ScreenFonts: The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, The Last Airbender, The Girl Who Played with Fire, Inception, Life During Wartime
My oh my, these Font Of The Day posts didn’t look so impressive, but they sure put a dent in my publishing schedule. I hope you managed to enjoy a cool 20% off on some FontFonts. Yesterday morning my favourite radio station left their summer programmes behind and now they are back on their regular schedule, so I guess summer is officially over. Well, to be honest, fall already began a month ago here in Belgium. Rotten weather. It’s way past high time I get the July episode of ScreenFonts online. Buckle up, here we go.
Those vacant gazes, those vapid facial expressions, those waxen complexions airbrushed to plastic perfection, … Why, this must be the movie poster for the latest instalment of the The Twilight Saga: Eclipse! I need to fight to urge to shout “Hello? Anybody in there?” One advantage though is that people visiting Madame Tussauds will be awe-struck by the uncanny resemblance.
I think I may already have mentioned it, either here or on Unzipped – the “official” typeface for Twilight – also used on the book covers – is Zephyr, a swirly ornamental serif face by Hungarian type designer Gábor Kóthay. The movie posters and album sleeves for the original motion picture soundtracks feature customised H&FJ Requiem, Hoefler & Frere-Jones’ humanist Renaissance face inspired by an illustration in a sixteenth-century writing manual.
A vintage interpretation of similar Venetian serif models is to be found on the movie poster for Cairo Time. Centaur is a 1914 cut by Bruce Rogers based upon several Renaissance models, the primary influence for the Roman being the types used in the 1475 Laertis by type founder, punch cutter, printer and publisher Nicolas Jenson. These faces are considered the model for the modern Roman alphabet. Centaur also shows the influence of types cut by Francesco Griffo in 1495 for a small book titled De Aetna written by Pietro Bembo. The italic drawn by Frederic Warde is based upon Ludovico Degli Arrighi’s 1520 chancery face.
The setting leaves a little to be desired. I think there is a teensy bit too much space between the A and the I, and the I is snuggled too close under the T’s arm. The former is pretty self-evident, the latter is very much a personal opinion. Although there are no hard and fast rules for kerning such a letter pair, I feel that the arms of the capital T and Y need some room to breathe. You shouldn’t slide lowercase letters or small caps all the way underneath them. The O also comes a bit too close to the R and its custom extended swash leg for my taste. I would’ve slightly reduced the O in size, nudged it to the right, and lifted it a little from the baseline, similar to (but not as extremely as) Matthew Carter‘s Mantinia or Jonathan Barnbrook‘s Mason.
As for the horizontal band design for a romantic comedy – I know you’re expecting a rant, but I’ve been doing this for the past three years so I’ll let it slide this once. Only because of those gorgeous golden hues, that amazing sunset against the backdrop of the pyramids, and the absence of white and Didone type. Have summer holidays made me mellow? Hah, in your dreams … ; )
I am pretty sure The Last Airbender has a custom drawn movie title on its poster. When you cross a certain line customising existing type for a logo you might as well design it from scratch and fine-tune all the characters for perfect composition and fit. The design of the poster itself is rather mainstream, although I do like the mysterious monochrome blue atmosphere.
The movie logo abandons the rough script – reminiscent of the brush strokes in Far Eastern calligraphy – used for the animated series, as well as Adrian Frutiger‘s Herculanum found in the tagline. Instead it is designed in a calligraphic serif style, which made me think of the work of Arthur Baker (like Baker Signet or Hiroshige Sans), or Philip Bouwsma (Corvallis Sans, Dorothea, Mariposa Sans, Neuhengen, or Trieste). I must say I prefer this sideways approach over the “faux Asian” route which usually yields very corny results. The other type on the poster is Zuzana Licko‘s seminal Matrix, whose triangular serifs surprisingly match the triangular stroke endings in stylised Chinese type designs very well.
