Today, It is astounding how posters have existed

Today, there are
various types of posters. Even though posters share an identical purpose in
presenting an idea, announcing an event and giving visual pleasure via
graphical elements, the use of printed posters has been decreasing with
advanced technology. Nowadays, most of visual information and communication
products are produced digitally, allowing convenient and easy access to
consumers. It is astounding how posters have existed over two hundred years
serving as display materials in public places all over the globe, whether is
propaganda or advertisements or reproduction of famous artworks. Despite the reduced
usage of printed posters, the digital posters are still in production in the
film industry. Since the primary function of the poster is to communicate a
message through eye-catching illustrations, graphical elements, and informative
texts, Hollywood film posters are clearly designed incorporating all of these
features that makes them powerful, beautiful and attractive. The film
“Suburbicon”, directed by George Clooney, has a truly fascinating layout poster
that grabbed my attention within a second. Yet, before its finalization, three
other design options were previously made. Unfortunately, there are no clear
evidence why previous posters were unsuccessful. However, with personal
observation and research on defining a good design, the paper will study the
evolution of Hollywood movie posters throughout the years as well as how the
poster advertisement has been displayed differently. It will also examine,
observe and analyze potential reasons why the previous Suburbicon posters were
criticized and altered by using the idea of the “Written Clothing” by Roland
Barthe. Finally, it will explain the importance of featuring the poster both
digitally and physically in order to appeal, share imagery and provoke thoughts
to the viewers.

            Movie and film poster always
collaborate together because if the movie is the grand opening of a story, the poster
is the condensed version showing a single or multiple scenes of a movie, to sum
up the movie. Before the posters were designed, the earliest forms film
advertisement were hand painted crates and sandwich boards, which are
uninteresting compared to the posters. These boring crates and boards gradually
transformed into a poster that has vibrant colors and pictures, or
illustrations with limited text that were highly appreciated. At the outset,
movie posters were printed in paper sizes from circus and fair, 27 inches by 41
inches per sheet. Along with the rapid development of the movie industry,
poster design diversified in sizes giving more unique qualities to portray the
movie. Initially, movie posters were made by the theaters and the posters had
to be returned to the distributor after the movies were over. This system
altered in the beginning of 1980s where the American film studios started to
design their own posters and distributed them for the viewers to appreciate.

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As
the style of the cinema evolved, the design style of these advertising posters
has changed dramatically. Printing mass production of posters was an expensive
outcome because the prices for inputting images were high and definitely not an
easy print. Therefore, the film posters that we view today are extremely
different from the posters that were designed in the early 20th
century. In the 1920s (Fig.1), movie
posters used traditional typefaces such as Helvetica, Avenir, and Futura, and
had hand-drawn illustrations to depict scenes from the movie. In addition, a
large number of posters started to use bolder typographic design and
illustrations to emphasize on facial expressions of characters as well as to
give spotlights on main characters of the movie in the 1930s (Fig.2). During
the 1940s, posters tend to concentrate on the character illustration rather
than portraying scenes of the movie and the typographic treatments were still
bold but it maintained the originality of the typeface rather than somewhat
distorting it (Fig.3). By the 1950s, more conceptual film posters were designed
to portray and summarize the movie. For example, the Love in the Afternoon poster does not have any illustrations of the
characters and attempted to create an imagery by emphasizing typography
(Fig.4). Posters in the 1960s started to give a significant role in the poster
layouts by reducing the size or the number of illustrations in order to create
a hierarchy of information (Fig.5). As the movie industry is still swiftly
changing and developing, the 1970s posters introduced how the photographs were
the essential part of the poster (Fig.6). Manipulating photos were an
alternative for various illustrations that were used steadily before.

Furthermore, movie posters in the 80s are layouts that current viewers are
familiar with, it has large a large photographic background with types that are
on top of the image (Fig.7). Even though there are no extreme differences
between the 80s and 90s, the poster in the 90s has more interaction between
type and image. For instance, the Titanic
poster shows condensed type where it is placed on the ship, which makes the
type printed on the ship (Fig.8). Lastly, the posters in the 2000s are clearly
more sophisticated in terms of how the images were captured as well as the
illustrations and the treatment of typography.

­The
posters now have become more creative and conceptual that provoke viewers to
ponder about the movie and the hidden message. The Adjustment Bureau poster
gave perspective to the text which suits the concept of the movie (Fig.9). From
my perspective, the evolution of movies posters is essential to analyze and
study in order to observe the long process of the transformations. Every year
the designs would be clearly different either as a trendsetter or follower.

However, with the past knowledge, designers could become more innovative and
creative, and also could appreciate the old posters by mimicking the style of
the previous years with elements that are working in the current design system.

            The main purpose of a movie poster
is to promote and notify about an upcoming film with essential information:
release date, director, actors and actresses. Movie posters are displayed in
various styles for their target audience to easily view them. There are placed
on all of the public transportation sites such as train stations, bus stops and
even on taxis. Also, viewers could find the advertisements on billboards,
social media, magazines and in theaters. Movie posters are displayed in
numerous places not only for promotional reasons in attracting the audience
subconsciously but also to easily inform on the upcoming movie. From my personal
experience, while waiting at bus stops and resting my eye from the phone, these
movie posters had grabbed my immediate attention as they generally have
fascinating moments where the visual elements just spark to narrate a story.

