Not only is Coca-Cola one of the most enduring products, but its logo is just as enduring, having changed very little over the course of its 130-plus year history. Over that time it has become ingrained in American pop culture and art. The logo is such a popular design element, it can be found in kitchens and homes, as well as bars and restaurants. The first mascot Coke introduced into its advertising was the "Sprite Boy", a nickname given to him due to his elf-like features. Advertising and posters featuring him began appearing in 1941. Santa Claus has been another popular salesman for the brand over the years. In the 1930's, American painter N.C. Wyeth was commissioned to produce several paintings to be used in conjunction with Coke's 50th anniversary. Today the distinctive bottle and logo can be found in art produced in every style and medium.
The illusion of movement can be a powerful element in any design. It can add an extra level of emotion, making an image more dynamic and, in the end, it simply feels natural. We live in a world where everything moves, so when we look at a static image that includes the appearance of something moving, our brain fills in the blanks and completes the act. I've selected three one-sheets that are all outstanding examples of using the illusion of movement in their designs. The advance one-sheet for Batman Returns, from 1992, has snow blowing across Batman's logo. This also ties into the movie as the story takes place during the winter season. The one-sheet for Seabiscuit, from 2003, has the title character galloping towards us at full speed, dirt flying in the air as he races around a track. The advance one-sheet for Fast Five, from 2011, shows the two main characters whipping by at top speed, moving so fast they are almost a blur. In the background we get a glimpse of the tropical setting of the story.
This week I'm going to throw the spotlight on a particular artist - Bob Peak, who is one of the most influential artist's of the twentieth century. He began his career in print advertising, though over the course of his forty year career his work spanned all aspects of commercial illustration. He is most well-known for his movie posters and has even been referred to as "the father of the modern movie poster." Covering nearly every genre, he has created some of the most well-known posters, for many of the most well-known movies from the 1960’s to the 80’s. Included here are a variety of pieces he has done for print advertising, unused concept art, movie posters and magazine covers.
Summer doesn't officially arrive for a few more weeks, but tomorrow is June 1st and that means summer to me. Let's look at a some awesome poster designs from a few summer themed movies. First up is the poster for the movie that scared everyone out of the water. Illustrated by Roger Kastel, the one-sheet for Jaws, from 1975, boils down the story to one simple, effective and terrifying image. At the other end of the summertime spectrum is the one-sheet for American Graffiti, from 1973. Illustrated by Mort Drucker, it features caricatures of the actors centered between memorable moments from the film. The title has been done in the style of a neon sign from a drive-in diner. At first glance the image appears crowded and busy, but the three sets of musical notes are subtle cues that draw your eyes around the image in a clockwise direction, allowing you to take in each part of the image. The white space and blue border also nicely contain the image and keeps your gaze from wandering off the poster. Last up is the one-sheet for The Endless Summer II, from 1994. A documentary that follows two surfers as they follow the sun and surf around the world, searching for the perfect wave. With a color scheme limited to the warmest end of the spectrum, you can almost feel the heat from the sun in the image. A great design that captures the spirit and tone of the film in a single, simple image.
In the immortal words of Ricky-Bobby, “I like to go fast!” This weekend are two of the biggest events in automobile racing - the Indianapolis 500 and the Monaco Grand Prix - so let’s take a look at some really nice racing posters from the past and present. First up are two posters from the Indy 500, one from 1909 and one from 2017. Next is the poster from the 1965 Monaco Grand Prix. After that we have the official poster from the 2012 Baltimore Grand Prix, by Randy Owens. Last is the poster for this year's Melbourne Grand Prix, illustrated by Bill Sienkiewicz, which I included simply because it's awesome and I'm a fan of Bill's work. All of these posters do a fantastic job of conveying speed and movement to create a mood of excitement, which is the point, since no one wants to see a slow car race. The Monaco, Baltimore and Melbourne posters also include local landmarks and views of the cities that add a personalized flair to each.
