The Design Behind Movie Posters

The Design Behind Movie Posters

Do you remember when you were little and you saw the movie posters that you were dying to see, the feeling of attraction to know what was happening in it? It's not new; everything was planned so that it caught your attention. If you are an old soul who still loves going to the cinema to watch movies and not only on platforms like Netflix, Apple TV, or HBO, you must certainly know the desire to see the whole movie and it's the same feeling as when you see a trailer, you want to know what happens next, if the main characters fell in love, if the one who had a disease managed to beat it, if in the scary movie, the main character survived. That feeling of emotion that eats you inside.

Well, this started when movies became a means of fun and entertainment many years ago, graphic designers took a very important role in designing the fonts, creating the illustrations, and aligning everything in a good composition to make sense of the poster. Thus, the spectators began to have a taste of what they were going to see and without realizing it, they were influenced to see these films thanks to the designs of these posters.

A good design is not always complex, as the saying goes sometimes less is more, but ultimately I believe that everything is in the balance of elements, a good typographic use with good images obviously united with an excellent composition. Although this is not a movie guide, if you haven't seen any of these, I really recommend you watch them, they are works of art as much as their posters.

The movie posters typos have played a very important role since they started to be designed and continued when the “intro titles” typos were animated. We can start to see the image of the movie, as if it was a brand by just analyzing the movie posters typos used in the titles. From the poster to the introduction of the movie, the trailer or any space where the typo is used. 

So: what makes a good movie poster design? It is important to observe the layout of this one, the tone in which it is communicating since it is clearly a marketing strategy, the focal point and how they guide you to it, and finally how the typography plays a role in the information hierarchy and how it can also be an image. So which are my top movie posters? And why?




Let's start by analyzing the movie poster for the 1958 Alfred Hitchcock movie “Vertigo”. This movie poster is made up of a centered image, but with the text aligned on the left side, the swirling shapes draw you towards the center focal point where we can clearly see the figure of a man that we could say that “is falling”, but if you look closely you can also see the body of a woman, is this a love conflict? Or is the movie about a man who suffers from vertigo? Did you see how the poster is already catching you without you noticing?


Then we have the color, why red? What does it mean? Is it blood? Or is it love? Red by the side of black and white creates a hard contrast, clearly it’s not a fairy tale movie.


The typography is geometric, I would dare to say cubist, it is Sans-serif and irregular, it looks handmade but it transmits strength. Together the colors and the text indicate a Cathartic, problematic and intriguing tone of voice.


Well, as you’ve just read, all this is what goes behind the design and without realizing it, they are making you want to watch the movie & see what happens next, by just seeing the poster.



Continue with the movie poster of "The Shining" by Stanley Kubrick, in this we will start with the text that has an image inside the word "The" but in reality the text of the title becomes the image inside of this poster. With a centered composition and the different fonts and thicknesses, they give the hierarchy to the text. If you have knowledge about color theory, you will know that black text is more legible on yellow than any other color, that's why traffic signs such as turning arrows are that color, so you can see them from a far distance. That was most likely an important point for the designer apart from the great contrast and suspense that is created by the gradient of the image.

Without the need to use multiple colors, a depth is created in the text as if this person were on the other side of the window, or rather, on the other side of the door. Apart from this film that another director currently uses in his films the combination of yellow and black colors in the fonts of the intros of his films, if you are passionate about cinema you should know.



Sure, Quentin Tarantino, I don't doubt that it's meticulously designed. It's so iconic that once you see it is impossible to stop seeing it, that is the power of a good use of typography and color. So let's end with the distinctive movie poster of Tarantino's “Once Upon a Time In Hollywood” from 2019, not our favorite of this director but a very good movie.

We chose to analyze this poster because it refers to the time in which the film takes place, everything is planned, there is not a detail that is not, and this poster tells you what the film is going to be about and what you are going to see in it. Here, apart from the typographic hierarchy, we also have a hierarchy of characters, the most important, the main ones are bigger and centered, as well as scenes from the movie that are seen in this poster and principal components, these images are telling you to pay attention to those elements when watching the movie, as if the poster were shouting at you: THEY ARE IMPORTANT!

Now, the typographic use and the combination of fonts… beginning with, the word "Hollywood" is not just the title, it is literally the emblematic spectacular that we see in the Los Angeles mountains, it is part of the image as well as part of the title, then the font used in the name of the director, again reference to the "hippy" era spoken of in the film. The illustrations that look like photographs because this was the medium in which the posters were made in the years that the film developed with and finally the harmonic contrast of the color palette that is used both to illustrate the image as well to make it legible.



How to create a movie poster?

Take in consideration all mentioned before. The composition of it, is it centered, loaded to one side or more to the top or bottom. Use the rule of thirds, divide your space into a grid with nine spaces and try to place the elements distributed in them. The color, make a small research of what each color means and what it transmits, remember this meanings can change depending on the hue or saturation. Also take into consideration the image use and correlation with your information, make them connect. And Typography wise try to use no more than 3 fonts and that they exist together gracefully and don’t fight with each other for the hierarchy.


Still remember, sometimes less is more, so just because it's simple doesn't mean it's bad. The next time you see a poster, analyze it a little more and think about what it's trying to tell you; not just movie posters, most posters have a lot of design, composition and color theory behind them.

Did you know that all this design is behind a poster? Let us know which are your top movie posters? and if you think you can create a better movie poster for one of your favorite movies.

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