A look behind the shoulder…

•June 15, 2010 • Leave a Comment

After finishing the (not so) long path to finding the 16 types of connections and placing them in the table, we are left with its final look:

As mentioned in the beginning, the lines between the cells are sometimes thicker, sometimes inexistant. The examples provided are certainly not exhaustive – many more can be found if different aspects and angles of the movie posters are observed (ex. ‘who’ appears on the poster as opposed to ‘whom’ it represents). In any case, the journey was an interesting one, always parting from the poster, choosing a different path in terms of its meaning or use, and finishing with a destination, at times intended, at othes not.

Hopefully, this discorse on the nature of the movie poster and the actors involved would inspire a higher understanding and awareness of the process behind the final product, nowadays a common element in our everyday lives.

If before, the movie poster tried to reassume a movie in a thousand words, after this experiment of thought, the word count has increased at least ten-fold.


Movie Poster Database .com

•June 15, 2010 • Leave a Comment

What better way to close off the array of relations with an example of the mass for the mass relationship, than by featuring an online sharing service by the users, for the users, with the purpose of exchanging movie posters?

Www.MoviePosterDB.com is an internet database of movie posters with as detailed information as possible, where everyone is free to contribute or view the vast amount of posters uploaded. As per usual with services such as this one (the Wikipedia model),  the empirical law of  “90/9/1” applies – over 90% of the users view posters, but don’t contribute; 9% contribute every so often, and only 1% uploads posters on a regular basis. Either way, in the 6 years of its existance, the database has reached (and surpassed) the 300.000 threshold, and its continuing to grow exponentially. Without a visible and particular leadership, guided only by the example of the others and the tendency to conform, the ‘who’ mass (uploaders) is growing, although at a smaller pace, as much as the ‘whom’ mass (viewers).

The State and the movie poster

•June 15, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Whenever government authorities have a say in the national film industry, we are faced with two extremes – one, typical for the leftist societies (those of the past and the few remaining today), where film (and consequently – film poster design) is seen as another medium of the national propaganda, used to enforce the ideals of the governing party or dynasty (the small group); and another, on the opposite side of the political spectrum, where the government participates in sponsoring film projects using financial resources extracted from the income collected by taxes, and directed towards a product destined for a group interested in this type of art (the big group, certainly smaller than the entire mass – its designer).

Hence, in both cases we have the mass as the ‘who’ in the design relationship, in the form of the source of resources (both financial and in labour), and the small / big group as the final destination, or the ‘whom’.

As an example of the first connection, the mass for the small group, going back in time to the existence of Yugoslavia and its fairly established film industry, a mention of the poster for the war drama “Uzicka Republika” will be made. The poster for the film retelling a historical episode, which the Yugoslav Communist Party (and its leader – Tito) deemed important for their cause and the ‘brotherhood and unity of the peoples of Yugoslavia’. The mass‘ input is directed towards a product designed primarily for the satisfaction and purposes of the leaders (a small group). The poster design is typical for the communist attention to purpose, instead of detail and appearance. A red font is used for the imposing title, divided by the symbol of the Party comes first, with a collage of the principal actors and inspiring scenes.

Remaining more or less on the same territory, but at a later point in time and a change in the political views and practices, the next poster of Macedonian – Italian coproduction “Bal-Can-Can” features a simpler, yet more appealing artistic rendering of a collage of the principal actors, each provenient of a different country included in the coproduction (Macedonia/Italy/Bosnia), underlined by a detailed line-up of the international cast and special attention to the sponsors (among which – the Ministry of Culture of Macedonia). In this case, the funds awarded by the government agencies to the production of these films are coming from the taxes collected by the mass, while the product is directed to the viewers and lovers of European art cinema, which constitute a fairly big group.


Although a bit vague, these examples encompass another two lines connecting the ‘who’ and ‘whom’ in design – in this case, the mass to a small and to a big group of people, filling up the next two cells of the table:

Posters as symbols of condolence or support

•June 14, 2010 • Leave a Comment

The connection people feel with movie stars is not only inexplicable, but paradoxical too. These are people most of us never get to meet or talk to personally; people we are sometimes jealous of, people we  sometimes judge too harshly for their humane errors and people whose good deeds we question with a reserve of doubt for their honesty. So why do people (the mass) have the tendency to mourn over the loss of a beloved movie star almost as much as of a family member or close friend?

