February 7, 2020
Great movie posters capture the spirit of a film, and many are truly works of art. We wondered, if the Academy decided to give an Oscar for Best Poster, who would they pick? We surveyed 100 VSAers and had Chief Design Officer Curt Schreiber weigh in.
Movie posters are one of my favorite forms of communication design. They evoke a range of emotions—scary, heartfelt, epic, ironic or fun. Good ones capture the spirit and story of the film. And obviously, promote and motivate people to invest a few hours of their time.
Most people decide to see a movie for one of three reasons: they read a favorable review, get a recommendation at a cocktail party, or find the trailer interesting enough to see the film.
But unless you’re at the theater, you really don’t encounter movie posters these days. Today’s posters are primarily experienced as small “postage stamp” sized images that pop up in search results or on websites. Even the need for VHS and DVD cover art is long gone or waning.
Still, many posters are works of art. They are beautifully crafted, typographically stunning and—in some cases—become iconic.
While browsing this year’s Best Picture nominations on oscar.com, a few posters really stood out as exceptional. And I wondered, if the Academy decided to give an Oscar for Best Poster, who would they pick?
Since the Academy reaches out for votes, I thought I would too. I polled 100 fellow VSAers to pick their favorite, and the top results were amazingly close.
Parasite—27% Joker—26% Ford v Ferrari—18% 1917—16% Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood—7% JoJo Rabbit—5% Marriage Story—1% Little Women—0% The Irishman—0%
Personally, six posters stood out…
Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood is perfect. It nailed the genre and was quintessential Quentin. Can’t get better than stars, cars and the City of Angels illustrated with ink and gouache-like technique.
1917 nailed it. Bold Futura serves as the window into the cinematic action this poster promises. The numerals intentionally mask the scenery into narrow, confining spaces that gives a sense of the claustrophobic and limited vantages of trench warfare. The colorful gradation in the skyline is dramatic and the running soldiers convey the tension.
Joker is the perfect balance of sadness and triumph. There is tremendous depth in this poster. The image and typography is both bold and distressed. And all the color, and thus focus, is on the Joker. Well done.
Ford v Ferrari is visually stunning. Like Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood, this poster is inspired by the era and race. Albeit a bit more modern. The white space, reduction of color and the restraint of the typography harkens back to midcentury 24 Hours of Le Mans poster design.
JoJo Rabbit is disturbingly funny. All the design elements are clearly inspired by Second World War propaganda posters. The collage of the cast is well done and just a hint of color is a nice finishing touch.
Parasite is the most intriguing. Whose legs are those? Why are their eyes blocked out? Is that a teepee? It makes me want to see the film… Plus, I love one-point perspective photography. Everything looks so formal. (One detail that may have been overlooked: the shadows. They suggest different times of day, which means it’s probably a composite of 10 images.)
I feel like these missed the mark from a design perspective…
Marriage Story is gimmicky. Isn’t that Kylo Ren? It seems more like a graphic treatment than a real communication device. And I feel like I’ve seen it before.
Little Women is really boring. It’s too bad because the film is exceptional. The photography makes the cast look like Madame Tussauds wax figures and the typography is a bit goth for my taste.
The Irishman is painfully sleepy. I’m not surprised, I fell asleep after the first 90 min of the film.
My vote? Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood. If you want to learn how artist Steve Chorney created the hand-painted art for the poster, check out this article.
Curt Schreiber is the heart of VSA design. He currently guides VSA’s creative philosophy, and is responsible for establishing the office’s design standards and offerings. Throughout his 30-year tenure with the company, Curt has been essential in the agency’s transition from a boutique design firm to a brand-led customer experience agency. Curt has decades of experience working with internationally-recognized global brands, and his client list includes VSA’s most prominent clientele. He also serves as an influential thought leader within the creative industry. Most recently, Curt was named one of Chicago’s most influential designers and included in AIGA’s This is Chicago. Curt’s work has been recognized by more than 100 international design and communications organizations, publications and competitions including the AIGA, Cannes Lions, Cooper Hewitt, Communication Arts, Graphis and the Society of Typographic Arts. His work is also included in the permanent collection of the U.S. Library of Congress.