Type Essays

ScreenFonts – November 2015 Part 2

November 25, 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 2 looks at the posters for Sinister II, Hitman: Agent 47, No Escape, and more.

We continue with our delayed double dose of film posters that caught my eye for one reason or another. Click here for Part 1.

© 2015 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation – Click the image to see the complete poster on IMPAwards.
© 2015 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation – Click the image to see the complete poster on IMPAwards.

It is rare that the same typeface appears twice in a single episode of ScreenFonts – once in a spoof poster (in Part 1) and once in the original, the movie poster for The Fantastic Four. Josh Trank’s reboot of the cinematic adventures for Marvel’s first family was critically panned and tragically failed at the box office. The typeface we see here is Jonathan Barnbrook’s Bourgeois, a refreshingly idiosyncratic alternative for the many square sans serifs that are smattered over the collaterals of action and science fiction movies. One of the giveaway characteristics that distinguish Bourgeois is the diagonal stroke on the capital ‘N’ that doesn’t go all the way down to the baseline.

Explore Bourgeois

© 2015 Focus Features – Click the image to see the complete poster on IMPAwards.
© 2015 Focus Features – Click the image to see the complete poster on IMPAwards.

Here’s two more posters that don’t follow the conventions of their genre, in this case the horror thriller. In a recent exchange Toshi Omagari discussed with me which fonts would have been popular in movie posters before the Trajan™ typeface was released. Even though I didn’t research those specifically, I was able to confirm he was correct about the Albertus® typeface, possibly because of its chiseled features. Another popular choice was the Perpetua® typeface, as it very often showed up on posters for the same type of films that would have Trajan on them later on. So it is ironic that the poster for Sinister II, which would normally feature Trajan according to current trends, has Perpetua on it.

Explore Perpetua

© 2015 Terror Films – Click the image to see the complete poster on IMPAwards.
© 2015 Terror Films – Click the image to see the complete poster on IMPAwards.

I don’t know why apparently no designer ever thought of this, but if you look at the formal attributes the Warnock® typeface fits the horror genre much better. Named after Adobe’s co-founder John Warnock, this classic-looking family designed by Robert Slimbach has serifs that look like sharp talons or fangs or beaks. Incidentally, this is why I used its lowercase ‘f’ when I needed to create the illustration for the term beak in the Glossary section on the FontShop website. Because the Display version of Warnock has a higher contrast and finer details, these features are even more pronounced in the movie poster for The Chosen.

Explore Warnock Display

© 2015 Broad Green Pictures – Click the image to see the complete poster on IMPAwards.
© 2015 Broad Green Pictures – Click the image to see the complete poster on IMPAwards.

We’re actually doing pretty fine this episode regarding typographic cliches. Learning to Drive tells the story of a Manhattan writer whose marriage is dissolving who takes driving lessons from a Sikh instructor with marriage troubles of his own. The typography could have gone two ways: either an all-too-obvious didone because it is a kind of romantic comedy/drama, or worse a faux Indic font because of the Sikh heritage of one of the main characters. Fortunately the film poster eschews these two platitudes in favour of the sinuous shapes of the Edwardian™ font – the serif face, not Ed Benguiat’s swirly copperplate script (I couldn’t find what the stressed sans is). The colours and patterns inside the letter forms are a nice touch.

Explore Edwardian

© 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.

The subtly tinted black-and-white portrait of Evel Knievel, astride on his motorcycle at the edge of a canyon – lends the movie poster for the Being Evel documentary a timeless appearance. The script used for the movie logo is not so well-drawn, and the first word digitally slanted to boot. Fortunately there are a number of quality sports scripts that allow you to recreate this style with ease (and with better results).

© 2015 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation – Click the image to see the complete poster on IMPAwards.
© 2015 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation – Click the image to see the complete poster on IMPAwards.

As far as minimalist posters go, Bond’s teaser for the computer game-inspired action thriller Hitman: Agent 47 is a doozy, for a large part because it also works without previous knowledge of the film or storyline. This is a rather rare occurrence in this art genre: minimalist posters often riff off a specific scene or theme, making them obtuse if you haven’t seen the film yet. This design however is easy to decode. Threatening skyscrapers against the red background form the signature neck tie of the assassin pictured at the bottom. The monogram-like rotated construction for the “47” is very clever. The supporting typeface is – how could it not be? – Bank Gothic.

Explore Bank Gothic

Raid71’s artwork for _The Bourne Legacy_ and Cold Open’s artwork for _No Escape,_ side by side comparison. The Bourne Legacy © 2012 Universal Pictures; No Escape © 2015 The Weinstein Company – Click the image to see the _No Escape_ poster on IMPAwards.
Raid71’s artwork for The Bourne Legacy and Cold Open’s artwork for No Escape, side by side comparison. The Bourne Legacy © 2012 Universal Pictures; No Escape © 2015 The Weinstein Company – Click the image to see the No Escape poster on IMPAwards.

