[The Midterm project presentation is March 21 at 9:30Am


Part 1 – The Minimalist Movie Poster

For the first part of our midterm project, we are going to be creating movie posters. In this case, we will be exploring a recent trend in poster design called minimalist movie posters. These posters are incredibly pared down 2D designs that succinctly capture the films they were created for. They can often be a sort of visual one-liner as well. Take a look at these examples:

Project Guidelines

1.)Think about your film’s story. What’s important? What are the pivotal moments in the film can represent the entire film. Likewise, what scene elements (props, costuming, people, and other details) can stand for entire scenes or events in the film? Examples include: the spinning top in Inception; the creepy face-mask from Silence of the Lambs; the bench from Forest Gump, and so on.

These examples are called indices. One of three types of signs, along with icons and symbols, the index points to – or indicates – the presence of the object it represents, without representing it directly. Here are just a few of the stills from Guillermo del Toro's The Shape of Water that jumped out at me as being representative of the entire film. They helped influence my later sketches below:

2.)Make a list of these story indices. Here is my list:

  • Eggs
  • The colors green and aquamarine
  • Water...like everywhere
  • Traces of water, like scaling and rust 
  • The two characters floating at the end

3.)Draw thumbnails of the more iconic elements from your film that can be indices for the whole story. Which of these can – either alone, combined, or somehow reconfigured – be used to tell the whole story, or a powerful moment from the story?

Thumbnails are very quick and dirty drawings that help you explore a subject quickly. Don’t spend a lot of time on these (I sure didn't): 

Artboard 1 100Artboard 3 100

Speed is the key when you're trying to brainstorm as many ideas as you can!

4.)Create composition sketches to help you work out ideas! Here are some of the ideas I am roughing out based on some of my thumbanils and some of the screenshots shown above. 

5.)Final Compositions: based on class critique of your sketches and rough drafts, and conversation with me, choose your most successful sketch and work it into a finished composition.

 Here are my final compositions:

demo02Shape of Water minimal 01

Shape of Water – Minimalist Movie Poster Tutorial

So that you don't have take notes during our in-class tutorial, I have helpfully posted videos of the tutorial for your reference. 

Part 01

Part 02

Tutorial Files

Finally, I have provided you with the files I use for the above tutorial. Download the [tutorial files here]


Part 2 – Maximal Movie Poster

For the second part of our final project, 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.  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 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
    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!
    Beyond just being insanely awesome, this poster also has a good amount of variety: every single elements is new and exciting. If you haven't seen Machete, you haven't really lived...
  • 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...
    Balance and imbalance in perfect opposition...
  • Content Flow: good content flow is achieved in a variety of different ways. Here are some of the most common
    • Uneven spacing
      • 27114ed141e95e152a83ee17ad9014ad
    • Rhythm
      • d6458ade6925e8756dc71235fde04f6b
    • A strong focal point
      • MV5BMTc5MDM1Njg2Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODE1MjUxNjE@. V1 UY1200 CR90,0,630,1200 AL
    • graphic elements that move your eye along
      • Star-Wars-VI-Return-Jedi-affiche
    • varied size relationships (which helps create a meaningful hierarchy)
      • 27114ed141e95e152a83ee17ad9014ad
    • visually interesting negative space

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 indexes 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...

How you'll be graded:

  • Thumbnails and sketches – 25%
  • Initial Drafts of Compositions – 25%
  • Final Compositions (2 posters) – 50%