I like the movie poster for Love Ranch quite a bit. It scores on all levels. The composition is very well thought out. Combining a bunch of photographs into a collage gives a whole lot of visual information about the movie’s theme, yet the different sizes prevent overcrowding and allow the movie’s stars to be easily recognised. The heavy darker beige border around the collage unifies its appearance, nicely anchoring it in the upper right two thirds of the poster. This leaves ample room for the tagline in the upper left area, and the movie title and credits at the bottom of the poster area.
Said movie title is set in the decorative wood type-style Boston Truckstyle, with the rest of the type in the inescapable Rosewood – you guessed it – Fill. The bright pink, warm beige and black colours of the type are reprised from the picture collage, making for a nice match and lending the overall poster a cohesive and harmonious appearance. And the worn, yellowed paper background provides the perfect finishing touch. A wonderful design.
If you make abstraction of the obvious differences, you will notice how similar the movie poster for The Girl Who Played with Fire – the second in the movie adaptations of Stieg Larsson’s bestselling crime trilogy, and sequel to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – is to the Love Ranch design. The composition techniques are almost identical, yet the end result is somewhat less successful. I think this is due to the addition of a second tagline at the top, which competes with the one at the right. And because the movie title is detached from the bottom area, it is as if the different text elements are spread out over the poster surface a little too much. Add to this the fact that they are set in identical colours that contrast very much with the deep blue background, and you have four text areas vying for the attention of the viewer.
The movie title set in Mrs Eaves has its share of problems as well, as the differences in size between the lowercase and all caps words are too great. This causes the title to effectively break up in separate words, resulting in the somewhat confusing “Girl Played Fire”. Nah, this poster is not as good as it could have been; and it’s a shame because that fiery dragon sure looks cool.
There are a couple of neat ideas to be discovered in the movie poster for [Rec] 2. Most noticeable is the red eye that substitutes for the red dot, the universal symbol for recording in the audiovisual world. Then the horizontal lines in the background image refer to the way video is displayed on a video monitor or television screen. And the splatters on the white type hint at the bloodshed in the movie. The only thing is … why oh why did they have to pick Arial for the type?
More Arial on the movie poster for Gaspar Noé’s scandal movie (after Irréversible) Enter The Void. It is a quite impressive design, with a dazzling multi-coloured neon display in vertigo-inducing perspective guiding the eye of the spectator towards a tiny – and apparently damaged – human form lying on the ground. Because of the similarities between the neon motif used in the posters for both films, the “Sex”, “Money”, “Power” tagline seems like a nihilistic jab at Moulin Rouge’s idealistic “Love”, “Beauty”, “Truth”, and “Freedom”. But maybe I’m looking too hard for hidden meanings and references.
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I think that to appreciate the movie poster for Winnebago Man one must know the premise of the movie. Documentarian Ben Steinbauer set out to find Jack Rebney, a former Winnebago salesman who became a recluse in the wake of the viral video that turned him into an underground celebrity. His account became one of the best-reviewed documentaries from the film festival circuit.
The poster perfectly captures the atmosphere of hand painted billboards for local businesses. I love the almost “painting by numbers” quality of the image which makes it look like an authentic advertisement. The choice of typeface for the movie logo is very appropriate. Los Feliz was designed by Christian Schwartz, inspired by photos of vernacular signage found in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles. Emigre were unable to find out who painted the original signs before releasing the typeface, but a writer at Los Angeles magazine (which makes nice use of Zuzana Licko‘s Fairplex) found out that they had been done by a man named Cosmo Avila. The other type on the poster is H&FJ Gotham, also inspired by no-nonsense lettering of the American vernacular.
Gotham has become as ubiquitous on movie posters as Trajan ever was. Now that the latter is slowly but surely being relegated to horror movies, thrillers, and other B-movie fare, the former is fast becoming the new flavour du jour for more serious movies. The poster for Christopher Nolan’s epic Inception is one of them. In this design the letters were cleverly transformed into multilined mazes. The shimmering red lines contrast beautifully with the cold blue and grey hues of the surreal image. We’ve seen quite a few images of a flooded New York City these past few years, but not overdoing it so Leonardo Di Caprio can still stand in it makes this image all the more powerful.
