Love Me Quixotic

Love Me Quixotic

Promotional Film Poster

Introduction

Topless Studios required a bespoke poster design promoting the ‘Love me Quixotic’ film, which he directed for Topless Studios.

This promotional poster contains photographic imagery of characters from the final edit of the film, which was provided by the client before the project began. In addition to the illustrated characters on the poster, the artwork contains hand-drawn elements depicting the film’s key narrative.

The illustration portrays the portraits of 5 characters, built around the focal point of a burning house silhouette. Flames from the house rise up and engulf the canvas, providing detail and creating depth in the artwork.

Additionally, graphic elements such as typography showing the films title and the Topless Studios logo were included in the poster design. These graphic elements were carefully considered in balancing the composition and ultimately help guide the viewer’s eye throughout the piece.

This artwork was designed for the use of print.  The colours have been carefully considered so that the illustration would work when hung up for promoting the film.

Research

After receiving the film photography and initial sketches from the client, time was given to researching what makes film posters successful.  This research would go on to inform the design of the poster artwork in order to make it more engaging for the audience.

Generally, the goal of a film poster is to attract the target audience by highlighting the film’s genre. Successful poster artwork will often portray characters, settings and elements of the narrative to let viewers know what to expect. It’s common for film posters advertising the Thriller or Horror genres to only show subtle hints of the plot, consequently building the mystery and intrigue around the story.

Mood Board

During the research phase, I analysed some of the most successful film posters of all time.  Although not all of these films fall under the Thriller or Horror genres, understanding the conventions of each genre helped define what makes a certain type of film so successful.

Planning

As film posters often use dynamic and interesting compositions to build intrigue and mystery, many compositions for the ‘Love Me Quixotic’ poster were sketched out before settling on the final layout.

Similarly, to a film plot, the design of a film poster also needs to communicate a narrative to its audience.  It’s important to guide the viewers eye across the canvas, revealing certain elements such as the title of the film, the director, characters and setting in a logical order. The elements taken into consideration here were initially planned out with the client at the beginning of the project. The following thumbnail sketches on this page explore various routes through which the narrative could be communicated.

The decided route utilises a composition where both the graphic elements and the illustration collaborate in communicating a narrative to the viewer.

In researching film poster design, I discovered that some people are drawn to the typography of a film title whereas others engaged more with dynamic visuals.  Consequently, this composition works in appealing to both type’s of people.

When the eye is drawn to the top of the poster, it focuses on the ‘Love Me Quixotic’ typography, positioned centrally above the flames. The title of the film is the largest text on the poster, and is at a large enough scale to be legible from across the room – this is an important feature to engage the audience, even from a good distance.

The viewer’s eye is then lead to each of the 5 characters inhabiting the central area of the poster. These characters are engulfed in the flames of the burning house, which leads the eye down towards the bottom section of the poster – revealing the setting for the film.

In contrast to this, the burning house is the focal point for those who find visual elements more engaging. Consequently, the eye is drawn to the house, and is then guided up with the rising flames to the portraits of the five characters, before revealing the typography.

An important decision in the composition was planning where the 5 characters would be revealed.  In the initial sketch supplied by the client the characters orbited the house, which dominated as the main focal point. However, this presented difficulties in creating a coherent, realistic background.  In order to create a more dynamic composition, the house was moved towards the bottom of the design and became part of the framing device. The characters could now sit centrally on the artwork and be shown surrounded by flames.  This portrayal also relates better to the narrative – suggesting that everyone in the film will be in danger, engulfed by the flames.

The flames, an important element in the narrative, are also used as a background device to create texture, as well as frame the characters. The way in which the flames grow from the burning house help create direction for the viewer’s eye, too.

The secondary graphic elements are placed towards the bottom of the composition, to stop them from distracting from the core artwork. However, by placing these secondary elements in a frame, they punch-out clearly for maximum legibility.

Design Process

After planning out which route would be most successful, the detailed sketching for the artwork began. Initially, the thickness and position of the poster frame were placed on the canvas. The frame sits 30mm inwards from both the right and left margins (based on artwork sized at A4), creating a bold, dark border for the key artwork to punch out.  At this stage, the frame also sported a 30mm top margin and an 80mm bottom margin to allow space for secondary typography and logos.

Utilising such a thick border allowed for the illustration to overlap the frame in certain positions, creating depth and dynamism in the artwork.

The next stage was to draw detailed outlines for all 5 characters, on separate pieces of paper. Having these separate allowed for each to be scanned in and rearranged on the final digital canvas.  Where their positions were only roughly compiled during the planning stage of the project, this final iteration took into consideration where specific lines met
and interacted with one another.

After deciding on a final digital composition, the lines were the then revised, thickened up and stylised. Special care was taken at this stage to make sure each portrait could stand alone as its own unique illustration. This meant that when the flames were introduced into the composition, they would punch out and remain the dominant features of the artwork.

