Working as a volunteer at a local moviehouse, while I sell tickets for the movies on view for the evening I find myself staring at the movie posters across the counter a lot longer than I’d like to admit. It’s become quite entertaining to analyze the movie posters on display and try to put into words why I prefer one poster over the other.
Recognizability is what’s important for the blockbusters of the western world. As a fan of independent, small movies I can’t stand all those generic, commercial movie posters. On the other hand, a poster for a commercial movie looking all artsy and intellectual, will most likely bore the living crap out of blockbuster lovers. The trick is to come up with a design that will register just long enough to remind people to walk into the theatre. A cracking movie poster is an incredibly powerful marketing tool.
I’m not condemning the movie industry and all its plain looking promo-material. The quality of all that plain looking promo-material isn’t bad at all. But what I do find interesting is how most commercial movie posters become rather hysterically predictable when in larger numbers.
Because of this I’d like to show just how much they all look like the next one, and I’d like to propose different methods of designing a movie poster, with a slightly tongue-in-cheek approach. I just can’t help myself..
I’ve collected recent posters (all 2009) to vizualize my theory:
It comes as no surprise that this is all about men, very anxious looking men, surrounded by either anxious looking villains or buddies, an occasional anxious looking woman and/or a gloomy environment. The little head-turn and suspicious glance to the side are also clear action poster characteristics.
Crossing over to adventure we notice more anxious looking ladies and gentlemen, this time (mostly) on their own, completely centered, weapon drawn and ready for battle. Whatever battle they’re facing, it’s bound to be rough. (although I’m wondering what Mr. Gray’s up to)
We’re moving slowly from anxious to happy or sad facial expressions. In the category drama the designers develop a sudden urge to use lots of squares and rectangles to be able to get either the entire cast involved or show some moviestills.
I try my best to avoid any movie where the actors are potrayed looking like the ones below. This category needs no further explanation I’m sure. One thing though: a lot of men still haven’t worn off their anxious looks or have gone to shocked/ill-at-ease.
Designers find it necessary to be as obvious as possible if it comes to flicks for kids, therefor including most, if not all characters and use as many colours as possible. Kids love it, you know! And notice the huddling.
Now let me propose some solutions and show alternative ways of making a poster look awesome. Again I’m only showing posters from 2009.
If we’re talking about characteristics, why not use the main character’s? And keep it simple, less=more.
Don’t shy away from using pencils, brush, crayons, but same goes for Photoshop, Illustrator and the lot.
Dealing with teenagers? Go all Juno, use their crazy imagination!
Want to focus on the couple? Use colour, go abstract. No white backgrounds! And be easy on the leading actors, don’t photoshop the poor people until they look like their own waxmodels.
Sure you can introduce the entire cast if that’s your thing. Put them in one scene for example. Do an impromptu shoot between takes. And if you insist on using geometry keep it interesting. Use colour, avoid predictable (a)symmetry.
If you’re using moviestills for your design, why not just use one as a whole? Toy around with typography and its location within the moviestill, surprise and charm people with a stunning shot.
Designs without the actors can send off a powerful message. All the more room for graphics and your own creativity.
After writing this item I came across actually just one blog that discusses movie posters and does so on a regular basis. If you’ve been drooling over the above posters, whichever posters you were drooling over, you’ll enjoy this blog: Movie Poster Addict.