Design Opinion

A Deeper Look into Movie Posters

A Deeper Look Into Movie Posters

You’re scrolling through your social media feed and you stumble upon a movie poster. At first glance, what do you do? You either scroll pass it or search for more information about the movie. Either way, the movie poster has successfully done its job by giving you the information you need as well as planting a subconscious memory of it in your brain.

In this fast-paced era where everyone’s time is precious, it is crucial to catch one’s attention in a short amount of time. Hence, the first impression of a movie when seeing a movie poster is important to grab the attention of the viewer. It either makes you curious or uninterested. In my personal experience, the first thing I do when I look up the name of a movie is to look at the poster. What comes next are the trailers, reviews, and critiques. Because the movie poster acts as a tool to communicate the most important elements of the movie in the shortest time, it is designed to be visually attractive in the short attention span we have.

Let’s take a look at the movie elements when looking at a movie poster. The main elements are the setting, emotion, character/s, genre, and most importantly the story of the movie. The characters of the movie are usually the most eye-catching in the movie poster. They give us a hint of the genre of the movie through their clothing, posture, facial expressions etc. Take John Wick’s movie poster as an example. Most of the posters show him holding a gun, while his facial expression is always serious. If his face is covered with scars, it indicates that he had just gone into a fight. From these details, we can already guess that it is an action movie.

Now, what do you think when I mention the word “horror”? Scary. Haunted. Fear. These are emotions that arise when we look at horror movie posters. These posters are usually dark, pale and sometimes misty. Some might include grotesque figures, such as posters from The Nun, IT etc. The character is isolated from its surroundings, most often emerging from the dark or poorly lit background. Isolation also plays an important role in bringing a feeling of uneasiness to the viewer, which adds to the tension of the movie.

A movie poster conveys just enough information to grab your attention. It shows you the characters, setting and genre of the movie, but most importantly, it has to tell a story. It communicates with the viewer through the use of visual hierarchy. The first thing people catch when looking at a movie poster is the genre of the movie. From there, they will decide if they want to know more about the movie. If they do, they digest the information by looking at the details of the poster. The overall layout gives the viewer a first impression. In addition to that, movie posters usually have hints of what is going to happen in the movie to spark the viewer’s curiosity.

The next time you look at a movie poster, try to analyze it and you might learn something new!

Brave, 2012 (Film by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
The Fault in Our Stars, 2014 (Film by 20th Century Fox)
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, 2013 (Film by Warner Bros. Pictures)


1 comment

  1. It’s reminds me the difference of movie poster design in Netflix. I found that there are two common types of poster design, they are either more towards “Asian style” or “western style” haha. I usually found the Asian-style-driven movie poster design is more interesting to me comparing with the “western style” as it provides more intriguing visual information than the western-style poster design.

    The western-style movie poster design is having a minimalist design style which allows the viewer eye to appreciate the important visual information without disturbing by the unnecessary visual details, however, I personally found them tends to be boring and vague sometimes. I could only realize what’s the story really telling about after watching the movie but not the poster itself… A minimalist style of poster design could probably hook the viewers’ desire to watch the movie, however it may also result in getting overlooked and neglected by the viewers. For me, I don’t really willing to spend time on watching the movie if I couldn’t gain an sufficient clue about the movie content upon the first glance on the poster

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