting is a little bizarre – the tagline in the lips is set in all-caps Mrs Eaves with a some characters substituted with a distressed typewriter face. The simulation of multiple exposure of the film title in Franchise from Animography is a nice touch.

It is with this alternate poster that I have the most problems, as the post-cubist depiction of the murdered woman doesn’t sit well with me. It is difficult to explain, but to me it betrays a casual misogyny that has no place in our day and age, especially since still so many women are the victim of violence. Yes, conceptually it makes sense; no, that is no excuse.

The three-dimensional typography in the poster – using Standard – is reprised in the trailer – using Interstate.


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ScreenFonts: Inside Llewyn Davis, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Saving Mr. Banks, The Wolf of Wall Street

Two days ago the nominations for the Oscars were announced, yet still no sign of any typography-related categories like Best Movie Poster or Best Title Sequence. On the IMP Awards website the nominees for the 2013 Internet Movie Poster Awards have been revealed; we will know who won this Tuesday, January 21st. The categories I look most forward to are Bravest Movie Poster and Worst Movie Poster, for obvious reasons. Talking about bad movie posters, according to Yahoo! Movies 2013 was a bizarre year of movie ad controversies – racist artwork for The Sapphires and on the Italian posters for 12 Years A Slave, an unnaturally slimmed-down Melissa McCarthy for The Heat, a poster for the biopic Diana at the entrance of the Paris tunnel where she tragically died in the fatal car accident, and the funny incident of a homo-erotic fan-made poster for Thor 2: The Dark World mistakenly making it into a theater in Shanghai.

I am sorry to disappoint you: I have no such juicy bits in this installment of ScreenFonts. Only one minor controversy, yet as it turns out it is not even a genuine one. Appearances can be deceiving, and the particular case of White Reindeer proves you should never jump to conclusions (something I have been guilty of myself, so I am not pointing any fingers).

The image of a young Bob Dylan wandering through New York City with his guitar is engraved in our shared cultural consciousness – remember I write from a white male European/Anglo-centric perspective. By referencing this iconic imagery the movie poster for Inside Llewyn Davis takes a clever shortcut to the viewer’s understanding. With a minimum of means it gives a maximum of information, effortlessly establishing the theme of the movie.

The eclectic letters are made to look like a hodge-podge of two or more similar-yet-not-identical wood type sans serifs, as if the print shop used leftovers from different typecases. This enhances the DIY, shoestring-budget visual language often associated with folk music. Christian Schwartz explored such “willfully uneven” typographic texture with Local Gothic which includes a random feature. In contrast it is a shame repeating characters on this poster are identical because it contradicts what the designer was trying to achieve. Manually mixing letters from typefaces like ATF Franklin Gothic, Clearface Gothic, Alternate Gothic and so on would have yielded a more authentic-looking result. The movie title is one of those compact sans serifs with an unfortunate enlarged I. Why? Not only is it unnecessary; if it is indeed an artificial small cap it makes no sense to not have the name of Llewyn Davis capitalised as well. Weird…

Breakfast with Curtis tells the story of an offbeat community of bohemians who welcome an introverted, young neighbour named Curtis into their world. I love the playful assemblage in the collage-like alternate poster, merging hi-tech – technical drawing and processed photography – with lo-tech – silkscreened background and visible pieces of tape holding the artwork together. The typeface reminds me of Pennsylvania, another one of Christian Schwartz’ faces.

The festival poster for White Reindeer was illustrated by Anna Bak-Kvapil, and art directed by director Zach Clark, who also selected the typeface.

Anna Bak-Kvapil | “The director had a very clear idea of what he wanted for the poster, right down to what outfit Suzanne (Anna Margaret Hollyman) should be wearing. I’m always happy when someone is really specific about what they want, so for me it was just a matter of making a few suggestions. I thought it would give her figure a little more intention if she was holding something symbolic to the film; Suzanne eats candy canes throughout the movie, so a candy cane seemed like the ideal simple prop. And I wanted the whole piece to subtly feel like a Catholic prayer card, since the film wrestles with issues of morality and redemption, hence the light blue color I always associate with the Virgin Mary, and the slight suggestion of a halo around Suzanne’s head, formed by the snow and echoed by the Christmas lights. The illustration has an innocence to it that doesn’t even hint at what the film is really about (murder, orgies, strippers, coke). It’s a portrait of someone the second before their life falls apart, it’s Suzanne on the threshold of trauma and transformation.”

The loose, elegant brush script on the poster is Imitation by Harold Lohner, an interpretation of the hand-lettered titles of the film Imitation of Life, (1959, directed by Douglas Sirk, art-directed by Richard H. Riedel). Originally a lowercase-only face, it spawned two alternate versions with capitals. The first set of capitals is based on ImageLine’s “Dance of the Brush”, which in turn appears to be have been inspired by the work of Charles Bluemlein; the second set re-imagines the titles of another Lana Turner/Universal soap opera Madame X (1966, directed by David Lowell Rich, art directed by Alexander Golitzen and George C. Webb).

The beautiful main poster – lovely coloured-in black-and-white atmosphere – was designed by Brandon Schaefer, whose designs surfaced on ScreenFonts a number of times this year.

Brandon Schaefer | “White Reindeer tells the story of a young woman whose life is thrown into chaos after a tragedy befalls her leading up to Christmas day. It’s funny, and cleverly plays with the holiday in which it is set, but there’s a darkness to the humor that distances it from the saccharine-filled mush that sits at the heart of most yule-tide classics. And there’s a fair amount of cocaine.”

“The idea for the poster is fairly straightforward – cocaine lines as a Christmas tree, a way of pulling together two disparate elements together in a way that hints at what the film itself sets out to do in its own way. Bob Gill’s approach to design as idea has been a huge influence on me, and for once it was nice to be able to work out a solution that felt simple and inevitable.”

Brandon Schaefer | “Months after it was finished someone pointed out to me that my artwork bore a resemblance to a poster for Filth, where a character climbs a ladder of cocaine. After searching out the poster, while I didn’t feel that my design was a copy, I can appreciate the idea that multiple discovery doesn’t just hold true in science, but also design. I found the same to be true when BFI released a book jacket for The Shining that independently shared some DNA with a poster I’d done a year before. The same thing occurred years prior on a poster re-release I did, with a package design coming out months later running with a similar theme. Maybe the strangest example is stumbling upon a Heinz Edelmann poster from the 1960s that looks like the long lost twin to one of my ‘Berberian’ comps.”

“I think many people out there are often too ready to dismiss something as theft. Maybe because the internet offers so much at our fingertips that it is hard not to be cynical of other people’s motivations, especially when barely a week goes by without someone sharing a story of how their work has been compromised. I try to be open-minded, though, because in my experience, weird coincidences do occur.”

On the subject of multiple discovery – completely unrelated but very funny is the uncanny resemblance between one of this month’s posters in the extensive marketing campaign for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, setting the main character in all kinds of adventurous settings, and last month’s superb design for Diana. Made me smile.

Most of the posters for Venuto al mondo (Twice Born) are unremarkable at best and not very good at worst, with Trajan and Gotham in their obligatory roles. The one exception is this delightful design by Paris-based independent graphic design agency Le Cercle Noir. The olive-tinted photograph on the virginal white background is not only very classy, it somehow infuses the image of Emile Hirsch embracing Penelope Cruz with an undeniable melancholy, increasing its emotional impact. The positive/negative all-caps setting of the movie title at its bottom is suitably elegant; the delicate features of Bodoni adds to the refinement of the poster. Personally I would have preferred a contemporary Didone for a change.

