Part 2 – Maximal Movie Poster

For the second part of the midterm, we are going to create a movie poster for the same film or television show, but instead of a minimalist design aesthetic, we will be going in the opposite direction: maximal. To get you thinking about this, we'll be doing a tutorial today in class to discuss the processes of selection, masking, and compositing together a maximal poster. [Click here to download files to use for today's class].

Before we start, though, let's take a look at some maximal posters and analyze what's going on in them. As you'll see, the challenge here is to include as many elements as possible (characters, plot devices, locations, etc.) on one page, essentially throwing the entire contents of the story – or at least everything that will sell it – at a potential audience.  Examples of these types of posters can be seen below:

As you can see, the aesthetic of these posters is garish, outlandish, and often unsuccessful (not to mention objectifying to women…)  However, the successful ones achieve good compositional flow and structure by doing the following: 


  • Unity: the good posters seen here unify their elements somehow, so they appear to be part of one big, awesome family. This gives the impression that – whatever the situation these characters are in – it will be altogether entertaining to watch. The Star Wars poster below, for example, exhibits a good amount of unity:The main characters here are unified by proximity
  • Variety: obvious variety is at play here because there literally a bunch of different characters and other scene elements (cars, explosions, machine guns, etc.) all piled up on top of each other. If nothing else, variety is essentially the one defining principle of these maximal posters!MPW-54785
  • Balance/Imbalance: there is no right or wrong way to use balance or imbalance, but whatever you do in regards to balance, do so with intention! The poster below is for a movie you should never have any reason to see (aside from the presence of Bill Murray). However, though it is mostly balanced, this composition also has an interesting imbalance – the nerdy girl on the right, and the two boys under the fence – which perhaps foreshadows their off-kilter positions in the story. We may never know, as we should never ever watch this movie...meatballs-poster-artwork-harvey-atkin-bill-murray-kristine-debell
  • Content Flow: good content flow is achieved in a variety of different ways. Here are some of the most common
    • Uneven spacing
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    • Rhythm
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    • A strong focal point
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    • graphic elements that move your eye along
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    • varied size relationships (which helps create a meaningful hierarchy)
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    • visually interesting negative space
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You will be expected to incorporate as many of these principles into your project as possible, and to explain to us at the time of the final where you have done so. 

Project Guidelines

The good news? The guidelines for this project are very similar to those outlined above for the minimalist poster. In fact, you’ve already done much of it! You have thought about your film’s story and have identified important elements: the indices. You have made a list of these story indices.  You have, or will have, drawn thumbnails of the more iconic elements from your film that can be indices for the whole story.  Now your job is to sketch examples of compositions that include many or all of the indices!

Here is a really rough sketch I did…

And here is how my final version turned out:

My final execution of the original design concepts above...

In Class Exercise: Making a Maximal Poster

[Click here to download the files for this exercise]