How to Make a Movie Poster Just as “golden” as an Oscar!

Vertigo movie_restoration
This iconic poster was designed by American Graphic Designer, Saul Bass.

Hollywood’s biggest night will take place on March 2nd and if you haven’t figured out what I’m referring to then you, my friend have been living under a rock (SPOILER ALERT: Oscars 2014)! The 86th Academy Awards will feature films such as The Wolf of Wall Street, 12 Years a Slave, and Captain Phillips, all nominated for ‘Best Picture’.

The best part of the movie industry outside of the movies themselves, have always been the creative design of the movie posters. Some of them are works of art that are etched in our minds for the rest of our lives and in some instances; they’re also hung from our walls (collector’s item). Some we’d like to forget and others were a guilty pleasure, like those old Kung Fu movie posters from the 1970s and 80s.

Many of my days were spent staring upwards at posters displayed on the sides of an old cinema in the town where I grew up. Some of the most iconic movie posters in my opinion and in no particular order (and some of you will agree with me on this) has been the following:

  • Vertigo (1958)
  • The Godfather (1972)
  • Scarface (1983)
  • Jaws (1975)
  • Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
  • The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
  • Jurassic Park (1993)
  • The Dark Knight (2008)
  • Inception (2010)

So what makes a great poster? Attention!! No, I wasn’t shouting just then… but attention is a key element to creating a successful poster. Your design must pull the reader/viewer/passer-by in; the rest of what is a famous sales formula (AIDA) includes: interest, desire, and ACTION (in keeping with the spirit of the movies)!!

Next it is important to note that design can communicate a lot by using a little. For this, iconography becomes crucial. Toss in a picture that is worth a thousand words and you literally will only need a few words to add to the overall design. Those “COMING SOON.” posters are perfect examples.

How do you create interest? Simple — create a movie poster that’s visually engaging. At this point you’re beginning to see that the success of earlier Hollywood movies was propelled by their complementary poster or series of posters. Ensure the design of your poster matches the theme and genre of the movie. Sounds obvious enough, but many a designer loses sight of their overall goal during their “creative process”; I know I have many a times.

By now you’re well on your way to creating desire or audience appeal. I’ve come to notice the reason I was also drawn to movie posters was because of the actors and actresses headlined. You’re trying to tell me that if you saw one of your favourite movie stars on a poster that you wouldn’t want to go see the film? For those of you who said “no” then I guess you saw the text “Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan” towards the bottom of the poster too.

In some instances, there have been movie campaigns that introduce a call to action that compels you to make a ticket purchase. I suppose at the end of it all, the best way to gauge the success of your movie poster is the movie’s performance at the box office. Clearly you contributed to winning over the audience.

Before those golden trophies are handed out to the best of the best tomorrow night, make sure you take the time to check out the posters for this year’s nominated films, you may just find a few iconic ones for 2013.

Here’s to the movies and to the designers that make them what they are!!

Fun challenge: Can you name all the directors of the movies with iconic posters listed above?

What’s your favourite movie poster(s)? Leave me a link in your reply; I wouldn’t mind seeing them as well.

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