Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Brief Musings On Poster Design

I used to do Graphic Design on the side. I especially utilized these skills towards the marketing for any theater company I was involved with at any given time. So I was familiar with the rules when it came to layouts for posters and postcards. I was also aware of how those rules could sometimes be broken. I am also a big fan of the four color, silk screened process of the great rock poster designers like Coop, Art Chantry and Frank Kozik. And my joy of graphic design in general has it’s seed in my childhood obsession with comic books and the iconic movie posters of the Hildebrandt Brothers (STAR WARS) and Drew Struzan (RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK).

Technically, I guess any initial props should go to Frank Frazetta who pretty much influenced all these guys. The painterly style perfected on mid-20th century pulp fantasy novels and magazines was awfully similar to what would turn up on the promo materials of the blockbuster SciFi-Adventure flicks of the late 70s to late 80s. When I was a kid, I tried to copy this style as much as I did that of a Jack Kirby or a Moebius ala Heavy Metal Magazine. But as I got older my tastes broadened as did my graphic styles.

Recently I was asked to design the promo art for an upcoming show being co-produced by my girlfriend. Featuring sideshow elements combined with neo-Burlesque, it would contain a b-movie, exploitation flick theme hence it’s name “Bump N’ Grindhouse.” So the appropriate thing to do was to design the art to approximate an exploitation movie poster of some sort. I came up with two designs. You, the reader, will have to guess which one they went with:

Anyway, there was a lot to learn from this exercise as I looked at tons of exploitation, B-movie and Euro-cult movie posters. Here are some of my faves:

I also looked for inspiration in a book titled Shock Festival. Designed by Tim Bradstreet, Michael Broom, David Hartman and written by Stephen Romano, it’s a sort of mockumentary film tome about an alternate history of b-films. I had no idea it was a fake the first time I looked at it, it’s that well done. And I highly recommend thumbing through this as the art is exceptional. What I found most interesting about the B-movie/Grindhouse/Exploitation poster was how they commonly employed the use of illustrators. It’s a lost art form as mostly everything is created in Photoshop today.

Moving away from the popular illustrative style, the most innovative poster designer could perceivably be Saul Bass. However, his style seemed to be influenced by the abstract poster art coming out of Europe, specifically Eastern Europe (places like Poland and Russia). Take a look at this Polish variant for the 1960 Antonioni film L’AVENTURA:

Then take a look at this poster designed by Saul Bass for Bird Man of Alcatraz (1962):
I friggin’ love Saul Bass. Particularly many of the title sequences he designed. But I think we’ll have to table that for another blog discussion.

Now in closing, I want to bring your attention to two links. One will lead you to a fantastic posting on “50 Beautiful Movie Posters” courtesy of Smashing Magazine. You’ll recognize quite a few of the posters displayed here:

The second link will take you to one of my favorite art/shlock culture/movie blogs MONDO TEES. These are the guys that hire great graphic designers (the kind usually associated with designing posters for music tours) to come up with their own take on otherwise classic promos for great movies. A lot of this stuff is commissioned for screenings at the great Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Tx. One of my favorites is this ALIEN poster designed by Ken Taylor:
You can link to their shop via the blog. But the blog will update you on their latest available posters for sale. Usually sold at a limited edition, you’ll want to act fast should you see something you really like. Which will be too bloody often:

1 comment:

  1. Those are really cool - good article. The Polish make the craziest and most interesting posters - but as a consumer I have to say they are often misleading as the style and even sometimes the content of the posters have little to do with the films they represent.