Typographically speaking this second case of a so-and-so main poster and a fabulous alternate design is far more interesting. The poster for the Cannes launch of The Selfish Giant was designed UK agency All City Media. The gritty neo-industrial setting of the film is deftly transformed into stylised, retro-looking graphics in primary colours that seem to come straight out of an annual report from the sixties. Instead of resorting to the obvious Helvetica or Futura, All City Media decided in favour of a contemporary alternative. Replica performs the same function as a classic neo-grotesque or geometric sans, yet its subtly squat features and cut-off corners at the bottom of the ‘A’ enhance the industrial look of the artwork. This makes me very happy.

The idea of attaching a Mickey Mouse shadow to Walt Disney and Mary Poppins to P.L. Travers on the movie poster for Saving Mr. Banks is kind of cute. What intrigued me though was the Trajan alternative which I eventually managed to identify as Anavio.

The identifier “Trajan-alternative” is particularly appropriate in this instance, as for some reason the movie logo was recreated using Trajan. To achieve a similar typographic image the legs of the ‘K’ and the ‘R’ were extended. I have no clue why this was done instead of simply using the original typeface. By doing so it becomes apparent how much alike both type designs are in terms of basic structure, yet how the design details make them two distinctly different typefaces.

Another exceptional collaboration between a filmmaker and this time an actress is the subject of Liv & Ingmar, the documentary relating the 42 year long relationship between legendary actress Liv Ullmann and Ingmar Bergman. The rigid geometry of ITC Avant Garde Gothic belies the poetic imagery of the movie poster. Stylistic alternates for the ‘A’ and ‘V’ were used to nest the ampersand snuggly between the two names. It makes sense but the end result looks a little forced.

Ahí va el diablo (Here Comes The Devil) gets a great vintage-looking movie poster conjuring up the horror classics from the seventies and eighties. The typographic lockup is solid, perfectly scaled and positioned in relation to the ominous silhouette of the mountain with the two children on top, and the forest of outstretched hands mimicking flames at the bottom. It is weird to notice how my opinions change about certain typefaces – I was never a fan of the ITC faces from that period, but the more I see it used well, the more I’ve come to appreciate ITC Serif Gothic. In small doses, and only in appropriate situations of course.

More flames – in their efforts to outdo each other, designers for the entertainment industry continually devise new visual effects to crank up the awesomeness of the marketing collaterals they create. Not content anymore with mere sparks that have prettified many a poster for an action flick these past few years, the movie poster for Bollywood action extravaganza Dhoom: 3 one-upped the competition by setting the actors on fire! What is going to top that!? Lava hats?


47 Ronin by Matt Ferguson

The fourth Poster Posse (Phase 1 and Phase 2) at Blurppy – the ongoing project by the self-proclaimed “purveyor of pop culture” that yielded some great alternate designs for Pacific Rim last summer – “tackles the supernatural, demons, samurai and Keanu Reeves” with a series dedicated to 47 Ronin. My favourites this time around are by Midnight Marauder, Doaly, and Matt Ferguson who relied on his trusted Futura for the typography.


47 Ronin by Midnight Marauder


47 Ronin by Doaly

I feel a teensy bit let down by this installment of the Poster Posse. Yes, most of them have great illustrations, but some are lacking in the design/typography department. For example the astonishing art Paul Shipper produced doesn’t take away that he conveniently tucked away the typography really small in the right-hand bottom corner. That is not poster design, that is a cop-out. It is also a shame that the brush scripts some designers used to reference Japanese calligraphy are of inferior quality – in my opinion the best typefaces to simulate this still are Gizmo and many of the brush scripts by Timothy Donaldson.

The rather bland theatrical poster (floating heads! dramatic poses! more fire!) uses a slightly customised Bank Gothic.

I am with Stephen Coles on this one. Not only is this poster for The Wolf of Wall Street unimaginative, the typography is surprisingly poor for such a high-profile movie, the new collaboration between iconic director Martin Scorcese and teen-heartthrob-turned-major-movie-star Leonardo DiCaprio. I fail to see the reason to have a yellow field surrounding the movie title set in all-caps FF DIN. It immediately conjured up associations with road works, rather than the stock exchange which is the setting for the film. The typographic lock-up seems hastily thrown together, and – just like Stephen observes – there is some unnecessary squooshing of type involved.

Even though they are much better designed, these minimalist posters look a bit gratuitous. Literally playing off the movie title by integrating a wolf silhouette… Come on, admit it doesn’t really add anything substantial. Instead of making me go “Aha!” these two designes elicited a meager “Meh…” from me. The typeface is ITC Century.

We end this episode in true FontShop style with this second batch of yellow-and-black movie posters, for Grudge Match. Nice concept, however the execution falls short. The coloured-in black-and-white treatment of the photos matches the visual style of vintage boxing posters. Unfortunately it makes half of the actors in them barely recognisable. I also don’t buy the choice in typefaces. Instead of going for Helvetica they would have been so much better off with a chunky wood-type inspired face in various weights and widths like Rhode or Titling Gothic, or something grittier like Garage Gothic.


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ScreenFonts: Diana, Thor: The Dark World, Oldboy, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

Observant readers may have wondered why I didn’t review the poster for Design Is One: Leila & Massimo Vignelli last month. Even better, very few people know that the film’s production company e-mailed me to ask if I was interested in writing about the documentary, and offered to send me a screener. My reply may have put them off:

In principle I am interested in such projects and would consider reviewing the documentary. The trailer definitely looks interesting. However The FontFeed has a clear focus on typography. Despite his massive achievements in design, purely in the field of typography I trust Mr. Vignelli’s views as much as I trust my general practitioner’s on complex neurosurgery. He is a reactionary and frankly not that good typographer with very strong yet misguided opinions. So I am not sure how my review would turn out. I’ll let you decide whether you still like me to do this.

After a reply thanking me for my candid response, I eventually never received the screener…

Introduced by one reviewer as a “near-perfectly imperfect burst of present-tense poetry” the impressionistic documentary These Birds Walk about the Edhi Foundation focuses on a poor runaway boy and a reluctant ambulance driver in Karachi. Its movie poster looks simply magical. The semi-transparent silhouette of the “charismatic and enjoyably rambunctious alpha-child” Omar jumping over the Pakistani roofs conjures up conflicting emotions of melancholy and hope, creating a heart-breaking image. Again the Instagram effect literally colours the artwork – for example the posters For Ellen and Ain’t Them Bodies Saints use an almost identical colour palette – unifying the image and further stylising it. Unlike the poster for Like Crazy the movie title in Gotham is very well set as a solid block. Even though the three words that make up the title have different numbers of letters there are no real spacing issues because “walk” has wider letters. Their delicate, transparent hues make the words blend into the overall image, yet they remain perfectly readable.

It’s always a joy to feature artwork by Akiko Stehrenberger on ScreenFonts. Not only because the talented artist produces very consistent quality, but on top of that she has a versatile illustration style and is not afraid to take risks. If she hadn’t told me I may never have guessed this secondary – but still official – poster for The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology was her work.

