Type Essays

ScreenFonts

November 18, 2015 by
Yves Peters
Yves Peters

This month’s review of movie poster typography became so large we decided to cut it in two parts. Part 1 looks at the posters for Mr. Holmes, Southpaw, Shaun the Sheep, The Diary of a Teenage Girl, and more.

Before I left for ATypI São Paulo 2015 to give my presentation about typographic interfaces, the #AdobeTypeUI initiative, and the Adobe Typography Customer Advisory Board, I thought I’d throw in an episode of ScreenFonts. As it turns out, “throw in” is possible the worst possible verb to use for any episode of ScreenFonts or My Type of Music because they are a hell of a lot of work. So, after a month-and-a-weekend of being continuously on the road, here is a delayed double dose of film posters that caught my eye for one reason or another.

© 2015 Roadside Attractions – Click the image to see the complete poster on IMPAwards.
© 2015 Roadside Attractions – Click the image to see the complete poster on IMPAwards.

It doesn’t happen often, but when it does it drives me friggin’ nuts. I have been trying to find the antique handwriting script used in the main theatrical poster for Mr. Holmes, the movie set in the twilight of the fictional detective’s life. OpenType technology has made it increasingly difficult to determine if a title like this was set in a digital typeface or the work of a calligrapher or letterer. Thanks to substitution features, “smart” fonts manage to mimic the decision process of a person writing. Ligatures and contextual alternates work together, bringing up the appropriate glyphs and creating the correct connections to create the illusion that text was written by hand. Yet in this case no OpenType wizardry is even needed to achieve this text shape. The line quality and the typical thinning of the stroke between the ‘e’ and the ‘s’ in the last letter pair suggests this is indeed a font. But which one… ?

© 2015 The Weinstein Company – Click the image to see the complete poster on IMPAwards.
© 2015 The Weinstein Company – Click the image to see the complete poster on IMPAwards.

Gotham has been getting a lot of attention in the film world since it caught up on the Trajan™ typeface and became the new ‘movie poster font’ in the wake of Barack Obama’s election in 2008. This would make us forget there are a number of other mainstays that are still very well represented. Tapping in the same ‘sturdy, familiar-looking sans serif’ vein Interstate has been a consistently popular choice for posters, beyond the obvious connotation of traffic and road trips – the design is based on the signage alphabets of the US Federal Highway Administration. It was slightly weathered for this Southpaw poster by Gravillis Inc.

Explore Interstate

© 2015 The Weinstein Company – Click the image to see the complete poster on IMPAwards.
© 2015 The Weinstein Company – Click the image to see the complete poster on IMPAwards.

I like it when a poster shuns the predictable typographic solution, as can be seen in this alternate design inspired by vintage boxing posters. Instead of going for the customary wood type, Gravilis chose Tal Leming’s United. The faceted sans serif (United also comes in serif and stencil variants) is reminiscent of Foundry Gridnik. Published by The Foundry, Foundry Gridnik is based on Wim Crouwel’s seminal 1976 Number Postage Stamps for the PTT (the Dutch postal services) who were in turn inspired by the keys on Olivetti typewriters. The worn type takes its cue from the convincingly crude halftone treatment of the imagery. Creases and ripped edges add to the old letterpress look.

Explore Foundry Gridnik

© 2014 Traverse Media – Click the image to see the complete poster on IMPAwards.
© 2014 Traverse Media – Click the image to see the complete poster on IMPAwards.

It’s a always a shame when a great concept falls short in its execution. The SXSW poster for Two Step had it all going for it. In this fast-paced Texas thriller the lives of James, a directionless college dropout, and Webb, a career criminal with his back against the wall, violently collide. Add to this a dance teacher as a major supporting character and you get this great, bloody twist on the schematics used to teach a new dance, back in the days when a new style seemed to be invented every other day. “Two step” refers to both the confrontation and the dance, merging them into a gruesome image of shoe prints executing the dance pattern in a pool of blood. Unfortunately the quality of the photography is quite poor, and the bold yellow graphics with the FF DIN® typeface have more in common with traffic signs than dancing. This makes it look as if this poster was cobbled up by a well-meaning amateur.

