Minimalism in Movie Posters

When studios try to market an upcoming movie, they want to grab the public's attention and build anticipation.  In the past, they would cram everything they could into a colorful poster -- the superstars in the cast, the big name director, the production company, the tagline, some cool art, and of course the title.  If the film won some prestigious awards in the festival circuit or earned stellar advance reviews, they would squeeze those in there too.  The 1989 Batman marketing campaign changed all that -- it was the most notable minimalist advertisment for a movie ever created. 

Brilliant in its simplicity, it was just the iconic Bat-Symbol and no other words except the release date.  The logo was a nice new version designed by Anton Furst, but people instantly recognized it as the emblem of the Dark Knight, whether they were comic book fans, fans of the Adam West television show, or just average folks who identified that stylistic rendering of a bat in a yellow oval as representative of the superheroic crimefighter through his decades of pop culture immersion.  Suddenly, the marketing campaign went viral (before the word "viral" even became associated with such things) as the public began plastering that simple symbol everywhere, even carving it into their hairstyles.

Now, movie studios try to replicate that marketing buzz, with various degrees of success, all part of a culture in which publicity mavens try to get their audiences to develop a shorthand for their products and spread excitement via word-of-mouth in the real world and online.  Independence Day became ID4 with a picture of an exploding White House, Terminator 2: Judgment Day became T2 with a red-eyed robot's face. 

Sometimes, the artwork is enough to grab the viewer's attention -- little Anakin Skywalker and his easily recognizable Darth Vader shadow for The Phantom Menace or the image of the skull-faced moth over the mouth of Jodie Foster for The Silence of the Lambs

Other movie posters in the past were impactful with a minimal style.  Two that instantly come to mind are the Great White Shark beneath the swimming woman for Jaws or the heart-shaped sunglasses and lollipop for Stanley Kubrick's Lolita.  The titles weren't even necessary for people to know which movies those now-famous posters were promoting. 

It has become a trend for people to create minimalist posters to represent motion pictures, both as a hobby by fans to showcase their creativity and artistic side as well as a requirement for marketing professionals trying to spark some excitement for their major tentpole pictures. 

The problem is that minimalism doesn't always work.  For example, the teaser poster for The Avengers is a dud, in my opinion.  The stylized "A" representing Marvel's superteam is not as well know as Superman's logo or Batman's symbol (or even to a lesser degree Spider-man's arachnid, the Fantastic Four's number "4," or the "X" for the X-Men). 

While geeks like me know the catchphrase "Avengers Assemble," I doubt that mainstream audiences will get that reference in the tagline "Assemble 2012."  I believe it would have been better to just include the faces of all the heroes -- Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, Captain America, Hawkeye, and Black Widow -- and that would have been more enticing for both die-hard fans and the general public, but they don't pay me the big bucks, so what do I know?

Minimalist movie posters can be a quick way to grab interest and spark the curiousity of film fans, or they can backfire, either creating confusion or worse becoming ignored or instantly forgotten resulting in missed opportunities for impactful first impressions. 


Andrew said…
The Avengers logo is awful. It looks more like a 4 than an A.