The psychological and sociological reasons behind these are too vast and debatable to consider in this post, and can’t be relevantly linked to the field of design. However, the ‘how‘ of these rituals of mourning form an interesting perspective, once linked with the proper meanings.

The most recent example of this happening is the tragic death of young actor Heath Ledger. The news of this loss traveled the world at an amazing speed, primarily through social networks (Facebook and Twitter mostly), and soon enough, almost everyone had a picture of him or a poster of his movies as their profile picture. But this massive phenomena wasn’t limited to the virtual world – his posters started coming up on real life walls and window displays, as well as novelty merchandise.

The same situation happened with Patrick Swayze’s terminal illness and death in 2009.

Reaching the bottom row of the reference table, we are now faced with the mass as the ‘who’ in design relations. In this first case, although a bit bizarre, the mass establishes a connection with a single person (although deceased).

Creative ways to display posters

•June 13, 2010 • Leave a Comment

The distribution of movie posters, unlike their creation, is usually externalized and delegated to companies outside the film studios, which guide the promotional campaigns on a global scale. This doesn’t mean that the distribution itself doesn’t require as much creativity and design as the production does – in fact, the way the posters are displayed is sometimes more important than the way they are designed. Extensive use of guerrilla marketing and other creative channels of promotion have brought to new ways to display and see the film poster.

Billboards - size matters

Creative guerrilla marketing


To conclude with the third row of the relations table, we have referred to the elaborate ways movie posters are displayed in order to differentiate between themselves and attract even more attention in creative, witty ways. In this case, we have specialized distribution companies designing ways of promotion to attract the masses, illustrating the big group-to-the mass relationship.

Beyond plain framing on walls – movie posters in merchandise

•June 13, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Yet another way to exploit the momentum of a film’s popularity in economic terms is the extension into the merchandise market. Apparel, toys, utilities etc, produced and promoted alongside the film, are usually adorned with a variation of the film poster used for the promotion, and represent a viable additional source of income that may, over time, surpass the importance of the primary one itself.

Probably the greatest perpetrator of this practice is the Disney company, owing to its success to its films, as much as to its tie-in merchandise. It is interesting to see how they translate promotional posters of their films to various objects directed towards their target audience – children:


Pirates of the Caribbean:

In this case, we have one big group (filmmakers + poster designers + merchandise producers) which designs for another big group (fanbase – smaller than the mass, yet larger than a small group), which fills up the next block of our table.

Movie posters and charity

•June 13, 2010 • Leave a Comment

The publicity value of a charitable action or deed has been discovered since the beginning of advertising – it has now become hard to believe which of the stars are just faking their care for the children in Africa in order to increase their market value, or are genuinely trying to use their resources to direct attention to those who need it.

The practice of auctioning unique or autographed movie posters in charitable auctions is a commonly used practice. The protagonists involved in its development constitute a sublimation (a big group) of initiators, or sellers – the filmmakers, poster designers and actors signing the poster, as well as the buyers, at times guided by the opportunity to gain their own piece of publicity, rather than offer a helping hand. Whatever their motives, the aid offered is more than appreciated by its recepients – whether it is a young girl, whose parent(s) have died in a publicized accident (ex. deceased actor Heath Ledger’s daughter Matilda), or an organisation promising to aid a smaller group of children in need.

A recent example of this practice is Starlight.com‘s auction of an autographed Transformers” poster, which managed to raise a hefty sum for some forgotten underprivilleged children. The amount of people involved in the auction (organizers + autographers + buyers) – the ‘who’ outnumber by far the recepients – the ‘whom’ – which vary from a single person to a small group.

Once again, we have evidenced the overlap of two cells of our table, or two relationships between the ‘who’ and the ‘whom’, in terms of the latter dimension. Charitable auctions organized by big groups destined for individuals or smaller groups fill up the next two blanks in our table: