BFI Sci-Fi Film Festival Poster Brief – Evaluation

design, Poster Design, Research, U4_U37

The posters were produced for the BFI Sci-Fi Film Festival. The work portrays the various uses of composition, colour and contextual meaning in the sci-fi film genre. The first poster depicts a rather cliché sci-fi scenario of a man running in a city with a UFO looming over him. The second poster features three robots colouring in the three primary colours; yellow, red and blue. And the third poster is divided into halves vertically by an explosion, with the side profile of an alien on the left-side facing the side profile of a human on the right.

I was trying to reflect the highlights of the sci-fi genre to the audience and easily and effectively communicate to them the idea of sci-fi, drawing them in to know more about the poster.

I had many ideas in my mind, from posters of iconic sci-fi characters such as Frankenstein, to posters of a sci-fi movie scene or scenario, to just simple icons or figures in the sci-fi genre to quickly register with the audience of both movie lovers and general passers-by.

I also prepared for this work by sketching thumbnails and visiting galleries to gather inspiration. One particular piece that I saw when I went to the V&A’s ‘Disobedient Objects’ exhibition, was a street sign from Buenos Aires by ‘Grupe de Arte Callajero’ that showed a symbol of a man with an airplane silhouette behind him. This one street sign was so simple and basic, yet so effective with the way the familiar PSA-esque symbol of a man was used to represent the tragic ‘flights of death’ carried out by an admiral from the Argentinian dictatorship. It inspired me to bring in elements of the PSA-like symbols into my poster design to add more interest and give it a twist. Just the idea of a simple symbol that the general public saw on a regular basis outside toilets and on road signs with a sci-fi twist to it was really appealing.

Going to the Science Museum was also a great help, as I was able to take photos and gather references of various space related objects like astronauts, space ships and planets. It helped me get a better understanding of what space objects look like in real life and how their contours and construction parts fit.

My previous Photoshop exercises also influenced my work. I created various designs in Photoshop of iconic sci-fi motifs such as aliens, space ships, planets, UFOs and robots. Because these designs were intended for screen printing, they were in black and white, using only its silhouette and other minor details to communicate what it was. These were perfect for the minimalism-influenced poster design ideas that I had and worked really well with some of the thumbnails in my sketchbook.

When producing the posters, I considered the layout, colours and type to help get my ideas across onto the designs. I tried using different compositions in my thumbnails to see what I could do and what worked, but in the end all three of my posters ended up having the ‘Z’ layout and the Simple Grid layout because I found them to be the most appealing and most effective out of all of them. Both allowed room to show the main components of the poster, as well as leave enough space for the text to be read. The positioning also made it easy for the eye to read and follow. With layouts like the Oval layout, the encircled text would be too jarring and difficult to read for my final designs. I did, however, make the heading text in my third design have perspective, resembling that of the Star Wars prologue, hoping that viewers might be able to relate and connect to it. These arrangements helped enhance my final poster designs.

The colours for my first poster were limited to only yellow and black to mimic that of a lithograph just like the ‘Metropolis’ poster. I wanted to focus more on how the colours interacted and worked with each other in the toning and shading so that it could convey the shapes and outlines more effectively. Due to the stark contrast of bright yellow and dark black, it really helped give a sense of light and shadow, illuminating areas of the poster design where necessary, like the city lights in the background. In my second poster, I used the primary colours to help make the robots stand out and contrast each other. This colourful presentation would attract the attention of those passing by; with the darkest colour, blue, against the warmer colours in the background. I also coloured the logos in the appropriate colours at the bottom to make them suite the colour scheme. I did this with all my posters to keep consistency and avoid them from clashing with the rest of the design. My third poster was my own personal take on the brief; a design that I thought of myself with not much influence from other designers. I’ve always loved symmetric composition, as cliché and common as it is, and I used it in this poster along with my own choice in colours and type. I wanted this poster to really glow as I personally love lighting effects and luminance in art. So I made the text bright, as well as the main explosion in the centre, lighting up the rest of the piece and drawing the viewer’s attention to the middle. There are some warm colours used, such as the man’s skin and hair, but I edited a blue photo filter onto the entire piece so that everything looked cold and slightly artificial or man-made like LED lights, giving a feeling of the future. The blue also contrasted the yellow explosion in the middle, making it very bold and exciting. The characters themselves are even literally facing head-to-head.

I was influenced by a couple of artists for two of my posters – Heinz Schulz-Neudamm and Noma Bar. My first poster was heavily inspired by the lithograph technique that was used in Schulz-Neudamm’s ‘Metropolis’ poster. I liked the traditional paper texture that the lithograph had and the use of toning and negative space, so I tried applying those elements in particular to my poster. I also really loved minimalistic art – not just Noma Bar’s, but also all kinds or illustrative minimalism. The idea of communicating ideas strongly through simple silhouettes, shapes and colours was one that I have always admired. So for both the first and second posters, I made sure to limit myself to only using the least yet most effective components in both my sketchbook and from my previous sci-fi themed exercises.

Choosing the final poster was incredibly difficult more me to decide. I found that each one all had their strong points and weak points, and judging which one was the most suitable for the brief wasn’t easy. I narrowed it down to the robot poster and the lithograph-like poster, because I found that the simplicity and composition of those two more interesting. However, in the end I decided to go with my first poster design that was inspired by the 1927 ‘Metropolis’ poster. This is because, although both posters had a great use of simple communication of the sci-fi genre through its minimalistic icons and symbols, I thought that the Metropolis-inspired one had more interesting content, as it clearly showed a sci-fi scenario that engaged the viewer into what is happening in the poster. It might not be as modern or as colourful as the robot poster, but I think that the texture, graining effects and typeface on it gave it an old film grain look, making it more fitting for the BFI Sci-Fi Film Festival.

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