Akiko said she had so much fun working on it, and Adrian Curry from Zeitgeist Films was an absolute pleasure to work with for this project. She chose this specific illustration style to solve two challenges that came with the assignment. First, there were so many film scenes analysed and discussed by Slavoj Žižek, no one more prominent than another, that a “more is more” approach seemed the best option to loosely represent the majority of them. Second, Zeitgeist Films did not have legal rights to feature any images from the film scenes photographically or even illustrate them with direct likeness (other than Žižek himself) for the poster. Being an admirer of Heinz Edelmann, Akiko took notes from his visual language as a great solution for this. She also felt this style gave a lighter feel to the at times heavy subject matter. The movie tile looks appropriately recent-retro in ITC Garamond Ultra Condensed.

The US one sheet for Sake-Bomb is a delicious throwback to the vintage French advertising posters from the early 20th century. Flat, subtly textured graphics in gentle, light colours form a joyous puzzle which has all the elements clicking into each other – the sake cup doubles up as the noses of the two characters, and the beer glass fits snuggly under their chins. Typographically there is a huge missed opportunity here, as a genuine Art Deco display face like for example Mostra Nuova would have suited the illustration style much better than this generic narrow sans (it’s not Alternate Gothic but close).

Now that we’re on the topic of French poster design – contemporary examples often leave much to be desired. Even though it’s not Microgramma / Eurostile Extended, Bank Gothic is only incrementally better on the original French poster of Mr. Nobody, the latest movie by Belgian director Jaco Van Dormael. Although it is structurally sound with some clever compositional and colour tricks, the poster itself doesn’t really grab me. I have the impression it tries very hard to tell as much as possible about the movie within the limited confines of the one sheet.

The US one sheet however is a whole other story. Splitting the face of the protagonist in a younger and older half hints at both the central theme of (not) making decisions and the confusion about his real age. The addition of the intriguing circular fragments symbolise the ripples those decisions create in the time-space continuum, making for an adventurous poster design. As it has strict geometric shapes ITC Avant Garde Gothic nicely complements the artwork and gives it a futuristic atmosphere matching the setting of the film in the year 2029. A strong design with impact.

Betraying the sensationalist, even voyeuristic subject matter the US one sheet for Diana is shockingly restrained. The posture of the Princess of Wales, depicted small against the vastness of the ocean captures her loneliness and inner conflict in a poignant yet serene scene. The movie title and Naomi Watts’ name are impeccably sized and positioned along a logical reading trajectory. The sparse typography, with the main text set in Adobe Caslon, looks rather bookish for a movie poster, yet it fits the overall atmosphere and image. I am almost embarrassed at how much I like this design.

If you keep the target audience in mind however the New Zealand poster by Part & Parcel on the left is more appropriate. The glamorous dress, jewelry and hairdo, and the elegant, slender serif letter forms of Trajan are befitting of Diana’s near-mythical status with those who live their lives by proxy.

Yet nothing can top the Japanese poster on the right that I discovered through a tweet by Toshi Omagari. This design basically uses the same image but pulls out all the stops. Gone are the desaturated hues and tasteful typography, only to be replaced by an intense blue gradient, transparent pink roses, and hazy inserts. Nothing says “tragic fairy-tale princess” better that a canvas texture and frickin’ beveled golden type with a bona fide crown resting on the end-‘a’! Choke on this, good taste!

Composition-wise the movie poster for South-Korean thriller Blood and Ties is much better than you’d expect at first glance. The clever way her father’s shoulder transitions into Da-eun’s face creates a subliminal yin-yang motif. Offsetting her pale face against her father’s black clothes is a metaphor for her discovery of the dark secret he carries.

Typographically speaking the poster is less good. It’s a real shame how the red Myriad Condensed interferes with, and almost neutralises the tension created by the dark/light contrast. The rough brush script with the photographic texture of the movie title looks great, yet proves to be problematic in the lighter area at the bottom right, with some unfortunate clashing between the arms of the T and Da-eun’s chin and throat. Also the red glow to increase the contrast between letter forms and background looks iffy.

Even if the main poster for Thor: The Dark World is a rather predictable design for a blockbuster – sultry heroine leaning against determined-looking hero, smattering of secondary characters in the background with the obligatory ominous floating head, monumental setting – the custom (?) Bank Gothic-inspired flat-topped sans is a huge improvement over Trajan for the original movie. The main reason why I picked Thor is for the alternate designs – the first two are from the gallery of posters commissioned by The Shortlist; the two posters by Matt Ferguson are from elsewhere.

Peter Stults – whom we remember for his excellent artwork for The Canyons – created a faux-retro design inspired by the Silent Era. Peter has done several series of re-imaginings of contemporary posters in classic styles. Yet, apart from the “What if” poster of 2001 A Space Odyssey as if it was an old Fritz Lang film, this is an era in movie poster design history he has barely researched. As Peter started looking at Thor visuals / imagery the concept of holding the hammer kept appearing. This made him flash onto the epic-looking outstretched hand in the infamous M poster, also from Fritz Lang, and that became his starting point. Even though strictly speaking it is not Silent Era but just a couple years into the sound era it has the same feel.

Strictly speaking the typography is historically accurate, but not plausible. On the other hand this is a contemporary re-imagining, so some poetic license is acceptable. As a happy coincidence the main typeface Gill Sans Extra Bold was released in 1931, the exact same year as Fritz Lang’s movie M. Movie posters however were hand lettered in a quite different style at that time. The supporting typeface Poor Richard is a Red Rooster digitisation based on the Keystone Type Foundry design, circa 1919, yet again it is not likely a metal face would have been used because hand lettering was the norm, even for smaller text.

I singled out this design by Paul Jeffrey because the choice of type is excellent on a formal level. The letter forms of Brothers at the bottom of the poster mimic the typical shape of Thor’s iconic hammer depicted at the top.

This design by Matt Ferguson is dubbed the “Rorschach poster” for its intricate interpretation of Malekith’s portrait in simple black on the cream background. Thor’s eruption at the top gives the impression the face / mask explodes in perfectly symmetrical tiny bubbles. There is a very strange atmosphere to this wonderful design – part turn-of-the-previous-century Art Nouveau, part 70s psychedelic art.

Thor’s silhouette in this other alternate poster by Matt Ferguson is identical to the one in the previous version. The style is adopted from the comic books the character originated from, with a blocky retro-looking comic sans (no, not the Comic Sans!) to match. Matt explained to me that he uses Futura as a base for pretty much all his posters, and often refines it and edits it for things like titles. In this case he made the type look as it was drawn with a flat brush – Matt wanted to reference the original Thor comic logo, but with a modern twist. This is a perfect stylistic match in this design, which makes me wish the typography in the previous poster harmonised better with the illustration style, something psychedelic or Arts & Crafts-like.

As the four designs for La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty) demonstrate, expressing the concept of beauty with typography is sometimes not as easy as you would think. Even though Alternate Gothic – a mainstay in book cover design – is a classic display sans, the movie title looks very stiff in poster on the left. The typeface used for the poster on the right is the poorly constructed and badly drawn Aver – its unbalanced lowercase looks painfully amateurish. Not exactly my idea of beautiful.