Explore FF DIN

© 2015 Cinema Guild – Click the image to see the complete poster on Indiewire.
© 2015 Cinema Guild – Click the image to see the complete poster on Indiewire.

The movie poster for the documentary Counting relies on a vertical division as a graphic motif (there are two others near the end of this post). This allows the designer to have the two halves interact in different ways. In this case it is a purely formal solution, with apparently no underlying concept. The contrast is created by the juxtaposition of the warm tones and the dark giant cross shape in the close-up at the top, and the cold greys in the almost black-and-white snow scene below. The Lucida® Fax typeface is an unexpected typographic guest. Just like the other members of the Lucida super family it was specifically designed for maximum legibility in poor conditions. Its features seem too plain and crude for use in large sizes in poster design.

Explore Lucida Fax

© 2015 Relativity Media – Click the image to see the complete poster on IMPAwards.
© 2015 Relativity Media – Click the image to see the complete poster on IMPAwards.

The main theatrical poster for the first feature-length outing of Shaun The Sheep is cookie-cutter animated comedy fare. In the tradition of The Muppets, Aardman have however produced an impressive run of funny spoof posters. Movie titles and taglines get a satirical, sheep-centric twist, with typography that accurately mimics the original posters and stays true to the typographic conventions for specific film genres.

Action flicks’ predilection for square sans serifs can be found in the use of Agency for Ant-Lamb “Heroes don't get any woolier” and Mutton: Impossible – Rogue Bacon, or Bank Gothicthe original default choice – for The Hungry Games: Eating Hay. Just like the original, Fantastic Flock tells you “Ewe haven't seen anything yet” in the far less common Bourgeois. Muttons copies Minions signature logo, while Shaun “On the lamb” uses the same chromatic sans as the teaser campaign for Spectre.

I found even more mock posters than my standard resource IMPAwards had. On Flick.co.nz I came upon Sheep of Thrones with its modified Trajan typeface, Excoffon’s Antique Olive™ Nord Italic font was correctly used for The Fast and the Furriest “New Adventure. Original Sheep.”, and Wool·E calls Shaun “The most advanced sheep in the world” in a minimalist square sans. The Arial® typeface for Birdlamb is close but no cigar, just like the bold compact sans for Big Hero Sheep should have been something more like the FF Manga™ or FF Motter™ Festival typefaces, or VLNL Beek. Baahood and Wool’d starring Fleece Wetherspoons have handwritten fonts like their originals, respectively a chalky casual sans and a rough script.

Finally DesignTAXI shows us the last remaining examples. I cannot see it very well, but I think whoever designed The Mutton Game “Crack the cud. Win the wool.” was not fooled into thinking The Imitation Game had the Helvetica® typeface on its poster and correctly used Norm’s Replica. Agents of Field “The Flock Assembles” riffs on both the Avengers movies and the Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. television series. Finally, after the side-splitting take by Spongebob…, Fifty Shades… deservedly is the recipient of even more ridicule, this time with Fifty Bales of Hay “Mr. Farmer will shear you now”. Unfortunately a digitally slanted Perpetua® Titling Light font was used instead of the Bauer Bodoni® typeface of the original. And believe it or not – Fifty Bales of Hay is also an actual book of sultry agrarian softcore porn by Rachael Treasure!

© 2015 Sony Pictures Classics – Click the image to see the complete poster on IMPAwards.
© 2015 Sony Pictures Classics – Click the image to see the complete poster on IMPAwards.

Simulation of the film title with FF Trixie HD.
Simulation of the film title with FF Trixie HD.

