Good Design Thursdays - Entry #8

As the saying goes, imitation is the greatest form of flattery. The more famous the artist, the more chances their work will inspire imitations and reinterpretations. Few modern day artists are as influential as Frank Frazetta.  In particular, his illustration which was used for the cover of the 1970 edition of "A Princess of Mars" has inspired numerous other works, some of which have become notable in their own right.  Take, for example, Tom Jung's design for the Star Wars "A" one-sheet from 1977, which has become one of the most iconic film posters of all time. George Lucas drew a lot of inspiration for Star Wars from the John Carter series, so it’s no surprise the poster would as well. Released in 1982, the poster for Conan the Barbarian, by Renato Casera, also shows a lot of similarities to both Frazetta’s and Jung’s pieces.  These two posters also make a significant stylistic change from Frazetta's, in that the "damsel in distress" has ditched the distress part of how they are portrayed.  While both of these take a serious approach to their reinterpretation, others take a lighter approach.  The direction for Boris Vallejo's poster for National Lampoon's Vacation, from 1983, is very much tongue-in-cheek.  Vallejo is an extremely popular fantasy artist in his own right, so having him do a fantasy style image for a film that is the complete opposite like this one is sheer brilliance.  Lastly, Alan Davis' cover for issue #16 of Excalibur, from 1989, also takes a humorous approach, with the expressions on several of the characters faces telling the viewer something is not right about this situation. Regular readers of the X-Men titles get a little added enjoyment in seeing Nightcrawler reimagined in the role of John Carter, knowing that his character always fancied himself as a swashbuckling pirate.


Good Design Thursdays - Entry #7

Last week we looked to the future with NASA's travel posters, this week we look to the past and there are few travel poster campaigns more memorable than the one produced by Pan American Airlines.  Pan Am was founded in 1927 with one route between Key West and Havana and eventually grew to one of the largest airlines in the world, before a variety of circumstances led to their demise in the early 1990's. There were posters advertising flights to just about every city, country and continent. Utilizing bright colors and bold graphics, most of them, such as the Cuba and Far East posters, featured an illustration showcasing the landscape or culture of the destination.  A few tried something different - this poster for Europe used postage stamps to represent each country, while the poster for Bermuda is a three-dimensional representation of the island made out of paper, which was then photographed against a blue background.


Good Design Thursday - Entry #6

Over the last several years NASA has run a really fun advertising campaign to promote the space program.  Using a retro travel poster theme, they have released a series of posters imagining what it would be like to travel to other planets, but doing it in a way that assumes space travel is just as common as getting on a plane and flying across the country. There have also been posters promoting the achievements of the Voyager and Cassini space probes, some of which draw inspiration from 70's and 80's era music posters.  Over twenty posters have been created so far and the best part of this campaign is that NASA has offered high resolution files of all the images for anyone to download, free of charge, and have them printed poster size.

All of the images can be found at the following sites...


Good Design Thursday - Entry #5

Yay baseball!  Opening Day is here!  What better way to celebrate the start of a new baseball season than by looking at some great movie posters.  First up is the one-sheet for the original "Bad News Bear" from 1976. Illustrator Jack Davis created a design with exaggerated caricatures of the actors, reminiscent of a MAD magazine cover, perfectly playing up the irreverent comic theme of the movie.  Next up is the one-sheet for "For Love of the Game" from 1999.  The muted colors and out of focus background add a sense of looking at an old baseball card. Last up is the one-sheet for "42" from 2013.  This design has got so much raw energy, movement and passion, you can actually feel Chadwick Boseman's Jackie Robinson sliding out of the poster. 


