Sunday, February 24, 2013

Individual Scholarly Post by Chunyan Yu (Part 2)

   Movie posters design under different cultural backgrounds (Part 2)

The second aspect is the development of technology in movie productions. The design of movie posters was born along with the world films from black and white to colors, from the simple introducing the content of the movie to a kind of graphic designs in art works. From the perspective of poster design, the world movie posters have been through two stages, hand-painted posters and computer design posters. [1] In the 1920s, hand-painted posters first appeared to the audience. Till 1950s, the Chinese movie posters were made in the form of hand-painted. This form of painting emphasizes the initiative of the graphic designers who can use bold and exaggerated shapes and bright colors to express the cultural interpretation of movies’ contents. At that time the design concentrated efforts on depicting the film contents and describing the realistic such as the main characters and important scenes of the movies that were all painted by hands.
For example, the movie “Gone with the wind” directed in 1939 has become a classical film. The movie poster of it used Atlanta ablaze with red warm color as background to exaggeratedly express the beautiful and strong love of the hero and beauty. The big director Steven Spielberg’s classic movie “Alien E.T” is a science fiction movie. The poster of it uses moon as the background and a little boy wearing a raincoat is riding a bicycle to the moon. In the front of the picture, the boy and the alien are interlinked with the index finger. The warmth friendship becomes the emotional tone of this science fiction film. The poster selects blue hue to symbolize the quest of the unknown world. The content of the movie also pays attention to the use of computer effects. The poster design uses fantasy visual languages to give the audience a beautiful dream of the children.

     In the 1990s, with the development of large-scale photographic equipments and widely used computer synthesis technologies, the world film posters gradually became the era of computer designs. Designers used advanced computer synthesis technologies to break through the traditional realistic depiction so as to enrich the symbolic meanings and cultural ambiguities of the movie. [2] It became a bright spot in the movie commercial operation. For example, the movie “American beauty” is a family ethical film. The movie poster uses a girl’s sexy belly as the background. A rose in her hand shows the sweet youth beauty. The poster has a delicate pink tonal with a warm and bright color and it shows strong contrast with the profound and complicated story. It doesn’t have any realistic depictions of the contents, but it uses the skin of the human body to express the ambiguous theme of the movie implicitly and profoundly.
Since the founding of New China, the Chinese movie posters design became mature along with the development of Chinese films and gradually formed its own national styles. In the early thirties, Chinese movie posters had appeared, but they had not formed a scale. There was a large gap compared to the west. [3] After the founding of New China, the movie poster designers used a variety of artistic expressions. During the hand-painted period, they used liquid powder, sketching, photography, sculpture, printmaking, comic books, paper-cutting and other art forms.

In the seventies and eighties century, the traditional Chinese painting, arts and crafts as well as minorities’ decorative arts had a great influence on Chinese movie posters. The traditional Chinese paintings are divided into two kinds, freehand paintings and meticulous paintings. The former focuses on mood that it uses brief outlines to depict the figures and expressions. The latter uses neat, careful, meticulous techniques to describe the images. The movie produced in 1959, “Lin” invited traditional Chinese famous painter Shifa Cheng to design the poster. He used the technique of Chinese ink to shape a hero momentum of Zexun Lin and the poster became a rare boutique of hand painted posters. The role of movie posters is to attract audiences’ attention and transfer the information with an artistic aesthetic. [4] The Chinese freehand brushwork uses simple strokes to depict the form, spirit as well as the images' characteristics and on-site atmosphere conditions. At the same time, this traditional way of painting is easy to narrow the distance with the Chinese audience. The audience can quickly accept the content because of the aesthetic resonance. Paper-cut as one of the most ancient folk art forms in China still has a great influence. Early paper-cut was prevalent in the funeral ritual and became a widespread folk art. The movie posters also borrow this kind of art forms. Till the nineties century, the design of movie posters began to use the combination of computer 3D technologies and photography. The designer are still exploring in this era.
Throughout the development of movie posters from the hand-painted stage to the computer design era, this form of art needs more and more designers with professional knowledge. The cultural differences are doomed to have significant national features. The movie poster designers must base on the culture tradition and break free of its shackles in order to improve their ultimate goal whether in eastern or western culture.

1.      Koszarski, Richard. “[Untitled].” Film History 10, no. 2 (January 1, 1998): 241
2.      Margolin, Victor. “Constructivism and the Modern Poster.” Art Journal 44, no. 1 (April 1, 1984): 29
3.      Xiao, Zhiwei. “Movie House Etiquette Reform in Early-Twentieth-Century China.” Modern China 32, no. 4 (October 1, 2006): 515


  1. Movie posters convey the the story to the viewer, despite of being printed, mounted or hanged, not showing any sort of movement, they are a effective tool for grabbing the attention of the audience.
    I like your topic on which you posted,because it tells us about Designs from other cultures. I would like to put a light of interest on movie posters belonging to Indian Culture. Since Indian film industry has a history of one hundred years and we all are aware of the rich culture India poses. Indian film industry which is known as Bollywood has a big history in poster making for their movies. The exact origins of Bollywood movie posters are relatively unknown, it is widely believed that the first Bollywood movie to use a poster as part of its publicity was in 1924. Vintage Bollywood movie posters entertained audiences in the past with their kitschy, bohemian appearances – broad visible brush strokes with a striking array of colors and typography.

    kindly watch these links as these provide info about the origins, history and even carry pictures of many old Bollywood movies..hope you like it.




  2. This scholarly post definitely reminded me of the evolution of Bollywood posters. The use of garish colours is still prevalent but they have evolved with the times and the development of technology. The hand painted posters of the past used a riot of colours to them seem sensational and also to catch the viewers' attention because after all, they were selling their films to the common mass. Of late, Bollywood posters have become a little more sophisticated although the strong use of colours and heavy saturation has not yet abandoned our design principles. One very recent film made use of the old Bollywood poster art, since its theme was related to the society of the yesteryears.

  3. Before the era of globalized entertainment made movie posters look the same in every country, every artist were creating their own versions for the internal market. Compared to the poster we see today which is very digitalized and minimalist, those days poster had a lot of input and was more vibrant with bold graphics. Its a very interesting post and specially the way you have narrated each culture and how they have affected in designing the posters. It is also very engaging for us designers to see how they managed the layouts and tried to bring in different elements and yet they made it look cohesive. But as a matter of bring back the same feel many artist still try to imitate the hand painted effects to their poster but which is a failure as they do it digitally unlike the olden days where it was hand painted.

    I found a link to vintage movie posters where you can see a lot of other interesting movies poster: