One of the key touchpoints in advertising a movie is the movie poster. It has proven over and over again that it works in grabbing the attention of the viewer, fans would have them on their bedroom walls. And in the current marketing playing field it is still relevant. But something has changed. The movie poster designs look much different.
The Internet has made things more flat. More noisy, where your attention can be stolen by little nothings.
I’ve been trying to put this post together for some time now.
At first I just wanted to present the current state of laziness when it comes to the movie poster design trends, but I would not call it design as it is an insult to design itself. Copy of a copy of a copy, and they come with the expectation to be treated different because there is a different title on them. And to have another aspect in mind, some of the titles I had in mind where reboots.
Thanks to Bo Bergstrom’s book – Essentials of Visual Communication, I managed to have a more meaningful look. I started to see different patterns. Different target markets. The subject and the message evolved in something different.
With this in mind, I started digging deeper for the elements that gave the design more personality.
Trying to satisfy my curiosity, I focused on the following elements to answer my questions: the color palette, typography, storytelling and the trends.
One interesting element that got my attention was the trendiness of today’s movie posters. I’ve noticed that all the sci-fi movies had a blueish background, as the current trend in the logos of all it/ communication companies (potential to add a link to logo trends or movie trends). It is interesting to see how in the past had basically the same color pallet.
Today we get to see very clear patterns when we refer to color. Different movie categories (comedy, action, drama, sci-fi), have their own color pallet that brings or takes out of the value of the storytelling.
The differentiation is so powerful that you would not need any other stimulus. Just some dust particles and blue or pink color and you would know that it’s a sci-fi movie, when seeing blue, or that it’s a romantic/young love type of movie when seeing pink.
Previously the copy of a movie poster was not all that well implemented or structured. It looks more like the copy was thought around the image of the poster and inserted after the picture. There is not that much of a visual hierarchy, as I said, but more of a: “there’s a free spot in the corner, some text can be added there”. The titles are set around the different elements found in the poster. Only a couple can be called lucky and present a well defined structure.
Today we have a much clearer visual hierarchy of the copy. In general the structure is something like: name of the actor/actors, tagline or catchy phrase to make you curious, the name of the movie or movie title as a logo, legal copy.
They are better presented, more for legal reasons and as well for a better scannability.
Take in consideration that today the attention span is smaller than ever and it doesn’t take much to get distracted. Efficiency is the key.
In the past, the main way of telling the visual story was by presenting the subject as dramatic as possible. Dramatic storytelling is a closed technique, that leaves no room for interpretation. You get the whole drama under your eyes.
Today, we see a non dramatic storytelling approach. This is defined by a open technique, that leaves room for interpretation, it actually comes to life because of the participation of the audience.
Gone in 60 seconds is the best example. In the first adaptation on the movie, we see this depressing portrait of a daredevil. The design tries to tell us the whole movie in one poster, typical to an attempt of a dramatic storytelling, but still, it’s done superficially. Everything is pushed together. The design shows everything and in the same time it hides it. And that horrible copy
In the second adaptation of the same movie we see a lot more. We actually see how speed is showed in the design. A better use of colors and a well structured typographic content. These movie poster designs make things interesting.
The average attention span
While doing the research for the article I have found an interesting piece of information. There is a short amount of time that the viewer has to understand what the poster is all about. Different studies show a decreasing of this attention span is do to our day to day digital activities. In 2015 the average attention span was around 8 second and in 2000s it was 12 seconds. If the only environment would be the movie poster, that may cause a bad return of the investment, but when you include the Internet and all the other devices, things get interesting.
Primary/secondary communication environment
One interesting fact, the advertising poster was once the Internet of today. It was the primary communication environment from where the ordinary individual could find out about the movie. You would go to the theater and find out about the movie from the movie posters displayed. Today you can find all the information online and find out more about an event or movie from different touchpoints: movie trailers, movie websites, behind the scenes clips, interview with the actors, movie reviews, internet ads, tv ads etc
The following movie posters are the only ones that I could find, but manage to prove the upper mentioned points.
In The Flight of the Phoenix we have a clean and proper example. The 1965 vs the 2014 adaptation. Dramatic
The evolution of this iconic movie is breathtaking. A movie modeled to reach their audiences. I will show a little bias and focus on the 2000 version. What I love about this new adaptation is the fact that the design desires to show the speed. That blurry light is meant to show the speed. I find it incredible when compared to its first version.
I loved this movie. We have a clear example when we are talking about dramatic and nondramatic storytelling. In the first adaptation we can see a clear description of the events, yet in the second we are presented with the tension between the two protagonists.
In the case of Total Recall, we have a unique perspective. I say this because the nondramatic storytelling is presented in the first adaptation of the movie, in the 90s. I assume the 2012 version missed on this because of the trendiness of the double exposure. Although, if I think about it, there is an unique beauty in this movie poster design. The story evolves from and around Collin Farrell’s character.
These two movie poster designs make you appreciate 3D movies. The art speaks for itself. I like the homage, just like in the Fright night movies.
There is so much beauty in these two versions of King Kong. Although the powerful look and the nondramatic approach in the 2005 version speaks volumes, the ’86 adaptation is intriguing.