The English-language posters are equally problematic. Aver italic in the left poster was digitally condensed and thinned out, thus altering the slant and distorting the already stressed outlines. The poster on the right falls for the classic trap of combining a Didone with a swirly script, the typographic equivalent of a jewelry shop window suffering from shiny bauble indigestion.

Striking the perfect balance between stylish and campy, between blockbuster and indie, the gorgeous movie poster for Charlie Countryman makes superb use of Shia LaBeouf’s penetrating stare. By the way I never expected to once write these last four and a half words in succession in the same sentence. By the by the way, if you know any French the succession of vowels in LaBeouf’s name makes absolutely no sense! But I digress. I don’t know why, but the simple act of tilting the whole image seems to notch up the intensity of the eyes, of the vibrant colours, of every single hair on Shia’s face, conveying the obsessive, feverish state of mind of the main character. The barely noticeable presence of the woman behind him, the object of his obsession, gives a subtle taste of the storyline. I don’t particularly like the typographic treatment, yet the weathered sans is kind of appropriate in a literal way, given Shia’s distressed psyche. Other than that I love this.

These two painted teaser posters similarly balance between graffiti and fine art. The shouty, splattered fluorescent pinks and greens augmenting the black on white artwork make the posters pop.

Going into this episode of ScreenFonts, I would never have guessed I’d bump into such a dramatic development. If you are in the design business and haven’t heard of Juan Luis Garcia’s open letter to Spike Lee about his concepts for Spike Lee’s remake of the Korean revenge movie, you most probably were off-planet. There has been a lot written about this case of working on a job for months, getting turned down after refusing the alms offered for the work, and then seeing the concept (right poster) reappear, barely reworked by another agency (left poster ). I will not get into this as I did not succeed in contacting any of the concerned parties, so I cannot really add anything new.

What I did do however was talk to the talented and knowledgeable Corey Holms, one of my trusted sources for the goings-on in the film marketing and design business. He says the amount of paperwork in this industry is unreal, which makes Corey suspect that we are not getting the whole story. On face value it sounds like it’s an egregious abuse of talent, but maybe Juan Luis Garcia was working on spec, or signed an agreement without (or only partially) reading it. Corey explains that the typical Work For Hire agreements being used in the industry can be pretty scary. Because he sometimes refuses to sign that sort of document he ends up not working for certain companies.

Corey Holms | “My sticking point on the agreements is two-fold. The first being that they don’t want you to work for any studio that they work with. So if I work on a project for them, I can be sued for working for another agency because that agency works with the studio. The other sticking point for me is that the agency owns all work I do for them (no big deal), but also owns any work I do while under contract with them (even for freelance clients), and any work I do in the future that is derivative is owned by them. All of my typefaces are based off rejected logos, which means that I can’t design any custom type for them, or they can claim my typefaces as their property. For example, I design a custom sans serif logo for the project, and then a year after working with them I design a different sans serif — they can legally claim ownership of it, because it’s a sans serif which is derivative. It’s insane.”

“Those clauses tend to be problematic for me as they’d basically put me out of business, and you can’t work for any of these shops without signing such an agreement. I ask to remove the problematic clauses and work with the ones that do, and don’t with the ones that are inflexible. On the other hand, those clauses in the work for hire agreements are there to protect the agency, obviously. The reason they are in there, is because there have been abuses and problems that have gotten these agencies in trouble. And in the conversations I’ve had with them, they’ve almost all said that they would never, ever enforce these rules. And I have to explain that the same way they need those clauses in the agreement to protect themselves, I too need to not have them in there to protect myself. In the end almost all of the agencies I’ve worked with have been really helpful in removing the specific points that cause me concern.”

Amongst the promotional materials for Oldboy I quite like this design comprising of a grid of security monitors, one for each year the main protagonist was imprisoned. This number is repeated as scratches that substitute the counters of the movie title set in FF DIN.

Time seems frozen on the beautiful movie poster for the 1972 documentary Cousin Jules, the result of five years of recording the daily lives of French farmer Jules and his wife, living alone in the countryside. The oversized, gracious letter forms of Sloop Script have a stunning impact, not suppressing but on the contrary bringing out the humble shapes of Jules and his wife.

It seems a little disrespectful to criticise the movie poster for the biopic Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom so soon after the death of the towering legend of anti-apartheid. But it’s a dirty job, and somebody’s gotta do it. Most of the poster is fine. The high-contrast portrait of Idris Elba colourised in the colours of the South African flag minus blue is solid, and the distressed narrow sans works well in this context. There is only one detail that bothers me because it comes across as a rookie mistake and sticks out as a sore thumb. When you use rag left setting, make sure to let the punctuation float. The period that is aligned with the right side of the text creates an unsightly indentation because it almost has no volume.

And we end with these character posters that cleverly integrate the iconic silhouette with the raised fist as a counter for the central ‘A’ in the movie title.


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ScreenFonts: Gravity, Bad Milo!, Captain Phillips, The Fifth Estate, Carrie

I have a real treat for you this month. It is a rare privilege to see a poster design come to life. We open this episode of ScreenFonts with a process video by Kevin Tong. It shows the live creation of his illustrated poster for the universally hailed cosmic thriller Gravity. Sit back, relax and enjoy the video after the jump. If you happen to hear some crackling and popping sounds accompanied by a faint whiff of burnt neurons – yup, that’s your synapses frying.

The poster by Kevin Tong was commissioned by Mondo in Austin, in conjunction with the studio and team behind Gravity to be released as a piece of collectible art.

How did you approach the design? It is quite peculiar as it has no right side up.

Kevin Tong | “When I started the poster, I watched as many trailers as I could to understand a film I hadn’t seen yet. If I asked, I could have seen it early, but it seemed like too amazing a film to initially experience it on a computer. The imagery is a straightforward depiction of events in the film, but the part I tried to make special was the lack of orientation. Even early on, I knew the film was going to be wondrously dizzy and would capture the disorientating effects of space.”

This lack of orientation is echoed in the typography. The typeface is reminiscent of the square sans serifs that are often seen on posters for action movies.

Kevin Tong | “I used a font called Summit that was designed by Luke Lisi. When I started the poster, I knew that I wanted to have a modern and functional-looking font, reminiscent of NASA with hints of science fiction. I was toying with designing my own lettering when I saw Luke’s work. It was exactly what I needed, so I purchased it pretty much to use on Gravity. It’s so good, I’ll definitely use it on other projects. As for the diagonals, I stretched those out to create a split screen image, playing up the different dynamics of the film – both the emptiness of space and its dangers.”

The movie poster for The Dirties does a pretty good job at setting the scene for Matt Johnson’s awarded feature-length debut. It tells the story about two best friends filming a comedy about getting revenge on the bullies at their high school, but one of them isn’t joking. The rasterised black-and-white photograph seems to refer to both the classic portraits of students in vintage school yearbooks and the graininess of amateur video footage. Typographically speaking the design is a non-event. I see in the distressed Helvetica Condensed a gratuitous and desperate attempt at making an incredibly bland typeface less bland. “Ooh, let’s grunge it up. That’s what the kids do these days, isn’t it?” Yeah, two decades ago, you morons.

The typography, pre-grunged, works better on this almost clinical minimalist poster. Since reading Brandon Schaefer’s razor-sharp analysis of the phenomenon of minimalist posters I have become more critical about this trend. So how does this particular example hold up? Quite well I must say. You need no previous knowledge of the movie to get what it is about – a row of school lockers, one of them splattered with blood, hints at bullying in school with a very sinister twist. So that is one for the “win” column in my book.

