ScreenFonts #3: The Threequel
ScreenFonts’ third installment on Create deals with doubles and powers of three: a trio of wildly varied posters for Mouthpiece and 3x3 posters for Aniara. We also look at the artwork for Diamantino, The Professor, Meeting Gorbachev, The Souvenir, Netemo sametemo (Asako I & II), and Perfect.
OFF THE LEDGE
The film title is set in Sentinel, a contemporary interpretation of Clarendon-style slab serifs. Egizio URW is Aldo Novarese’s take on the genre, which was reimagined by David Berlow as Belizio. Oxtail, Stefan Hattenbach’s subtly subversive design, is a favorite of mine; when tracked tight, the italics become connected constructed scripts.
Thankfully, no faux Cyrillic makes an appearance (that would have been a lazy and culturally inappropriate choice); instead, a compact sans serif similar to Refrigerator Deluxe is used. The angular letterforms recall the typography seen in constructivist posters from the 1920s and ’30s. This Russian art movement inspired quite a few typefaces; for example Rodchenko, a recent addition to your Adobe Creative Cloud subscription.
“We toyed with many variations of this image—two Asakos standing side by side, overlapping, echoing, mirroring, with different color gradients and treatments,” Smith continued. “An early version had a thick border around the edge filled with flowing and faded blue water, another reference to imagery in the film. The final poster was my preference. These days, I try to create designs that catch your eye in person at a theater, but also have an impact as a thumbnail on a small screen. In this case, I hope the simple, iconic image surrounded by negative space provides that. Also, I added the cat because the cat is so cute, and it figuratively punctuates the image by standing right next to the two Asakos.”
Newbolt’s design visualizes the protagonist’s inner dialogue by combining a frontal and a profile portrait—an image and its mirror image—with the missing half of the frontal portrait bleeding off the right edge of the canvas. Looking at the subject from different viewpoints in one single, combined image was often seen in cubist paintings, and this strategy works well here. Newbolt used Parry Grotesque for the typography; Maple Bold and Basic Sans Black have a similar feel.
Even though the other two posters were never officially released, they were favorites with the director and producers. “As such, I got permission from all involved to post them online,” Newbolt wrote. “They have since—naturally—been more widely praised for their visual power than the official poster.” The two unused posters are more adventurous in their interpretation of the film’s central theme, transcending their function as marketing materials to become art. Newbolt continued: “To me, every poster has to have a clear concept, thus I almost ‘psychoanalyze’ the film from a graphic-design perspective. Then—almost like a Rorschach test—I roll with whatever idea the director or producer team is most excited about. I produce only one draft for that idea, a draft I’ve worked on intensively for a while. This may involve painting, drawing, photography, collage—anything I can do to make it truly unique, and present that to them. From there, I take notes and work often two to three rounds to finish the piece, or we change tack, revert back to one of my other original ideas and start over.”
PONDERING THE SURVIVAL OF MANKIND AND HUMAN PERFECTION
While only one of Mouthpiece’s three posters was officially released, Aniara boasts nine published designs. The Swedish science-fiction drama follows a spaceship carrying settlers to Mars that is knocked off course, causing the consumption-obsessed passengers to consider their place in the universe. The pleasure that the Gravillis, Inc., design team must have had referencing different time periods and graphic styles is almost palpable in this eclectic series. The op-art-like starburst motif in the main theatrical one-sheet lends the artwork a mid-century-modern vibe, as do the parallel lines interrupting and repeating the starship and Mars in the other variant. The main poster features a wide sans serif like Allumi Extended and Titling Gothic FB Extended, for example; the other variant uses Gotham Light.
Two more posters use the new de facto movie-poster typeface, Tobias Frere-Jones’ iconic (and inescapable) Gotham. Mark Simonson’s equally inescapable Proxima Nova adds a little bite to the vernacular architectural sans genre. The painting of the space vessel hurtling toward the incandescent white ball reminds me of the cover art for the sci-fi novels I devoured in the 1980s; by contrast, the starship framed within the glowing red silhouette looks very modern.
Two other posters use visual metaphors for the starship missing its mark: one has a motif of repeating triangles referencing triangulation as a means of establishing one’s position and course; the other places the starship at the entrance of a honeycomb maze, with Mars rendered as an off-center red dot. The former uses Compacta; the latter’s condensed sans serif is Neusa Next.
The yellow variant adopts the glitchy typography of 1990s grunge, applied to T.26 Carbon.
The peculiar geometric shape that pops up in most of the posters—a triangle inside a hexagon/3D cube—intrigued me. Kenny Gravillis explained to me that the movie has a very strong design aesthetic, and the inspiration for that shape came from the main ship. “You notice a ton of triangles and hexagons when you watch the film,” he said. Letter Gothic’s monospaced nature makes it better suited for vertical setting than most other typefaces, and the colorful gradient inside the letters looks lovely. David Jonathan Ross’ Bungee is a rare example of a typeface specifically designed to be set vertically.
Kan explained to me that director Eddie Alcazar wanted letterforms inspired by Japanese katakana characters that also needed to look extraterrestrial. “From the outset, I wanted to introduce a techno influence and combine the experimental shapes with readable Latin letters,” Kan said. “Turning them into luminescent outlines allowed me to transition from the experimental to the traditional letterforms for the title sequence.”
Kellerhouse took Kan’s typography and ran with it. The smeared and stretched face in the colorful variant seems to allude to the body dysmorphia experienced by patients seeking physical perfection. Kellerhouse told me that the dark, gloomy version of an impeccable human form emerging from a generative liquid is his personal favorite.
Do I wish every new ScreenFonts episode could emerge, effortlessly and impeccably formed, from a generative liquid? Nah, I enjoy writing this series far too much. Come back next month for more movie-poster design and typography, and—as always—keep checking Instagram and Twitter for the hashtag #screenfonts.