The following story is a cautionary tale rather than a review. When the alternate poster on the left designed by Cold Open for international thriller No Escape was revealed, people on social media were quick to point out the similarities with the Bourne Legacy poster on the right that Chris Thornley a.k.a. Raid71 created for Short List Magazine in 2012. While some people still tried to defend the New Escape poster by stressing the differences, it was painfully obvious to most that the style was copied very faithfully, and nothing substantial was added. These were the same black silhouette(s) jumping between dark buildings against a brightly coloured sky – the blue sky on the left forming a question mark, and the red sky on the right an Uzi submachine gun. Even the cables running from one building to the other and the movie title knocked out in the left hand corner were copied.

So how was this situation resolved? Chris contacted the designer/illustrator who offered a muddled apology. Yet if a designer gets a mood board at the start of a project, this is only meant as a snapshot of what the client likes and the direction they want to steer the project in. This should never be an excuse for making a straight-up copy with only minor tweaks. All the buzz on Twitter and Facebook caught the attention of a producer at Bold Films. Even though they weren’t responsible for marketing the film – this is handled by the distributor and the marketing company – they still were able to pull the poster.

The takeaway from this unfortunate incident is that this is unacceptable, and in the age of social media one cannot get away with this anymore. Companies should simply approach the original artists if they like their work, instead of having someone copy their style.

© 2014 RADiUS-TWC – Click the image to see the complete poster on IMPAwards.
© 2014 RADiUS-TWC – Click the image to see the complete poster on IMPAwards.

Contrary to the artwork for Counting, the next two “split” posters use the juxtaposition of the top and bottom halves conceptually to create a narrative. This makes both these designs much more valuable, with real depth. They also happen to be excellent. The first one, AllCity’s brooding artwork for Danish horror mystery Når dyrene drømmer (When Animals Dream), masterfully visualises the dual nature of the main protagonist. The bottom half with the girl sleeping in a cool blue atmosphere is set against the top half in feverish red, with the yellow wolf-like eyes and blood-caked mouth suggesting a werewolf theme. The horizon serving as the division line features the silhouette of the girl as counter for the ‘A’.

© 2015 IFC Midnight – Click the image to see the complete poster on Palaceworks.
© 2015 IFC Midnight – Click the image to see the complete poster on Palaceworks.

One of the nicest aspects of the ScreenFonts series – apart from it being so much fun to write – is the direct line of communication I now have with so many talented designers. And almost all of them are willing to share their creative process. A fairly new contact I met through Akiko Stehrenberger is her studiomate Erik Buckham from Palaceworks. Erik designed the movie poster for fantasy thriller One & Two, the story of two siblings who discover a supernatural escape from a troubled home, but find their bond tested when reality threatens to tear their family apart. Erik’s beautiful and elegant poster translates the movie’s concept into flipped portraits of the two siblings, similar to a playing card. The oversized fat face ampersand makes all the elements gel in a typographic lock-up that is both playful and functional.

Erik Buckham | “I searched high and low for just the right ampersand. I came up with the flipped imagery concept and needed something that could tie the composition together. It took a while to solve this as nothing seemed to work – I went back and forth with the filmmakers for at least 20 or so iterations. Finally I came across Paul Barnes’ Brunel and it clicked. I like this solution because it integrates the typography into the concept as it becomes the central design element. And the client loved this unconventional design, which is a pretty rare opportunity in film posters…”

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

Akiko Stehrenberger did the artwork for Digging for Fire, in which the discovery of a bone and a gun send a husband and wife on separate adventures over the course of a weekend.

Akiko Stehrenberger | “The inspiration for the poster came from the director wanting to show the two characters in two different worlds, yet they’re still connected. I came up with this idea based on a hybrid of Klimt and M.C. Escher. The lettering is not based on a typeface, but something I came up with on my own. Originally I wanted the letters locked into each other, similar to the two characters, but legibility became an issue, so I modified it from there.”

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

Call me silly, but I love noticing stuff like this. You may wonder why I conclude this episode with the movie poster for the quirky comedy 7 Chinese Brothers. It’s a perfectly serviceable but otherwise unremarkable design, banking on the natural sense of helpless ennui exuded by its star Jason Schwartzman. There’s nothing more to it than Schwartzman, his French bulldog Arrow (Schwartzman’s real-life pet), a bunch of straws, and purple Farnham. Until of course you realise that Farnham is a Fleischmann reworking by Christian Schwartz. So the collaterals for a movie starring Schwartzmann feature a typeface by Schwartz based on the work of Fleischmann. No? OK, I admit – pretty lame. I promise to try harder next ScreenFonts.

Explore Farnham Text

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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.

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