Instead of going for a phoned-in Wild West-inspired display face, the designer of the movie poster for Running Wild: The Life of Dayton O. Hyde took an unexpected road. Colossalis is a striking 1984 design by Italian type designer Aldo Novarese, combining normal “round” counters with flattened contours. Interestingly, even though the typeface is (retro-)modern and industrial in spirit, it conjures up the same atmosphere as the classic wood type designs from yesteryear. The supporting face is the ubiquitous and more obvious Rosewood Fill, popular for its slightly awkward character shapes as it is most often used without the ornate overlay (ironically the actual design).

This is a surprising twist. Usually films have photography-based posters with the occasional illustrated variant. However every single design I found for Bad Milo! is illustration-based. The artwork for the main poster was created by UK-based illustrator Paul Shipper. Shipper drew a strangely endearing scene, turning the bizarre and sickening theme of the film on its head. His detailed, beautifully textured, and subtly angular drawing style with vibrant highlights proves he is a worthy competitor for the undisputed master of illustrated film posters Drew Struzan.

Although Paul Shipper doesn’t explicitly mention it, he seems as much a disciple of Struzan as Mark Landry who is both an illustrator and a screenwriter. Landry designed the grindhouse exploitation-style poster in collaboration with the film’s director Jacob Vaughan. On the one hand the drawing style is trashier and – dare I say? – a little less accomplished than the previous poster. On the other hand the poster does a better job at conveying the mood of the film and at providing visual clues about the storyline. However distasteful it is, having three of the characters emerge from a toilet bowl does the trick.

Akiko Stehrenberger takes the humorous route with her tongue-in-cheek artwork for Bad Milo! The horrible little monster, wearing sunglasses and riding a skateboard with part of the main character’s bowel around its neck, immediately reminded me of the mischievous – and deadly – Gremlins from my childhood.

The last variant, a minimalist poster, gets the concept of the movie across with a bloodied, partly shredded toilet roll. The movie titles in all four posters look custom to me, but our FontLists of rough brush scripts and cartoony scary scripts should get you on your way.

As you can tell from my sole contribution to Fonts In Use up till now I don’t mind going literal (and conceptual) in my own design work. Beryl Firestone does so too with his movie poster for A.K.A. Doc Pomus. The documentary about the legendary Doc Pomus (real name: Jerome Felder) who wrote such hits as Save The Last Dance For Me, This Magic Moment and Viva Las Vegas was outfitted with a poster made to look like the close-up of an LP. The orange-red and off-white colour scheme of the record label, the black-and-white inset photograph and the simple geometric letter forms of Futura perfectly work together to mimic the look of a vintage record.

Again it is disheartening to see how the addition of a floating head often devalues a design. The teaser poster for Captain Phillips is tense and gritty, and everything a poster for this type of thriller should be. The framing of the image suggests it was taken either accidentally or stealthily – one of the crew members observing from a hiding place how the pirates climb aboard. As it may even take the viewer a second or two to decipher the scene in the mostly darkened photograph, the poster efficiently sets the paranoid tone for the story.

Unfortunately inserting Tom Hanks’ portrait in the oppressive dark area – which proves to be so efficient in building up the tension in the teaser poster – largely neutralises said tension in the main poster. Gone is the feverish tone, the feeling of fear and uncertainty, the anticipation of the cat-and-mouse game between the pirates and the captain, and that is really a shame. The narrow straight-sided display sans in both posters is Tungsten.

Almost every single month while preparing the upcoming installment of ScreenFonts I curse my obsessive-compulsive side that forces me to go through every single movie poster of the past month (over one hundred for this post). However this systematic search on Metacritic invariably makes me find some beautiful, wondrous or plain bizarre designs. One of the arresting posters for October is this gorgeous artwork for the documentary The Institute. The poster is not credited on the IMPAwards website, but the early to mid-20th century German/Swiss photo-montage style, desaturated colour palette and exclusive use of Futura leaves little doubt this is the work of Mark Weaver. You may remember the celebrated New York-based art director, designer, and illustrator for his amazing sleeve design for How To Destroy Angels, featured on The FontFeed three years ago.

When I contacted Mark Weaver he however had a slightly different story to tell. He did indeed create the original illustration in 2009 for a poster promo that the Nonchalance people were putting up around San Francisco. It had nothing to do with the film. In fact Mark had no idea they were even making a documentary about their Jejeune Institute project until people started tweeting and emailing, asking if he made the poster or if someone else was emulating his recognisable collage style. It seems Nonchalance repurposed the image for the movie poster and designed all the typography, so technically Mark didn’t design the poster. Because he never set up any usage rights for the image Mark is not sure if he can do anything about it at this point. At any rate it would’ve been nice of them to reach out to him and ask it if would be OK to use the original illustration in a movie poster.

Just as arresting, but for very different reasons, is this movie poster for the low budget black-and-white science fiction / corporate conspiracy thriller / family dramedy Escape From Tomorrow. Shot guerilla-style in Disneyland this movie obviously is looking for controversy – the official movie website even has a ticker counting the “number of hours since release that we haven’t been sued” by the mighty Mickey Mouse company. What, the bloody Mickey Mouse glove and signature lettering style didn’t give it away? Almost one and a half month of absolutely no reaction? It must be disappointing for the makers of the film, probably banking on some high-profile free advertising, that Disney apparently doesn’t give a rat’s… errr… mouse’s ass.

Once you start noticing similarities between certain movie posters you get the impression you see more and more of them. That is why discovering this alternate poster for All the Boys Love Mandy Lane immediately raised a red flag. After I Know Who Killed Me, I Can Do Bad All by Myself and Colombiana, this is the fourth face-in-a-brightly-coloured-flower-on-a-black-background that has been featured in ScreenFonts, and the second red one since Colombiana two years ago. Could there really be a finite number of film poster themes, and are the poster designers slowly but surely running out of possibilities? The movie title on the other hand is wholly original – it was written by hand.

I am afraid I was so fixated on the archetypical posters for romantic comedies with horizontal bands that I failed to recognise this possible parallel (no pun intended) trend. The movie poster for The Fifth Estate seems to belong to a movement in film poster design where the main protagonists also are positioned in horizontal areas. Yet in this case it’s not the two people that will eventually fall in love (or reconcile or bond in any other uplifting way) but the two antagonists that will face off. Maybe I should examine this further to see inhowfar it actually is something recurring or just some disparate examples. Gotham fulfills its duty as the new ubiquitous movie poster typeface, the successor to Trajan.

Whereas most people compare remakes with the original films to see how well the new version holds up against the original, I am of course intrigued to see the differences in how they were marketed. The original 1976 poster for Stephen King’s Carrie is a triumph of campy B-movie exploitation. Strangely the poster already gives away most of the film, as we see Carrie both before and after her terrible powers manifest themselves. The wavy movie title indicates this is the heyday of photocomposition with its optical distortions; the supporting face is ITC Korinna.

It gets even crazier with this alternate version on the left with ITC Souvenir. It injects psychedelic colours into a stylised rendition of Carrie with the small burning house at the bottom looking like it comes straight out of a cartoon.

The stylish version on the right reminds me of the controversy four years ago surrounding the alternate poster for Precious that seemed to be a rip-off of Lanny Sommese’s 1987 Rape Line poster. This even earlier design also features a shattered female silhouette with a hand with outstretched fingers at her crotch. I doubt there is any relation, but it still made me do a double-take.

The teaser poster on the right for the remake aims to be classier but ultimately also is a lot blander. Gone is the excitement of the outrageous original, replaced by a painted-by-numbers horror design using – how could it be anything else? – Trajan.

The variant on the left is somewhat better. The blood is less excessive and subtly juxtaposed against the single tear. Fracturing the movie title set in Gill Sans typographically visualises the broken, torn soul that is Carrie.

The sole reason why I added this last series of posters for Toad Road is because they are outright gorgeous. They perfectly capture the dark, disconcerting mood of this “portrait of contemporary youth culture, where the lines between reality and fiction are blurred with often frightening results.” Don’t expect any clever analysis from me, nor comments about the wood type-inspired skyline sans. Sit back, relax and enjoy these beautiful designs. We’ve come full circle.


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ScreenFonts: Hell Baby, A Single Shot, Muscle Shoals, Dark Touch

However immensely enjoyable and informative it was, my week attending ATypI 2013 Amsterdam threw a serious monkey wrench in my publishing schedule. Let’s just say the conference was very intensive. Getting immersed in such a torrent of specialised information on type and typography plus having countless conversations with fellow type geeks leaves little room for anything else – I arrived Tuesday late at night, the conference started on Wednesday morning 9:00 and it basically went on non-stop until Sunday afternoon 16:00. The majority of the talks were of the twenty-minute variety, which means I have two to three times as much material to go through. There are miscellaneous reports coming up, but right now I am taking a wee break (British colloquialism for “a small break”, not “a break to go …” oh, whatever) to publish the latest episode of ScreenFonts.

It is very rare that we feature French artwork on The FontFeed. I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with French movie poster designers – they either produce quite interesting leftfield designs, or they get it totally wrong. Most often uninspired typography plays a big role in this, as the same tired old typefaces keep coming back like friggin’ zombies from hell, no matter how many times you bash in their capitals. However the international poster for French comedy Populaire stays clear of the umpteenth regurgitation of Eurostile Extended/Microgramma or Impact/Helvetica Inserat so typical for many a French “affiche de film”.

Paris-based art director and graphic designer Julien Lemoine picked Carol Twombly’s Nueva, one of Adobe’s “designed-for-Multiple-Master-interpolation” typefaces from the early to mid-nineties. The casual display serif is the perfect stylistic complement to the 50s-style image in his one sheet for creative studio Rageman. Julien also shares a couple of alternative designs on his Behance page for the movie with some nice retro-looking scripts like Monoment and Phospho Type Foundry’s Luxus Brut in supporting roles. For more options check Sudtipos’ exquisite Bluemlein Collection, and the Filmotype collection also has a great selection of vintage scripts.

A comedy of a whole other calibre is the outrageous horror satire Hell Baby. It has a amateurish-looking over-slick Photoshop disaster as main poster, courtesy of The Cimarron Group (which incidentally shuttered barely two months ago after over 30 years of service – no no, they didn’t close shop over this laughable design). It boggles the mind that the radically different and rather fun alternate poster pictured above comes from the same agency. Its flat stylised graphics and retro lettering/typography echo early-to-mid twentieth century poster design. For some bizarre reason the simple red and black scheme and hand-painted blackletter make me think of German propaganda posters from the World Wars. The yellowed paper and period-correct geometric slab serif Rockwell Extra Bold make the artwork look even more authentic.

The movie poster for Snake and Mongoose is another retro design, but referencing the more recent seventies. I quite like the treatment of the images and the colour scheme, the typography not so much. The Compacta-like oblique display sans tries a little too hard yet fails to convince me, Helvetica Condensed for the tagline is an uninspired choice, and the static letter forms of Gill Sans Condensed don’t belong on a poster based on the concept of speed.

I prefer the choice of Futura display with rounded corners for the movie title on the alternate poster, however Gotham is an anachronism. The image treatment in this version is atrociously poor.

We move two decades closer with the original poster for Weekender (let’s graciously ignore the blandified US one sheet). Although the choice of Neue Helvetica 93 Black Extended Oblique is not a very exciting one, I like the modifications – the split ‘W’, the ‘K’ and the ‘D’ cutting into the neighbouring ‘E’s – that were introduced to allow for an extremely tight setting of the movie title. When it comes to Helvetica though the new standard (pardon the pun) is Christian Schwartz impressively faithful recreation of Neue Haas Grotesk.

The interplay between image and typography as Carine Roitfeld steps through the giant knocked-out capital C on the movie poster for Mademoiselle C immediately reminded me of the beautiful (yet flawed) poster for I Am Love. The documentary focuses on the former Vogue Paris editor-in-chief and fashion stylist as she moves to New York to launch her own magazine, which makes the typography a little obvious yet ultimately very appropriate. Fashion magazines famously have a preference for the slender features of didones (I am pretty sure this one is Linotype Didot) and architectural capitals like the Art Deco-style geometric sans Neutraface.

More stylish typography in the moody poster for A Single Shot, a gothic backwoods noir following an indigent hunter whose world turns upside down after a tragic accident. The gorgeous design combines the treeline of the woods and their reflection in a body of water (a lake, a river?) to produce beautiful layering effects. Tree silhouettes are also used to introduce some subtle texture in the square character shapes of Bourgeois Condensed, one of the more interesting Bank Gothic alternatives.

The chiaroscuro character posters further expand on this visual language, forming a very nice, coherent suite or marketing collaterals.

This alternate poster was designed by Duncan Bone for the festival run of the film. It was used at the world premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival as well as the North American premiere of the film at the Tribeca Film Festival. When I contacted him the London-based creative/art director explained that the image of the trees in the mist is from a frame of the film and speaks to the mysterious, gothic nature of the story. Ultimately the distributor knew this poster was good for the festivals its artful and moody quality, but in the end they had to create a poster for the commercial release selling the lead actor.

Duncan selected Monotype Modern Condensed for the movie title, main credits and review quotes as he felt it adds to the sense of tension and mystery without portraying any other emotions like ‘danger’ or ‘action’ when used with such a title. The idea is to draw the viewer to the image and keep them asking questions. Like the background, the type manages to say a lot without saying much. By using one single text-like typeface the design acquires a literary dimension, as this could just as well be a book cover instead of a film poster.

Shepard & Dark conjures up the concept of freedom and discovery through Wild West references on its movie poster. Turning the photograph into a colourised black-and-white image catapults the poster back at least a century, and the wood type-inspired typography further cements the vintage atmosphere. The wide slab serif looks like a narrower version of Blackoak, but I cannot make out if it was digitally condensed or if it is another typeface based on the same source. Notice how the ampersand was substituted the lovely chubby glyph from Cooper Black (not to be confused with the equally chubby ampersand from Goudy Heavyface).

Comparing the two posters for Mexican horror movie Somos lo que hay (We Are What We Are) – the suggestive poster on the left and the explicit one on the right – once again proves that subtlety gives far better results, as showing too much dumbs down the design and frankly is a little insulting towards the audience. The almost clinical scene on the left reminded me of the immaculately clean, empty refrigerator for The Jeffrey Dahmer Files earlier this year. Just like this worked so well for the documentary about the serial killer, the pristine white table cloth and dresses of the girls, and the squeaky clean tableware give the viewer an uneasy feeling. Although nothing explicit is shown, the realisation that something is very wrong with this family portrait slowly sinks in. After reading the movie title set in the distressed typewriter face and looking at the image more closely it doesn’t take long for the viewer to put two and two together and realise what the movie is about. Really, there simply is no need for the blood in the soup plates, for the bloody splatters all over the girls’ dresses and the father’s white shirt, for the bloody letters scratched on the table cloth. To paraphrase H.L. Mencken, [n]o one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.

The next two posters are examples of a style I think I haven’t seen for quite a while. Both use a mosaic of images and image fragments as a narrative device to try to tell the audience as much as possible about the films. What I like about the movie poster for the Filipino crime thriller On The Job is that the cut-out photos of the characters are allowed to cross over the boundaries of the squares in the grid, which gives the image depth and dynamism. The colour scheme is great: the immaculate white background and pure black-and-white portraits contrast beautifully with the petrol green and dark red of the squares. It’s probably just me, but those squares made me think of the image treatment on many of Reid Miles’ iconic Blue Note album covers. Unfortunately this fine design is marred by the typography which – as we say in Flanders – “looks like pliers on a pig”. The cheesy beveled extra bold sans serif lacks the refinement and class of the overall image. A crying shame.

The other mosaic poster is for Muscle Shoals, the documentary celebrating Rick Hall, the founder of FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals. Here the mosaic motif is used to showcase a number of legendary artists who feature in the documentary without having to resort to floating heads. Again the typography is a let-down – Futura lacks the swing and the rhythm one would associate with a music documentary, and that script used for the tagline is quite poor.

It’s refreshing to see an illustrated poster, not featuring Trajan for a horror movie (yes, I know there is one, but I choose to stubbornly ignore it; my prerogative, deal with it). The alternate one sheet for Dark Touch features an expressive and striking collage-like image in dirty yellow, black and grey. Moody and foreboding, it is a surprising graphic solution that borders on the cartoonesque – see the exaggerated flames and the “hand tree” shadow created by the girl standing in the window.. The grit in the silhouette shapes is carried over in the high-contrast letter forms of Didoni, URW’s version of the elusive Pistilli Roman. Although there still is no officially authorised revival, Jason Walcott’s Eloquent does sport all those delectable alternate characters and swatches.


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ScreenFonts: The Canyons, Planes, Lovelace, You’re Next, The World’s End, Getaway

This is my feverish attempt to squeeze in an extra episode of ScreenFonts before I switch to the September posters. Let’s not waste any time and dive into the heart of the matter at once.

There’s a lot of nice things happening in the marketing collaterals for The Canyons, Paul Schrader’s trashy satire of the American Dream. All three designs play with light in their own specific way. Similar to last episode’s Only God Forgives the design on the left lets the movie title set in Alternate Gothic glow like neon, but in a more irregular way. Together with the blueish reflection of the two male protagonists and Lindsay Lohan’s casual dress and posture it lends the poster a slightly surreal, dreamlike quality.

Lindsay Lohan is the main attraction in the two other posters. The top one uses an image-within-the-image technique. It integrates a night shot of the illuminated Los Angeles skyline with a bokeh effect in the foreground into the high-contrast portrait of the former child model and teenage movie star. The resulting image is one of self-absorbed emotional detachment. Typographically speaking this one is a real bummer. Tahoma? I mean, come on, really!

The bottom one blends an overexposed portrait of Lohan with a shot of the typical palm trees in watered-down red, purple and pink hues. The oddly proportioned Futura-like sans with the high cross bar on the ‘A’ and heavy bottom on the ‘S’ is a mystery to me.

My preferred design is this excellent poster by Peter Stults. On his Behance page Peter explains that the concept was to explore the idea of the movie theater experience being a dying species. His goal was to promote The Canyons as a movie from a different era (or at least make it look like it was).

I went for a “poster within a poster” look and feel. Finding The Canyons poster on display on some urban wall in the mix of many other torn posters and fliers was the image in my head, and having [it] look like an old 70s minimal stylized poster (derived from Woody Allen’s Manhattan poster and other similar ones from that time) was another goal.

The bodacious script is Callista by Vassil Kateliev. This fat cursive typeface is inspired by the work of French calligrapher, type designer and graphic designer François Boltana in the early 1970s – more specifically Stilla – and of famous Bulgarian type designer Milka Peykova in late 1970s. The supporting face is plain old Optima.

In high contrast with the rather pedestrian main poster, this illustrated design for the Oscilloscope comedy Breakup at a Wedding is once again a joyous, exuberant and colourful tour-de-force by Tom Hodge. As always the rising star of pulp movie design provides ample detailed information on his blog.

For his first non-genre comedy the challenge was to create something amusing by visualising some of the various “gags” and characters in order to sell the movie to the viewer. Tom decided to go for a montage, taking his cue from classic 80s comedy posters as they stand out as the most memorable to him – not just blocks of colour with actors’ faces in them. He then proceeded to mix that with the more modern symmetrical poster design style as seen in the work of Tyler Stout and Randy Ortiz. As this is a wedding comedy Tom went all out on the visual references. Looking for a graphic device to hold all the characters together, the idea of a collapsing chapel seemed a perfect way to symbolise the storyline. This in turn enabled him to include the chapel window and wedding arch.

The use of colour is informed by a joke in the film about the choice of pink and brown for the decor. Tom wanted an explosion of pink to illustrate this – nothing says tacky wedding mistake than bright shocking pink. He added numerous little decorative elements like the crazy cupcake displays, used by the bridesmaids in a funny dance as they do look like breasts with chocolate nipples. The chocolate fountains at the top were included for the brother (the guy at the top right) is obsessed with them. The comedy was filmed in found-footage style, so the two camera guys documenting the whole thing frame the proceedings. Finally Tom wanted to display some of the carnage along the bottom with the introduction of the couple looking despairingly at a good old streaking, the emergency services being brought in, and of course the booze to round it all off.

Typographically speaking the poster plays it rather safe by using a extra bold sans serif – Jonathan Hill’s Tondu Beta – to indicate it is a comedy, with an English script as a reference to the wedding theme. You will recognise Windsor Elongated in the tagline.

All style over content, these black-and-white character posters for Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters look cool nonetheless. Each profile in chiaroscuro technique is overlaid by a transparent icon symbolising the deity and text in Paul Barnes’ magnificent Dala Floda Italic in bright colours. It doesn’t make much sense and the three superimposed layers create a little too much visual noise, but boy does that typeface look good. I don’t mind pure eye candy occasionally.

Building upon the slick chromeographic logo for Cars, Pixar tries something similar for the unofficial sequel Planes. Unfortunately FB Eagle – while being a great geometric sans – is less convincing than the connected chrome script similar to Magneto used for Cars. Even more so because there even is a typeface inspired by an actual vintage air company available on the market. Flieger is a re-imagining of the old Pan Air Corporation logo, complete with alternate capitals with wings.

Given that Lovelace recounts the story of the tragic star of Deep Throat, I thought it would be interesting to first take a look at the original poster for reference. Belying its dubious status as the most profitable film of all-time – thank you Maffia – the film has a ridiculously poor poster in basic red and black on bright yellow. The stout round/square shapes of the mock-Bauhaus design Blippo somehow manage to evoke the appropriate seediness.