Good Design Thursday - Entry #4

This week was the first day of Spring, but you wouldn't know it, because apparently Snow Miser just could let go and had had to give us one last (I hope) blast of winter. So let's look at the posters for some wintery themed movies, but where things just didn't quite go as planned for those involved. First we have the one-sheet for "The Thing" from 1982, illustrated by Drew Struzan. According to Struzan, he was contacted by the studio at the last minute to create a poster, with the catch being he only had one day to complete it. He stayed up all night working on it and the result was this incredibly striking and haunting image that lets the viewer's imagination take over. Next is the advance one-sheet for "Misery" from 1990. Based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, this design takes the simple route as well. The main character is a writer, so what we get here is a crumpled piece of paper with the word "misery" typed over and over and over. The different shades of blue and white of the underlying text along with the shapes created by the crumpling of the paper evokes images of a mountain in a snowstorm. The main text in red along with word "Misery" itself gets the point across that nothing good is going to happen. This poster also illustrates just how effective of a design element typography can be all on its own. Last is a one-sheet for "Fargo" from 1996. A movie about a con-game gone wrong and double-crosses leading to some characters meeting untimely ends, it gave us this wickedly humorous design of a murder scene done as a cross-stitch pattern. Inventive and original, it fits perfectly with a story full of small-town, ordinary and somewhat folksy characters.


Good Design Thursday - Entry #3

With St. Patty's Day this weekend, let's look at some beer posters. Walk into any bar, anywhere, and you're likely to encounter a poster or sign advertising some kind of alcoholic beverage. There have been posters advertising beer pretty much since that first keg was produced many years ago. If your town has a well-known local brew, like Natty Boh here in Baltimore, chances are there will be a sign for it on the wall. There will probably also be a sign for something known everywhere and nothing has a more catchy ad campaign than Guinness. When it comes to advertising beer, there are two traits that are common among almost every design...bright colors and happy, smiling faces.


Good Design Thursday - Entry #2

This week I'm showcasing teaser one-sheets from a few comic book movies of the late 80's and early 90's - Tim Burton's Batman, Dick Tracy and The Rocketeer.


Movie posters have one purpose - provide some sort of image and/or message about the movie that will entice people to want to see it. At the most basic level, most posters succeed at this, but sometimes a poster will come along that goes a bit further than the rest and becomes something that can be enjoyed on its own. (In rare occasions you can even have a poster that is appreciated more than the movie it was created for and is a topic that will be explored in a future entry). For me, the testament of a great movie poster is whether I would want to frame it and hang it on my wall. These three posters achieved that for me (and one of them does indeed hang in my home).  

When you look at posters for comic book movies today, the vast majority of them are photoshopped images of the actors portrayed as their comic book personas. Which is fine in most cases, because that is really all most moviegoers need to see. Back in '89, '90 and '91, when these three films were released, respectively, they all went another direction. Aside from the regular-release poster for the Rocketeer, none of the one-sheets for these three films featured photos of any of the actors, which is unheard of these days. The bat-symbol dominates the Batman poster, even breaking through the edge. All of the posters for Dick Tracy played up the comic-strip origin of the characters with bold colors and catchy taglines. The design for the first poster for the Rocketeer went with a colorful Art Deco approach, in keeping with the 1930's setting for the film. In each instance, a stylized approach, using a minimal number of elements, is used to capture the essence of the character and movie.

Good Design Thursday - Entry #1

Thursdays are boring. All you think about all day is “why can’t it be Friday?!” So I’m starting “Good Design Thursdays!” Each week I am going to share designs that inspire me in my own work. These pieces will come from everywhere - posters, book/record covers (do they even still make these?), websites, wherever. The only criteria will be that I feel it rises above the crowd and is worthy of a little praise.

I really like designs that can weave typography into an illustration.  "Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spiderman" recently reached its milestone 300th issue and Marcos Martin's iconic image of Spiderman hanging off a brightly lit sign of the issue's number, high above the city, reminded me of several other notable covers.  The first is Walter Simonson's cover for "Batman" #366, from 1983. Here the title of the book is wrapped around the contours of the building, with the iconic image of Batman vs. the Joker taking a more prominent place above it. The next cover is from "Catwoman" # 50, from 2006. Artist Adam Hughes goes even further, incorporating not only the title, but all of the cover dress elements. The issue number and date of release are included with the title in the neon sign, while the Comics Code Authority logo and Batman head logo are included as smaller signs below it, swinging in the breeze.

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