ScreenFonts: Roadie, Loosies, The Hunter, Red Tails, Haywire
An announcement before we get started. My presentation at the BNO Romeo Delta evening CUT! at De Unie in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, originally scheduled on January 23, was cancelled due to my father's passing. Romeo Delta have now decided to extend their movie theme with a second night, aptly named CUT #2, on Monday, February 20, also at De Unie. I am programmed together with Barend Onneweer. This son of a carpenter sees himself more as a tinkerer. From his digital work place he creates animations, effects and post-production for all kinds of moving images. He recently worked with director Simon Pummell on the experimental documentary Shock Head Soul which premiered at the prestigious Venice Film Festival. So if you are in the neighbourhood, please do come by and check us out.
Maybe it's the post-holiday season, but we have a disappointingly light instalment of ScreenFonts this month. To compensate for the few interesting posters amongst the January crop we have a suite of (pardon the pun) mind-shattering designs from L.A. based graphic design firm Kellerhouse, Inc., whose consistency and high quality make their work a mainstay in these columns.
Worn edges and creases are a recurring technique used to make posters look either vintage or genuine. I think the conceptual link with It's About You – the documentary about the American rock singer-songwriter, musician, painter and occasional actor John Mellencamp – is the fact that his catchy, populist brand of heartland rock favours authentic instrumentation, eschewing synthesizers and other artificial sounds. The vintage look is emphasised by the faded greyscale photograph.
To match the atmosphere a typical wood type / Wild West-style wide slab serif was selected. I would have expected Blackoak to be grunged up, but it also works in its original "clean" form. What I cannot comprehend though is the upside-down apostrophe. As any software program would have positioned it the correct way, the designer must have consciously inverted it to its incorrect form.
We find more wood type on the The Worn / Weathered / Stamped Look.
The third use of weathered wood type-style typography is a little gratuitous. As far as I can tell there is no real connection with the poster artwork nor the theme of Loosies, the movie it advertises. It's just an empty effect, a graphic designer indulging himself for no discernible reason. The cast names and the tagline are set in Clarendon; the movie title however is the generously built Volta.
The HBO documentary Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory uses an interesting story-telling device on its poster. A set of square photographs visualising key elements from the film and three squares with taglines are loosely arranged on a grid. By piecing together the visual puzzle the viewer gets a basic grasp of the story of the West Memphis Three. Keeping the images black and white and adding a haze of red strengthens the graphic quality of the poster and unifies all the elements of the design.
The movie title is set in Exocet, Jonathan Barnbrook's interpretation of primitive Greek stone carving, originally designed for the European annual Illustration Now. Unfortunately the built-in spacing of the font was negated by the appallingly bad custom tracking by the designer, especially in the top line. The character-to-white-space ratio is so poor it destroys the natural rhythm of the letters. All supporting type is the inescapable Trajan.
With its peculiar colour scheme and thoughtfully spaced Minion the main poster for The Hunter had the potential to be a pretty decent mainstream design. But then Photoshop got in the way, and the obviously digitally inserted characters and house in the background ruined the whole thing.
The strong point of this alternate design is the clever use of a dramatically low horizon. This lends the design a sense of openness, but also renders the sky quite menacing, as a presage for impending dread. The transparent rendition of ITC Avant Garde Gothic in the sky works to this poster's advantage – it is perfectly readable yet blends in with the background so to not interfere with the image.
I am not so sure about this alternate poster for Red Tails. On the one hand it is exciting to see a film poster drawn by legendary comic book artist Joe Kubert, father of Andy and Adam Kubert who followed in his footsteps. On the other hand I have the impression that this take may be a little too cartoony for the subject matter of the film. The rough brush script used for the movie title thematically fits the comic book cover concept, yet I would have preferred something more appropriate than the dreadful Futura Condensed for the supporting type. The lettering in the speech balloon is picture perfect.
It's always interesting to see how promotional campaigns deal with the different sensibilities of their target audience. The viewers in Europe – and specifically in France – commonly have a more liberal view on nudity and sensuality. This is why the French poster for Crazy Horse on the left can use an actual photograph from the Parisian cabaret show. Because these shows are very stylised whatever nudity is seen in the image is "neutralised". Here the hot pink dots projected on the backs of the semi-nude dancers transform their bare skin into a canvas and, in combination with the unusual dance garments and red wigs, break up their bodies into almost abstract shapes. Although I don't like the awkward orange starbursts, the sparkling pink rendition of the extra bold compact sans serif fits the theme to a tee.
Cheltenham – not the chunky original nor Font Bureau's single-weight display version, but the sandpapered ITC version – gets the same sparkling pink treatment in the American poster, yet the image is changed to better suit the generally more puritan morals in the United States. Instead of showing the dancers, their bodies are suggested as black silhouettes striking alluring poses against vividly coloured backlit screens. To be honest I prefer this design, because its simpler lay-out and saturated colours make it visually more striking.
The peculiar geometric sans in both posters is Busorama. While the ITC version simply repeats the uppercase characters in the lowercase slots, the URW version offers the alternate glyphs seen in the American poster.
From woman as an object of seduction to woman as an object of destruction; one can hardly find a more extreme contrast. As announced in the introduction, I have the distinct pleasure to finish this instalment of ScreenFonts with a suite of gorgeous posters designed by Neil Kellerhouse. His work for Haywire once again proves he is an exceptional artistic voice in the field of design for film and related industries.
As is so often the case it was Kellerhouse's poster that immediately jumped out amongst last month's offerings. A black and white image showing mixed martial arts fighter Gina Carano, gun in one hand and straddling a felled opponent, is overlaid on a vibrant orange and grey background. Backslanted condensed sans type slides down the poster. By virtually cutting up both image and the type and then shifting the fragments Kellerhouse efficiently conjures up the frenetic energy of Steven Soderbergh's action movie. The rough edges make it seem as if the design was framed with Gaffer tape; a beautiful finishing touch.
With this slightly different design which has full credits and an inverted colour scheme, Kellerhouse displays how he can effortlessly adapt one design into another design that is equally good.
And for this alternate poster with added cast portraits he re-invents the whole concept, creating a different design using the same graphic devices. Although there is no visual resemblance, one can sense the presence of Saul Bass in these posters. While lesser designers mimic the legendary designer's iconic style, Kellerhouse understands Bass' unique vision and way of thinking, updating it for the current times and assimilating it while maintaining his own personal style. For more information on Neil Kellerhouse I invite you to read the interview for Indiewire.
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