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Posterized May 2017: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,’ ‘Alien: Covenant,’ ‘Risk,’ and More

Written by on May 4, 2017 

Illustrative typography

I enjoy a good handwritten font, especially when the letters aren’t perfectly molded from template. The two “Hs” in Hermia & Helena (limited May 26) aren’t identical in shape or fill with one being solid and the other not. This isn’t therefore a font at all, but an actual person’s cursive. It therefore lends individuality, a personal touch assumedly mimicking the actress depicted in the photo. We are brought into the story, the text here a piece of it rather than a machine-made embodiment of style over substance.

As for the rest, I think it mostly works. I haven’t seen the film, but from this imagery my guess is that this woman plays both roles. Perhaps a split personality? Maybe twins? Kudos to the designers for finding a way to fade out her body so that it looks like she’s two heads connected by the neck a la a playing card (again). If you look close enough you can see the coats disappearing, but only if that’s your goal. The lens flare and over-exposure help mask it while also adding some flavor to what would usually be a studio shot portrait under controlled conditions.

What I love about Abacus: Small Enough to Jail (limited May 19) is the design work constructed around the text. The font itself is a common sans, the symmetry of its letters proving imperative to the design. Suddenly they become additional beads to the titular device, lined up to deliver an answer. The title is therefore illustrated in a minimalist way that enhances both its meaning and the poster’s aesthetic.

The image is perfectly cropped to serve as a balance to it: the subject scooted to the right so that we’re given ample space at left to house the graphic. Its straight lines vertically (and horizontally as formed by the beads and letters) also add a layer of depth against the vanishing point built by the rooms walls (“Abacus” serving as the horizon). We can believe that it’s closer to us than the man, our eyes allowed to enter the frame and move freely as a result.

There’s a logical reason why Everything Everything‘s (opens May 19) poster is just text with illustrative doodles: it’s almost identical to the original book cover. Not only does the poster evoke a youthful exuberance much like the one for Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, it possesses brand recognition for fans of the source material. Dare I say it even improves upon the book’s graphic by turning the first “Everything” into one line? This switch makes the whole less unwieldy, especially since the top word didn’t have illumination anyway. This way we even put emphasis on the second word for an “Everything, EVERYTHING” read.

While it works nicely on its own as a tease, though, it can become a bit much when used alongside images. Brian Bowen Smith‘s final sheet distracts us by wanting its photo to resonate despite our eyes having a hard time ignoring the title at bottom. It’s smaller now so we stare longer and more intently to make out the myriad details in it, all but forgetting the sweet depiction of love behind glass above. What wasn’t busy now becomes so, its surroundings turning an attractive logo gaudy.

As for the ultimate display of typography this month, that award goes to Afterimage (limited May 19). There’s a mix between constructivist design sensibilities and Polish illustration in lieu of photos. Do we know what it represents? I sure don’t. But it grabs us in that mystery, appealing to our sense of beauty rather than literal description.

And it gorgeously plays with depth, translucency, and color. Some of the biomorphic shapes seem flattened together, some cover the thick black text, and others—like the red—reveal what’s beneath through it. I don’t love the elongated text at bottom with the “A Film By” credit considering the rest is conversely proportional and this shift sticks out, but besides that the sheet’s use of art and abstraction is a winner.

Pairing image with type

Beyond cool typography are those designs with the ability to compliment their imagery rather than war against it. May 2017 delivers a few that do this very nicely. Sometimes it’s a marriage made in heaven and others simply knowing that either the type or image is good enough to ensure the other takes a backseat to let it shine.

P+A’s The Lovers (limited May 5) is an example of the former. Not only does its neon script reminding me of Drive pop enough to draw attention, the image does the same. This isn’t about showing a grand gesture of love or the lack thereof. It’s a display of complacency—a rut wherein you may not even realize something is wrong. It’s about body language, the distance between husband and wife with no inclination towards erasing it through an embrace.

The juxtaposition of this flashy title against stagnant photo is wonderful, the symmetry of names, actors, and title box perfectly formulated to augment the gap at the center straight down to the name. So much is said with so little prompting as the designer effortlessly gives us everything we need in a glance.

The Boland Design Company‘s Risk (limited May 5) provides a captivating harmony of aesthetic by masking everything in a white noise. This filter makes the image barely discernible and the text unmistakable due to the heavily saturated red being stripped away to white.

They’ve placed the title at the center even if it’s pushed right, our eyes targeting it before moving out to catch a glimpse of Julian Assange’s highlighted silhouette. It’s face and title—nothing else is truly needed besides the director’s name. Even the date is shrunk as though an afterthought, the content enough to force us into searching to find it.

Personally I can’t look at this image without thinking about Andres Serrano’s Immersion (Piss Christ) from 1987. I wonder if it’s intentional since the artist has said the work “alludes to a perceived commercializing or cheapening of Christian icons in contemporary culture.” One could say Assange has done this with the media, making his celebrity a product above the information he shares. His desire always seems to be the one that releases it being more important than the implications of it being released.

For Violet (limited May 12), these two parts are impactful on their own and the designer acknowledges it by keeping them separate. We’re given this powerful image of a bruised woman caught under a haze of grain, the shallow depth of focus highlighting her face as body and hair blurs into a framing device. It literally fills 80% of the frame so that we have nowhere else to look and nothing else to distract us.

It’s then up to us to look for the title because we’re intrigued and when we find it we’re drawn back in by the subtle flourish of removing the “V’s” right side. Our eyes fill it in, the line from the “V’s” bottom point to top of “I” there in its emptiness. The credit box arrives at its right to balance out its bright white and the logos get relegated to the bottom as an afterthought (because that’s what they are to everyone who doesn’t work for those companies).

And then there’s BLT’s teaser for Alien: Covenant (opens May 19), a success in its mood, horror, and complete ignorance of anything not imperative. The text isn’t meant to oppress, intrigue, or do anything but deliver the franchise’s trademark lettering. Even “Covenant” becomes a secondary inclusion, its presence to set the film apart from its siblings but not declare it as better than them.

Its white pops because the rest is shrouded in shadows, an unforgettable mural done as though in marble of a transition in power from creators to creation. That which is formed by the hybridization of Prometheus man and Alien face-hugger is born in its vile, evil Xenomorph form. This is a Renaissance statuary of nightmare.

InSync Plus comes in with a series of teasers that enhance the whole with specific details—many of which weren’t in Prometheus and in my opinion prevented people from seeing how great a film it was. There is “HIDE” with an egg and “RUN” with a monster exiting the darkness. And while their final with Katherine Waterston doing her best Sigourney Weaver from Alien3 gets the look right, it doesn’t quite captivate like BLT’s besides on that level of nostalgia.

What is your favorite May release poster? What could have used a rework?

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