I would like to single out two of the posters for The Diary of a Teenage Girl. If you needed any more proof that the FF Trixie® typeface is the most convincing distressed typewriter font available, this version leaves little doubt. As Stephen Coles once so eloquently wrote: “The more digital we get, the more we miss analog. The more we miss analog, the better digital gets at analog simulation.” The movie title in the poster fragment at the top does not fool anyone – this crude digitisation with identical repeating character shapes was obviously a quick and dirty job trying to cash in on the “dirty typewriter” craze started by the original FF Trixie. Just compare it with the mock-up underneath that I made with the much more sophisticated – and realistic – FF Trixie HD.

Explore FF Trixie

I find the UK poster below far more interesting, both when it comes to the artwork and the lettering.

© 2015 Sony Pictures Classics – Click the image to see the complete poster on IMPAwards.
© 2015 Sony Pictures Classics – Click the image to see the complete poster on IMPAwards.

Little did I know what I was getting myself into when the Minneapolis chapter of Creative Mornings told me the theme of the April 2014 talks was “Sex”. Yet my talk turned out to be loads of fun to research and present. It made me discover clear typographic trends in vintage erotic movie posters, and gave me the perfect excuse to create my Fontlist with classic sexy typefaces. One typeface that certainly qualifies as a contemporary choice is Funkydori by the prolific and talented Laura Worthington. With a wink to the Candice™ font, this swashy affair updates the buxom script style for modern times. Because The Diary of a Teenage Girl is an indie film with risque content – a young girl starting an affair with her mother’s boyfriend in 1970s San Francisco – the movie title of course had to be redrawn by hand. And you can be sure substituting the tittle of the ‘i’ with a cherry was done deliberately. You’ll probably notice the version of the Cooper Black™ typeface used for the actors’ names possibly is a pirated one, as something went wrong with the only accented letter, the A-ring in Skarsgård.

Explore Funkydori

© 2015 Gravitas Ventures – Click the image to see the complete poster on Indiewire.
© 2015 Gravitas Ventures – Click the image to see the complete poster on Indiewire.

© 2015 Gravitas Ventures – Click the image to see the complete poster on IMPAwards.
© 2015 Gravitas Ventures – Click the image to see the complete poster on IMPAwards.

I found two different versions for Sneakerheadz, “an in-depth look into the exploding subculture of sneaker collecting and the widespread influence it has had on popular culture around the world”. Both posters use stencil typefaces. The least common one shown at the top taps into the brightly coloured graphics with coarse rasterisation mimicking screen printing that are so popular with this subset of the hip crowd. The typeface is Cargo with its unusual curved bridges, available from the equally hip Swiss type foundry Optimo. What I believe to be the main theatrical poster features Heimat Stencil, the 2013 expansion of Christoph Dunst’s Heimat super family now featuring five sub families. The artwork quite literally visualises the film title as a head filled with sneakers, a metaphor for the obsession of the collectors.

Explore Heimat Stencil

Don’t forget to come back for Part 2.

[link not found]

[link not found]
[link not found]

Trademark attribution notice
DIN and Trixie are trademarks of Monotype GmbH registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and may be registered in certain other jurisdictions. Motter and Manga are trademarks of Monotype GmbH and may be registered in certain jurisdictions. FF is a trademark of Monotype GmbH registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and may be registered in certain other jurisdictions. Helvetica is a trademark of Monotype GmbH registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and may be registered in certain other jurisdictions. Arial, Albertus and Perpetua are trademarks of The Monotype Corporation registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office and may be registered in certain jurisdictions. Cooper Black is a trademark of The Monotype Corporation and may be registered in certain jurisdictions. Candice is a trademark of International Typeface Corporation and may be registered in certain jurisdictions. Edwardian Medium is a trademark of Monotype ITC Inc. and may be registered in certain jurisdictions. Trajan and Warnock are trademarks of Adobe Systems Incorporated which may be registered in certain jurisdictions. Lucida is a registered trademark of Bigelow & Holmes. Antique Olive is a trademark of Madame Marcel Olive. Bauer Bodoni is a registered trademark of Bauer Types. All other trademarks and copyrights are the property of their respective owners.

FontShop Letternews

Subscribe to our newsletter to receive amazing offers, useful type tips and information about the latest font releases.