The flooded city image is but one of a number of surreal images for Inception. In these alternative versions the city is folding onto itself in the left poster, while the design at the right seems inspired by M.C. Escher‘s impossible perspectives. Here the letters have been reverted to their original solid shapes.
What I like most about the movie poster for Valhalla Rising is its colours and texture. The design reminds me of the main poster for Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto. Strangely enough the texture and the Tree of Life-type curly body paint (or tattoos?) on the main protagonist’s torso also makes me think of paintings by Gustav Klimt. Although the overall image has been rendered quite dark to accentuate the sense of foreboding, you notice that the silhouette is very well defined against the background when you squint your eyes.
Although efforts have been made to provide sufficient contrast against the background, the red textured movie title is a tad difficult to read. It is set in a grunge sans I think I remember from early issues of Ray Gun, when it was still art directed by David Carson. I don’t know its name, but basically it is Alternate Gothic with serifs slapped on arbitrarily. Somehow I still like the typographic rhythm it creates.
To conclude this episode I have a special treat for you. The movie poster for Life During Wartime was art directed and designed by Akiko Stehrenberger, who was then working as a full time art director for Mojo, Mojo, the Los Angeles based agency Corey Holms works for. Corey got me in touch with her, which provided me with the exceptional opportunity to record her personal account of how this poster came to be. Enjoy, and till next month.
IFC approached us to do a small presentation. Being a fan of Todd Solondz‘s films, I was excited knowing his last few films had illustrated posters, such as Palindromes and Happiness were (Happiness features a rare appearance or Rudy Vanderlans’ Suburban). We were four art directors total working on this, and we got to view the film in what seemed to be its final stage. Todd expressed interest in the boy in some form of imagery from the start. He also wanted a title that felt ironic to the story.
After a layout of mine for the illustration was approved, I got to speak personally with Todd from this point on. My creative director, Andrew Percival, let me take the reigns. Being an illustrator and art director, I couldn’t have been more thankful for the way it all turned out. There were a million and one ways it could have gone wrong but it seemed as if Todd and I were on the same page pretty much from the start. He knew what he wanted, and I was honoured with how much he trusted me.
In the first stage of the illustration, he wanted me to execute just the boy’s face in 3 approaches and from there we would know which route to go down. I painted one rather realistically, one in a looser watercolour approach, and one in my personal style in acrylic. Even though I would have been excited with either, I was secretly hoping he’d pick my personal approach, and he did! Knowing the exact approach and using the original layout as reference, he was trusting enough to let me follow through without asking to see each step along the way.
For the title treatment I wanted to come up with something that almost had an ice cream look to it. After trying a few different typefaces, I thought it might contain itself better and have more flexibility being a bit naive and hand done. Basically it was just me doodling on a piece of paper until I felt something worked. The title treatment was actually based on my own personal cursive.
Upon completion, I had never felt so vulnerable awaiting Todd’s feedback. We movie poster art directors get used to getting shot down, even if it is something political and out of our hands. However, being an illustrator, and creating something that is mine from pencil to paint, and even though an opinion could be even more subjective, it could have been a real blow to my illustrating confidence. The stars seemed to be aligned for this because in the end I think both sides were very happy. Todd was an absolute delight to work with. He’s a straight shooter but also was so kind and made sure to thank me personally for my work. This process rarely ever goes this smoothly for an art director. Even more uncommon does it happen for an illustrator without much compromise.
For scripts in the same vein have a look at some of the feature-rich OpenType creations by Argentinian scriptmeister Alejandro Paul, like Kewl Script, Affair, Buffet Script, Ministry Script, and so on; and of course Underware‘s delightful Liza.
The FontFeed is a daily dispatch of recommended fonts, typography techniques, and inspirational examples of digital type at work in the real world. Eat up.
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