The movie poster for Inside Deep Throat, the 2005 documentary investigating the legacy of the provocative film, is far more sophisticated and well-designed. Typographically it pays tribute to the original with the very similar ITC Bauhaus.

Moving on to the new Lovelace film, the UK poster sustains the typographic motif, adding a glitzy disco flavour with a multilinear Bauhaus-inspired geometric face. The supporting typeface is House Industries’ Chalet, a display sans assuming three subtly different identities – the Helvetica-like 1960 variant, the ITC Bauhaus-like 1970 variant used here, and the ITC Avant Garde Gothic-like 1980 variant.

Dispensing with the glamorous make-up and the luscious red lace bra makes the main poster a more accurate interpretation of the theme of the movie – it is not so much the scandalous story of the porn star, but an examination of the woman behind the mask. The alternative design on the right further simplifies the image and goes for a very strong conceptual approach. The raised legs can be interpreted as sexual submission, but also form an X, a reference to the rating of the movie. The elusive typeface used on both versions is a clear departure from the previous posters. The design sits somewhere between Globe Gothic and Castle.

Picture this: they make a documentary called Drew: The Man Behind the Poster about arguably the greatest movie poster artist ever (read those words carefully and let them simmer in your brain). And then the best they can come up with for the movie poster is this travesty!? What manner of Photoshopped, David Hamiltonned, Gothammed madness is this? Hold on, the fake folded corner is supposed to visualise… what? The “behind the poster” bit? Oh, how clevah! Of all the lame phoned-in literal interpretations… Besides, that’s a friggin’ cloudy sky behind the poster for crying out loud; the man is in front of the poster! Argh, get your static spatial adpositions in order! Now the IMPAwards website have their own theory: they say it would be pompous for Drew Struzan to do the artwork for his own documentary, and improper to get anyone else to do it. Well, I say poppycock! What part of “greatest movie poster artist ever” didn’t they get?
Let. The man. Illustrate. His own poster. It’s not rocket science!
Rats, this single paragraph made me exceed my exclamation marks quota, and the month has barely begun.

Thank goodness they did the right thing with this illustrated design which needs no further explanation. A glorious self-portrait, a signature, only the first name, no mucking around. Bam, this is how it’s done.

Just to whet your appetite, here’s the trailer with – how could it be any different? – Trajan in a starring role. No way am I going to miss it. And while we’re at it, can I get the book for Christmas too?

Like it or not, Instagram has definitely set a new benchmark with its image filters, whose style inexorably permeate other areas of image creation. One of those typical Instagram-like colorations can be found in the movie poster for Ain’t Them Bodies Saints. Personally I quite like this solution. A plain colour photo would have been too “news”-like (compare it with the French poster), while a black-and-white one would not “pop” enough. The multi-colour haze brings the right amount of consistency to the image, stylising it and making it stand out. It also creates distinct areas in the poster: the lighter yellow and orange focal point at the top draws the attention to the faces of the protagonists, while the darker aubergine renders the bottom part dark enough to make the knocked-out type perfectly legible. The movie title is a weathered combination of Bickham Script and a Trajan alternative – Hoefler & Frere-Jones’ Requiem Text Small Caps.

I couldn’t find any information on this painted poster. It intrigues me because the illustration gives it more the appearance of a book cover instead of a film poster, especially since the customary small type is missing. Leaving the unfinished borders is a nice touch, stressing that this is a painting.

Trying to encompass a whole film in a single poster image is hard to pull off without resorting to crazy composite collages like Tom Hodge’s Breakup at a Wedding at the beginning of this post. This alternate poster for You’re Next manages to do it successfully by turning the animal mask of the main assailant into the floor plan of a house. It shows the location of the victims in black hiding from their attackers in red. Sometimes a great concept, well executed is all you need. Even though I still have a soft spot for the typeface, there are so many great contemporary alternatives to ITC American Typewriter that would perform their duties equally well in this design. Look beyond the obvious choices, people! This one is 40 years old; time to use something fresh.

While the typography in the movie poster for The World’s End on the right is pretty straightforward, the teaser poster on the left had me puzzled. The classic shapes of the serifs are a stylistic mismatch to the structure of the letters that seem similar to ITC Benguiat. Until I realised it simply is a customised Adobe Garamond made to look more Art Nouveau-like. Weird…

You can imagine that this typographic poster is like a red flag to a bull for me – I simply had to identify all the faces listing the stops on the pub crawl from the movie. I managed most of them and then received valuable assistance from Typophile‘s terrific Type Identification Board. The use of a different typeface for each pub suggests the designers wanted to create the impression that these were taken from the actual pub signs. While I applaud the idea, I have done the trip to Brighton along the coast a number of times now and observed the lettering on pubs, and I think the typefaces used in this poster do not always look authentic. But whatever, that’s me nitpicking again.

From top to bottom, the inline serif face Hoefler Text Engraved for The First Post is a good choice, but the shaded inside shapes of The Old Familiar’s Chevalier tell us it was really designed for print. I appreciate the use of the titling face Bembo Titling, not the text version, for The Famous Cock. Stencil faces like Le Corbusier for The Cross Hands make perfect sense for pub signs, as stencils allow easy application of large letters on surfaces. Ironically the roots of Gotham lie in New York architectural lettering, so The Good Companions metaphorically links it to its origins, albeit an Atlantic Ocean away. Although the typeface is based on a quintessentially British design, Mrs Eaves is a puzzling choice The Trusty Servant as it would feel completely out of place on on a pub sign. Elephant for The Two Headed Dog evokes wood type which makes sense. The Mermaid on the other hand would have been better served with a sign painter’s script, not the copperplate script Snell Roundhand, and neither is Copperplate Gothic an acceptable choice for The Beehive, as they both firmly belong in the realm of printing. Andrade for The King’s Head is too delicate and again a typical print face. Shango on the other hand looks like it could be derived from lettering engraved in stone, so that kind of works. Finally ITC Serif Gothic for The World’s End itself looks so eighties it hurts.

The type on the movie poster for Drinking Buddies was made to look like a pub chalkboard. I originally thought it would have been genuine chalk lettering, but apparently the effect was achieved by the art director simply hand-tracing over Memphis and the casual brush sans Snyder Speed after it was set in Adobe Photoshop. I must say the end result is quite convincing.

You know by now I find brushed steel to signify speedy cars rather daft, yet the weathered texture as if the movie title was painted on concrete is even sillier. Agreed, those cars drive on asphalt, but these rough letters on the movie poster for Getaway give a very static impression. The rather condensed letter forms and insufficient slant of the distressed sans don’t help neither.

It always strikes me that teaser posters often are more interesting than the final designs. They have the liberty of being sparse with what they communicate, and are specifically created to surprise or tease (well, duh!). This poster for I Declare War manages to give the viewer a whole lot of information with a very simple image. The toy weapons strapped together from sticks and stones tell you all you need to know about the movie. The old mainstay ITC Machine underlines the military theme, yet – just like with ITC American Typewriter – I would have preferred to see something new.

For no other reason than that it is again a beautiful design I am including this alternate poster by the great Jay Shaw. See, I really don’t mind pure eye candy, occasionally.


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