Movie Posters: we take a look at the design principles in this year's posters


Recent months have seen some fantastic movies released in cinemas, and they’ve often been backed up with some incredible poster artwork.

Many film franchises are now making billions of pounds and this is helping put them alongside companies like Facebook and Apple when it comes to revenue. With so much riding on a film’s success, marketing one is a massive opportunity for creative designers.

With this in mind, we thought it would be good to take a look at some of the best movie posters in recent years, and explore the design secrets behind their creation and then what it is, from a design perspective, that has helped contribute to their success. Included in our look is some stand out typography for La La Land and some double exposure photography that was used for Nocturnal Animals.

Nocturnal Animals - Double Exposure Effect

As a film Nocturnal Animals has a very moody and slow paced feel to it and the poster artwork certainly follows the moody elements.

A cinematic double exposure effect is a tried and tested technique for introducing multiple characters in a stylish way and that is done here for both Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal. Being able to replicate a similar style in your own work can be done using Photoshop and InDesign.

Collateral Beauty – Image Grid

It’s one of Will Smith’s most recent releases and it’s arguably the biggest flop that the actor has been involved with during his career, it currently has just a 12% rating on Rotten Tomatoes but take nothing away from the poster for Collateral Beauty. 

It’s a very minimal and contemporary poster, with a beautifully put-together collage of the various cast members that includes Edward Norton, Keira Knightley and Helen Mirren. A similar high-impact image grid can again be pretty easy to create using InDesign.

Inception – Creating Incentive

The aim behind every single film poster is to create interest from the viewer and many of the best modern film posters use pictures that put the viewer in the middle of a scene from the film, creating tension and a major incentive. The incentive is that in order to resolve the situation, the person looking at the poster needs to see the film and find out what happens. The poster for Leonardo DiCaprio’s 2010 Inception does this to perfection.

The poster puts viewers in the middle of a scene from the film that can only be explained by seeing what it is that occurs before and after what we are seeing. This type of design strategy tends to work best with films that cover unrealistic, fantasy-type events, particularly those that deal with the supernatural or psychological. 

We’re still not quite sure what happened in Inception all these years later but the film was certainly as stylish as the poster that helped promote the film.

La La Land - Typography

La La Land referenced the golden age of Hollywood cinema and it was a perfect throwback from its poster to the film itself that set alight awards season. 
The key to making this retro style look relevant now in the age of all consuming on-demand content? Typography, it’s all in the typography. 

Teaming a vintage typeface with a clean sans serif helped to keep the poster rooted in the modern-day that the film is actually set. It’s a great formula to use when trying to emulate vintage designs while keeping your layouts feeling fresh and modern.
If you want to recreate the La La Land look for any of your work, then take a look at the Yasashii typeface. This is an elegant, Japanese-influenced style that could help give your work a touch of that Ryan Gosling and Emma Stones magic.

Moonlight – Neon Glow Typography

At the Oscars presenters Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty read La La Land as the winner of Best Picture, even though it was in fact Moonlight that had secured this award. When the mistake was realized, La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz came forward to announce Moonlight as the correct winner.

This fiasco has somewhat overshadowed what a brilliant film Moonlight is and the accompany poster for the film brought some fantastic artwork to the table ahead of awards season. 

With dramatic, moody colours and striking photography it helps to really evoke the Miami setting of the movie. The finishing touch to this poster design is the neon typography, which helps the film’s title to stand out against a dark colour palette.




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