Unveiling the Education Behind Exceptional Movie Poster Designers
by Taylor Slattery | June 13, 2023
The movie posters of today look much different from those of even a decade prior. In the past, the job of a movie poster was to create enough intrigue to convince passers-by to come inside and shell out their hard-earned cash to see a picture. Today, most movie-watching takes place in the comfort of our homes thanks to the popularization of streaming services. As a result, the posters for these movies, as well as the approach to designing them, have changed to better match the way we interact with them.
One of the biggest reasons for this change is scale. The size of the posters displayed outside movie theaters or in other public spaces as advertisements are much larger than the images we see on the screens of our personal devices. This additional real estate allowed poster designers to include a significant amount of detail which they used to communicate nuances of the plot and hide easter eggs that would only become significant after viewing the movie.
By contrast, many viewers today are consuming media on smaller screens like laptops, tablets & phones, where there is much less space for designers to communicate anything significant about the movie or show in question. The value proposition has changed as well. Unlike the traditional theater experience, where movie-goers pay on a per-film basis and have most likely decided which movie to see before heading to the theater, viewers streaming movies and shows at home have already paid for a subscription and are free to browse from hundreds of titles.
While movie posters may have changed in appearance a great deal over the past few decades, the principles behind their creation haven’t. To highlight this, let’s take a look at some of the best movie poster designers of the past 30 years and the education underpinning their success.
Source: James Jean via Clio Entertainment
This poster for Everything Everywhere All at Once, which won an Oscar for best picture, was created by artist James Jean. Jean began his career as an illustrator, creating covers for the comic book series Fables, before making the transition into fine art. Since then, Jean has experienced massive success creating his personal artworks without the need to take on commercial work, save for the occasional Prada or Guillermo del Toro collaboration. Before he became the super-star artist we know today, Jean attended the School of Visual Arts where he learned about drawing, color theory, and composition, and developed the skills that eventually enabled him to carve out his unique career path.
Source: Drew Struzan
Drew Struzan is the man behind some of the most iconic movie posters of all time, including classics like Star Wars, Back to the Future, and Indiana Jones. After graduating in 1970, Struzan spent the next 5 years designing album covers and honing his craft before starting a company of his own and venturing into the movie industry. Over the next decade, Struzan would gradually build a name for himself, establishing connections with major figures in the industry and creating posters for some of the most-beloved titles to ever grace the silver screen. Before all of that, though, Struzan studied illustration at ArtCenter College of Design where he learned the fundamentals of image creation and was exposed to the advertising concepts that lead to a viable career as a commercial illustrator.
Source: Layered Butter
Tomasz Opasinski is a name you might not be familiar with, but you’ve definitely seen his work. Alongside the teams at advertising agencies like BLT Communications and Seiniger Advertising Group, Opasinski worked on posters for projects like I Am Legend, Oblivion, and Inception. Prior to his current role as Creative Technologist at Adobe, Opasinski occupied leadership roles like Creative Director and Creative Lead for companies like Netflix and Roku. Though his original dream of becoming a Navigation Officer may have been dashed due to poor eyesight, after attending the School of Advertising in his home country of Poland, Opasinski gained mastery over concepts in advertising, marketing, and design. These equipped him with the skills necessary to take his talents overseas where he first secured employment as an art director and began his lengthy career in entertainment advertising.
Taylor is the Managing Editor of Notes on Design. Taylor is a graphic designer, illustrator, and Design Lead at Weirdsleep.