The Suburbicon poster presented at the Lake Street bus stop, designed by BLT
communications, has been one of most intriguing posters for me. The multiple
layers of the images and illustrations are scattered instantaneously in Matt
Damon’s image, which is fascinating due to the innovative layouts. The
‘Suburbicon’ poster surely tells a strong narrative through the divided
sections of images that depict several scenes in the movie (Fig.10).

Furthermore, the typography in the poster is also interesting to observe as it
seems to tell an abnormal incident in the quiet and tranquil suburbs. The
sections of Matt Damon’s images are turning into a small storybook, which is
creative and impressive. In spite of the successful final poster of the
‘Suburbicon’ film, it previously had three other versions before it came to the
most convincing design (Fig.11-13).

            Graphic design like fashion or any
other art forms, is another mode of language communicating with its viewers via
graphic elements, typography, and imagery. Roland Barthes, a French philosopher
said, “Written clothing is carried by language, but also resists it, and is
created by this interplay” (The Fashion System, Barthes, pg.4). Barthes
expresses that fashion or clothing is also a verbal expression, it is a
language that communicates its features to attract their targeted consumers. In
addition, Barthes also said, “Fashion behaves like language itself, for which
the novelty of a turn of phrase or of a word always constitutes an emphasis
destined to repair the wear in its system” (The Fashion System, Barthes,
pg.15). Here again, Barthes focuses on how a different form of language plays a
significant role in fashion as it is an expression that is able to communicate
with people. Corresponding to Barthes’ idea, graphic design is also a language
that speaks its emotion towards the audience. For this reason, in my opinion,
the finalized ‘Suburbicon’ poster is successful as it shows different imageries
coming into pieces and makes the viewers to complete the thoughts about what
the movie will express and explain about.

It
is important to acknowledge that design serves in different kinds of language
as well as a vital tool for our society in creating solutions for brands and
corporations. Landa, a distinguished professor in the Michael Graves College at
Kean University, said, “The graphic design profession demands critical
thinking, creative thinking, and creative and technical skills.” (Graphic
Design Solution, Landa, pg.13). Landa’s quote indicates that every design
decision is not randomly made but it has every single intention to put in the
perfect place. By looking back to the ‘Suburbicon’ poster, it is obvious that
scattered images of Matt Damon are not placed haphazardly but in practical
reasons because if one placement goes wrong, elements of the poster look
bizarre and incomplete. This simply does not mean that the other three previous
posters for the ‘Suburbicon’ film are not an outstanding design; however, the concept
behind the poster is what really matters. If the concept is completely
understandable by just looking at the poster, it is a successful poster, on the
other hand, if the concept does not relate to the design decision, it is not
persuasive enough for the viewers to comprehend what story it is attempting to
share. The posters could be looking pretty and beautiful, even though the
concept does not fit to the design, yet since the primary function of the movie
poster is to communicate about the story and mood of the movie, having the
concept coming through the design is extremely essential. For example, the two
posters that were designed by BLT Communications are shown in figures 10 and
11. Unlike the finalized poster, the poster filled up with illustrations of a
shirt and houses with pure black, red and white seems to be extremely
intimidating and does not feel like a thriller but a horror movie. The other
two posters shown in figures 12 and 13 have been designed by the Empire Design,
a design agency that is located in New York. These two posters are well
designed; however, it utilizes the basic elements of graphic design: image and
typography, which is not exciting and resembling the style of the 90s. From my
perspective, a good design is not all about the overall beauty but it is about
how well the design communicates about the concept or story. This idea is also
commented by Landa, “Aspiring designers are people who enjoy the image-making
process and, at a minimum, possess a casual knowledge of formal elements and
principles—the vocabulary and tools for building visuals.” (Graphic Design
Solution, Landa, pg.19). Similar to Landa’s quote, design needs reason and
comprehension about how certain elements interact each other to convey a
particular theme.

To
advertise a new upcoming movie, posters are not the only way of promotion,
there is also movie trailers which are the more recent type of advertisement.

The clear difference between a movie poster and a trailer is that trailer
actually shows several parts of the whole movie compacted into a shorter video.

It captures what and how the movie handles its story as well as hinting viewers
its genre. On contrary, a poster is only images and information that needs to
portray the atmosphere of the movie. It surely is challenging to choose which
type of marketing is effective, but it is clear that the poster and movie
trailer needs each other to create a synergy and attract numerous targeted
viewers. Film posters have an instant reaction where the viewers would observe
the casted actors of the movie and feel the overall atmosphere of the story,
while the movie trailer keeps their audience for few minutes appealing their
story with dramatic scenes and making the audience to comprehend about the
context of the movie. The two marketing strategies are required in today’s
movie industry because since every aspect of our humanity develops and alters
rapidly, displaying posters and billboards in every possible location and
creating a fascinating movie trailer would definitely bring and fill a lot of
seats in the cinema.

Although
the posters have their long history, the collaboration with the current
advertisement of the movie trailer and social media truly creates more power in
attracting numerous viewers and allowing them to ponder about what the movie
would be like through visual expression in a printed paper or digitally
displayed poster and a short movie. It is significant to praise the evolution
of poster as the long process taught designers to think about a better
composition and new ways to approach innovative layouts. Despite the concern
about the declining production of the printed posters, the poster will not
extinct as it could be still be designed and displayed digitally. 

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