The Preakness is this weekend. Let's celebrate horse racing's Triple Crown by looking at some of the logo's that have been used for each of the races and associated events. First we have this design from the Kentucky Derby. I really like the stylized horse together with the steeples from the roof of the grandstand at Churchill Downs. It also includes a rose inside a horseshoe, which is a recurring element in nearly every Derby logo. Next we have two logo's from the Preakness. I like how both create an illusion of movement, but in completely different ways. It's also nice that every logo for the Preakness utilizes the colors from the Maryland state flag. After the Preakness comes a design from the Belmont Stakes. Another nice design that gives the impression the horses are coming right at you, it also includes the New York skyline underneath. There are also longstanding traditions associated with each race, namely, flowers and ladies wearing big hats. Roses are associated with the Derby, Black-Eyed Susans with the Preakness and both races have special events in addition to the races. Both of these designs utilize stylized hats with large flowing brims and the flower associated with that race. The last design I included is for the Infield Festival at the Preakness, which is basically one giant party in the middle of the track, featuring live music, food and beverages. This is a nice dynamic design, featuring a stylized racetrack surrounding the text and image elements.
his week let's look at something everyone sees on a regular basis, but not many people actually give much thought to - wine labels. For a designer, walking into a liquor store can be like walking into an art gallery. Wine labels offer some of the most diverse and original designs, as they each try to set themselves apart from everyone else. Many now go beyond the traditional, and almost standard, script font and explore a variety of design choices. Some still lean more towards typography, but instead go in bold and abstract directions. Some use illustrations and paintings, whether it's original art or copies of famous works. Some use a combination of typography and art. Labels are also working with well-known contemporary artists, R Wines in Australia commissioned artist James Jean to create a series a labels for one of their wines. His final design was this fantasy-inspired triptych. Many designs don’t stop at just the label, as the packaging created to hold multiple bottles can be just as intricate and interesting as the bottles themselves.
The vast majority of films that are released have one, or possibly two, posters issued as part of their marketing campaign. There has been a growing trend over recent years for many of the more high-profile releases to now have mini posters as well. Occasionally they will feature the same image used on the one-sheets, but more often they will feature original illustrations or paintings, that capture specific moments or scenes from the movie. It's for this reason that I am a big fan of many of these, as the artists commissioned to create the images for the mini posters are generally allowed more freedom with their interpretations than what is found on the one-sheets. As opposed to one-sheets, there is no standard size for these, though they are usually in the 11"x17" to 13"x20" range. These mini posters are given away free at theaters, usually to ticket-holders seeing the movie opening night or weekend, or through the mail as an incentive for purchasing tickets online. It started with theaters giving away just one mini poster for a film, but now films, like the new Star Wars releases, have a new mini poster each week for the first four weeks, encouraging fans to come back for multiple viewings. Added to that, each theater chain, online ticket seller and film projection format now have their own mini poster as well. Below are the mini posters for the Justice League movie from Fandango, Regal Theaters, IMAX and Dolby.
With the release of "Avengers: Infinity War" this weekend, let's take a look at some nice posters for a few of the many characters involved. First is a one-sheet from "Captain America: The First Avenger". Fully illustrated in the style of 1940's movie serial posters, it even features a call-back to Captain America Comics #1 , from 1941, with Cap punching Hitler (I included it here for reference). Extremely hard to find, this poster was only given to members of the cast and crew from the film. Next is a one-sheet from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. The soundtrack's to both of the movies in this series are a big part of what made them so popular and this poster plays right into that. With it's layout and black & white tone, it is a straight up homage to Punk and Rock bands from the 70's and 80's. Last is a one-sheet from "Doctor Strange". Too often poster designs rely simply on a large image of the main character's face, this one takes that a step further in a fun and inventive way that shows us there is more to him than meets the eye.
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.
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.
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...
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 nostalgia...like 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.