Master retro collage illustration

Max Ellis 

gets woozy on Beefeater gin

How does a brand that’s rooted in history give itself a quirky, modern edge for its advertising campaign? This is the quandary that Beefeater gin faces – after all, its very name carries strong links to an historical London. 

For the past five years, this has been the design challenge faced by photographer and digital designer Max Ellis. He has created a series of 12 quirky posters depicting skewed visions of London’s past, starting with Victoriana-inspired etchings and later combining these with glossy photography.

“It was a very tight brief as far as the look of each image [was concerned],” he explains. “They sent me a rough, using old engravings they had sourced from somewhere. My job was to recreate the posters as closely as possible.”

He adds: “I felt the images should have a vaguely surreal angle – I achieved this through the odd scale of the elements.”

This gives the posters a woozy, wonky quality: huge contemporary models cavort in the centre of the image and giant pigeons perch on buildings, while tiny figures strike a pose or look on, and balloons and zeppelins hang in the sky. 

While the illustrative aspects of the posters were easy to composite together, “the photographic elements required a bit more shoehorning,” explains Max. He achieved this by “weaving them in and out of the layers.”

The result is fun, surprising – and absolutely, instantly identifiably ‘London’. Somehow the city’s patchwork of signature sights – Big Ben, red telephone boxes, and St Paul’s Cathedral – sits brilliantly with the collage approach, meaning the brand’s message is clear whether you’re viewing the posters in Barcelona or Boston.

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