How top studios create their best movie posters for Hollywood and indie films

Emotional connections

Although quite different in style, the film’s two other teaser concepts for the US – created by the Los Angeles agencies Blood & Chocolate ( and Cold Open ( – are similarly minimalist, featuring little more than the film’s title and intriguing straplines. In the UK, Momentum also has a more mainstream campaign by Empire Design (, focusing on star Daniel Radcliffe.

Such marketing variations across regions are sometimes necessary to take local sensibilities into account, says Scot. “For me what’s important is that the posters should connect on an emotional level with the audience, not that the film is [keeping to] a consistent identity or brand.”

The use of prominent lettering is another approach that has become popular among poster designers, says Ohlsson. For example, Kellerhouse’s poster for The Social Network features actor Jesse Eisenberg with his face partially obscured by the strapline, ‘You don’t get 500 million friends without making some enemies’.

Equally eye-grabbing typography was used by Ignition Print ( in its poster for Buried. It wraps a small image of leading actor Ryan Reynolds within layer upon layer of quotes from reviews. It’s these quotes, rather than the film’s potentially off-putting premise of Reynolds being stuck in a coffin for 90 minutes, that do the work of selling the film while preserving a strong visual link to the film’s main idea.

Which direction do you head in if you’re ever asked to create a film poster? Creative director Markus Hammarberg ( advises not getting caught up in what’s hot right now. “Focus too much on trends and you’ll just be behind the curve, he says.

“Instead look at the core challenge: how to create something that looks stunning and speaks to a mass audience in the most commercial way.”

Human Centipede 2

Commissioned by IFC Films to create a poster for Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence) after working on the campaign for the first film, Art Machine decided to push the format to the limit.

Whereas the poster for The Human Centipede (First Sequence) featured the ‘human centipede’ shot behind Plexiglas, the one for the sequel didn’t reference the action of the film at all.

Creative director Jeremy Kaplan explains: “There was so much gore involved in the plot that we decided to do the opposite and pare it right back. We used the centipede reference more because there was more knowledge of the storyline second time around.”

From an initial presentation of 10 to 15 ideas, the client whittled them down to four, each of which was used for a teaser, pay-off, online special and video box. Each of the designs is minimalist, focusing on bold photography with little colour.

“Whatever the project, the most important thing is to capture the mood in one static image – and most of all, support the client,” Jeremy says.

Black Swan

La Boca created these now-iconic Black Swan posters for a teaser campaign commissioned by Fox Searchlight. “The intention for Black Swan was to interpret the essence and feeling of the movie in a single illustration, in much the same way that Polish and Czech film posters did so well in the 60s and 70s – not stylistically, but in their content and purpose,” says creative director Scot Bendall.

The designers at La Boca didn’t keep to their stated aims in one respect – they ended up creating of a set of four posters. What’s more, they worked without having seen the film. Far from being a hindrance, this meant they could form their own opinions of how the film should be represented without being influenced by its imagery, Scot says.

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