Can you tell a story? It may sound like a simple question, but the philosophy and technique behind storytelling is far greater than any type of communication. A global and traditional activity, which is a prominent feature of a constantly evolving society that relies on shared cultural activities. Among the many ways of storytelling, a popular one is posters.
Posters For Storytelling
In the ancient time or before paper was invented by the Chinese, there were two ways to tell a story. One was to verbally convey the plot with punctuation and expressions that define the chapters, characters and emotions. Another way was to draw on cave walls with tools made from stone to iterate daily life. Today with paper and digital technologies, storytelling has transformed and a lot of stress is put on its presentation. In fact, with the internet posters can reach a global audience.
The first film poster appeared in the late 1800s by Jules Cheret, a French lithographer and painter, who hand crafted a design for Projections Artistiques. Today there are millions of posters circulating around the real and digital walls. As and when people discovered new ways to tell a story, poster designs matured from being a plain announcement to a visual medium for storytelling.
Design Aesthetics Of Movie Posters
Once a story is ready – the bigger challenge is “how” to tell it. A poster, usually an A4 or A3 size canvas is all you have to reflect the core of a movie. The biggest challenge in designing a movie poster for Rogue One is to visually reflect the story with design elements and styles that best convey the essence of the plot, genre of the film, the nature of characters and the intended emotions.
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The key things to notice is how the designer has used typography, illustration, composition and hierarchy to replicate the story of the movie. Saul Bass’s poster designs for the films Vertigo, The Man with the Golden Arm, and Anatomy of a Murderer are collectibles.
The five things I believe influence the success of a movie poster design include:
- First impression – how can you attract viewers within a second? It should be “love at first sight.” There has to be a trigger that evokes instant emotions and feeling about the film in the viewer.
- Iconography – using minimal or elaborate symbolic images and illustrations to echo the storyline. Sometimes portraits are enough to convey the gist of a story.
- Perspective – the interesting techniques you use to represent 3D objects on a 2D surface by taking care of the depth, width, height and location on the layout.
- Visual characterization – visual ways in which the characters’ personalities are revealed in the poster. This can be done via the clothes, expressions, gestures and the position.
- Design style – A sci-fi movie won’t look as impactful in Art Nouveau style as it would in Art Deco. The overall appearance of the poster should match the concept and genre of the movie.
Rogue One Movie Poster Inspirations
It’s been a much anticipated sequel or perhaps a prequel to the 2015’s The Force Awakens. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the latest addition to the sci-fi timeline. In this one, rebel spies are on a mission to steal the plans to the ultimate weapon of destruction – the Death Star. Director Orson Krennic and Darth Vader are there to stop them.
I found some interesting versions of the movie posters by designers, illustrators and fans of Star Wars, I feel are worth sharing and examining when discussing about the power of visual storytelling.
Poster Inspiration # 1
The layers of colors in this poster by Patrick Seymour create visual interest for those who love the past blending with the present and future. The faraway Death Star in to the perspective of the canvas and shows the long distance heroes will need to travel. The alien-like twisted tree tentacles are creepy and they stand as a barrier in the mission.
Takeaway: to achieve this look, simply use Photoshop blend modes.
Poster Inspiration # 2
Looks like Michael Morton is inspired by 1970s movie posters – a close-up shot of the protagonist in the foreground and the rough artistic brush strokes. The blend of warm and cool colors stage the battle between the good and the evil in this one. Jyn Erso’s eyes look away from the viewers into a distance summing up the feelings that evoke when one is on a mission.
Takeaway: for a 70’s war like artistic look, use retro colors and brush strokes.
Poster Inspiration # 3
I love this design for three reasons: 1) depiction of the power of antagonists using one-point perspective layout to define the focal point of three main forces rebels need to stand up to. 2) The low angle shot with spikey shapes pointing upwards shows the strength of characters. 3) Darth Vader’s shadow and Orson Krennic’s one eye staring at the viewer sums up the thrill in the way of you and the Death Star.
Takeaway: use one-point perspective, symmetry and lower camera shot to show strength.
Poster Inspiration # 4
This poster by Phil Noto looks like an amateur fan art but the intriguing aspect of this design is that it aims to sums up the story in one shape that resembles the Alliance Starbird symbol. Although the design needs polishing with a touch of photoshopping, the right-aligned layout creates interest and prepares viewers for an epic war.
Takeaway: add interest using an asymmetric grid with characters bunched in a triangular layout.
Poster Inspiration # 5
The triangle composition approach may be a typical way to put emphasis on the lead but in this particular design the phrase “rebellions are built on hope” is clearly reflected. Antoine Deman’s design instantly targets the feeling of rebel and hope. Jyn almost looks like a messiah. Another thing any feminist would appreciate in this poster is a female character’s valor and role in the film reflected through the size and centralized position of her illustration.
Takeaway: white highlights and taper lines uplift a monotone design.
Poster Inspiration # 6
The dusty and rusty texture of this poster by Sean Ryder with a close-up shot of Darth Vader is what a fan needs! A heroic knight seduced by the dark forces and served Darth Sidious to crush the Rebel Alliance. If this is the side you’re on, then feast your eyes with this design. However, considering the cameo appearance of Darth Vader this time – this poster fits right for the character and not the movie.
Takeaway: dust speckles make a design look rusty and add a touch of battle.
Poster Inspiration # 7
I like this poster design by Rafał Rola simply because the overall blurred and scratchy appearance sums the surreal world shown in the film. This effect takes us to the pre-sequel time of The Force Awakens simply because the texture creates the tension. You could almost bite your nails seeing this one.
Takeaway: for a surreal and worn-out appearance, blur the edges and add scratchy streaks.
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Poster Inspiration # 8
The fighter jets remind me of the NASA posters although the color palette is nowhere near being colorful. Apart from the title font, which looks befitting for let’s say Tom Cruise’s The Mummy, the retro and geometric appearance fits well with the mechanical feel of the movie – the robots and strikers. The color combo resonates the ideas of resilience, strength, nostalgia and rescue.
Takeaway: use dots and thick lines with a flat retro color palette for a look of the 1960’s.
Poster Inspiration # 9
Warm colors like yellow, red and orange stimulate the feeling of hope. After all Jyn Erso says, “We have hope. Rebellions are built on hope!” The closed eyes suggest the start of journey or a race when they ‘on your marks, get set go’. The lomo effect on this poster does justice with the storyline of the Rogue One.
Takeaway: to look dreamy, use a lomo effect; and to look ambitious use warm colors with highlights.
Poster Inspiration # 10
The paint like finish on this poster design embellished with highlights and shadows is a great way to show a conflict set in the galaxy. The typography isn’t worth the limelight but the illustration gives the space-like sci-fi feel. It would’ve been nice if the black and white sketchy bit in the right corner was also painted in colors.
Takeaway: make the main character look away from viewers towards the sky to show hope.
So will you design a poster to tell your story?