BFI Film Poster research – Metropolis Poster Design

design, Poster Design, Research, U4_U37, U_5


The famous Art Deco Metropolis poster was made in 1927 by well-known designer Heinz Schulz-Neudamm and is arguably one of his most famous film poster pieces. The poster achieves a very striking design by its clever use of negative space and in-depth understanding of tone and lighting. The piece itself only consists of two main colours; yellow and black – yet is able to communicate and express the main contents of the sci-fi classic effectively to the viewer.

The form and designs of various elements in the Metropolis poster are very stylish and futuristic considering the time it was made in. The art style in this poster holds many characteristics to the Art Deco movement that heavily influenced the general public’s taste in design significantly in the 1920s – 1940s. Using such sleek and geometric designs that developed and differentiated from the previous Art Nouveau period made the design very relevant and appealing to the audience at the time. Because the film was a sci-fi, it really gave the art designer a good reason to use Art Deco seeing as the features that highlighted the Art Deco movement were regular polygons and bold, black lines: a perfect way to convey a sense of the future to the viewers, deviating from all things natural and organic. With a staggering, modern cityscape filling the background and the robot Maria (also known as ‘Futura’) right at the front, the art style in this poster really propelled the film’s interest to both sci-fi movie lovers and budding designers alike.

The basic portrait orientation of the poster makes it great for advertising on large buildings such skyscrapers, as well as leaflets and magazine displays too. The height of the poster also enhances the height of the city buildings that are featured in the poster itself, giving a sense of the outward and ultra-modern movie setting. The layout used is a mix between the Rule of Thirds and the Z format, as not only does the text cover the upper and lower half of the poster, but that along with the artistic components are also be separated into the Rule of Thirds divisional layout. The elements of the poster are really cleverly set out so that the eyes can have multiple ways of approaching the design. The two main parts that are really eye-catching are the title ‘Metropolis’ that looms above the city at the top, and the robot featured below. Normally – according to the Z format – the eyes would be drawn to the title at the top of the design and then move their way down diagonally in a Z formation to read the text at the bottom. However one could also argue that because the robotic character ‘Maria’ featured at the bottom of the poster was one of the first early robots to be in a cinematic film ever, the viewer’s attention could be drawn to her and her unusual design first, before moving upwards along the towering buildings to then meet the striking title at the top which would have revealed the name of the film. This form of presentation could build interest and curiosity within the audience and perhaps give them some incentive to find out more about the film.

The colouring and shading of this poster is also very interesting and unique. The lithograph method of creating this design led to some great contrasts between the yellow and black. The boundaries and shading between the two colours have been well planned out to provide enough distinction between the shapes and contours of the objects in the poster, as well as giving enough room for highlights and shadows to add dimension to the art. The main light source seems to be coming from the bottom of the poster, shining upwards at the buildings and dark sky above it. This is shown by how the darker colour dominates the majority of the top half of the poster, and the brighter yellow filling out the bottom half. This also accentuates the height of the buildings making them seem grand and overpowering.

Because of the bold choice in colours, it also helps the text and lettering really stand out against each other. The title at the top of the poster is in yellow, and stands out brilliantly against the black sky above the buildings, almost as if it’s reflecting the light below it. The text at the bottom, although very slightly obstructed by Maria’s mechanical form, also stands out in black against the yellow. It’s not as striking as the main title, seeing as the font is fairly standard compared to the very distinctive font above it. The main title’s font is incredibly striking and really stands out in the poster, with its letters having extended stems and sharp terminals cutting into the black around it.

The rendering of the materials in this poster is very well down, Maria in particular. With appropriate shading and highlighting applied in areas of her body to suggest the material of metal, the toning has been exaggerated to such an extent that it seems unnatural for the figure to be a normal human. Thus suggesting to the viewer that the person is indeed a robot. The features given to her physique such as her eyes also appear to be man-made due to how extravagant and metallic they are.

For its time, this poster really stood out. With its sci-fi elements and stylistic, bold toning and shapes, the design really conveys the idea of sci-fi to the audience. The careful, well-thought colouring and composition of the poster helps the very few elements within it to shine and attract attention to passers-by. Even now, many designers and artists turn to pieces like this because of how unique and noteworthy the design is. It stands as a good example of poster design.


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