Basic character outlines

Refined character outlines

The client revealed that footage of the house never shows its exterior, giving me some creative licence when illustrating it. As previously mentioned, the house on the poster artwork was to be portrayed as part of the dark border – meaning it would take the form of a silhouette.

Depth and texture were built up in the silhouette through detail in the windows and front door – the flames from inside the house illuminating the structure.

Initially, the house was depicted in a solid silhouette, however, to show the power of the raging flames inside, some parts of the solid shape were broken up. This exploration took place as the flames were simultaneously illustrated.  As they were essentially the same element (the house being ground zero for the flames) these parts of the illustration needed to work together seamlessly.

Further research into what a burning house looks like inspired the final outcome – the flames rising up through the roof and out from the windows of the building. It was also important to consider how fire is a light source in itself, influencing the shadows, bold lines and solid colour found in the early illustration of the house.

The flames tie the whole illustration together through narrative, direction and depth. The direction in which the flames build help direct the viewers eye across the artwork, but as they overlay and wrap around the various figures – they also work as a texture, giving depth and detail to the piece.  Moreover, the flames occasionally overlay the border of the poster, which also helps build up layers in the illustration.

To bring a sense of realism to the poster artwork, it was important that the character portraits didn’t look like they were simply floating in mid-air. This was achieved by utilising the flames as a framing device.  In order to not overpower key features of the character portraits, careful consideration was given when drawing the outlines of the raging fire.

Until this point in the creative process, a blue tonal palette was used – however, this colour palette was mainly introduced to help plan out light and dark tones throughout the artwork, and not intended as the final colour choice for the illustration. Often, after these initial tones have been planned out in a piece, the five or so colours that feature in the illustration are reviewed, and a new colour-direction formulates.

Blue is a colour which offers a variety of light and dark tones, so it is perfect for planning out an illustration. However, blue is also a very cold colour. While this association could be linked into the mystery of the Thriller film-genre, it didn’t reflect the element of fire which is a key element of the Love Me Quixotic film. For this reason, the blue-tonal palette was discarded and replaced with a range of warm red and orange colours.

Original colour palette

New direction colour palette

By working with a refined digital colour palette of around 5 colours, it’s quick and easy to swap out old colours for new ones and create a new stylistic direction for an illustration. For example, the five tones chosen during the planning stage of the illustration accommodated a range of light and dark tones.  Therefore, when swapping colours, a dark tone is replaced with another dark tone of a different hue. Similarly, a light tone is replaced with another light tone of a different hue. A new set of colours
is quickly and efficiently achieved in this manner.

As a result of using this technique, a new colour palette was chosen using a range of warm colours – reds and oranges. This new palette is a literal representation for the heat of the film – depicting the inferno that consumes the lives of the characters, and building suspense and mystery throughout the plot.

Immediately after refining the colour palette to better reflect the illustration, some problem areas in the composition began to show.  Often (when changing up a colour palette), new tones or more vibrant colours give a varying feel, or highlight different areas.

During this process, it was clear to see the powerful new red chosen for the background tone was drawing more attention than the darker, cooler blue used previously.  This new tone also revealed an unnatural feel for the rising flames, throwing the composition off-balance.

Where the flames had lost some of its authority in the artwork, I decided to fill the entire background of the poster with fire – truly letting it consume everything in the illustration. Moreover, the detailing and texture of the illustrated fire is so intricate, it brings with it a sense of movement and growth.  Instead of the background element being flat and uninteresting, it lifts the entire illustration, without detracting from other key elements.

This change in the illustration improved the overall idea from the final composition sketch – moving the viewer’s eye throughout the piece and using the flames as a transition mechanism. The fire now dominates even more of the composition, increasing the prominence of this feature.

Even though the project was well underway, this was the point where the planning stage in the creative process stopped, and the development of the illustration began.

The composition was balanced, and the colour scheme appropriate for the genre of the film and goals of the project. From an illustration point of view, all of the base tones were in place, and now it was a case of developing the characters, details and textures throughout the illustration to truly bring the poster to life.

Detailing and shadowing for the characters skin tones were layered using a variety of different shading shapes. These reflected the source photography provided by the client at the beginning of the project.  Additionally, a gritty effect was achieved by using halftone textures – a technique used to build depth, often seen on vintage film posters or advertisement during the early 20th century. Halftone pattern styling is extremely effective in communicating the gritty, mysterious feel of the thriller film genre.

In addition to the layering of skin tones, halftone textures were also introduced into detailing of the flames. Only three colours are actually used to illustrate the flames. However, by using a halftone texture and
cut-out circles, this helps bring extra depth and layering to the fire.

Consequently, this element which dominates the majority of the composition doesn’t look flat or repetitive – instead, it becomes an interesting detailed element which ties the whole piece together, without looking out of place.

It’s common for illustrators to overlook the importance of hair when drawing a figure or character. However, the hair for each of the characters in this poster design was revisited multiple times to achieve an aesthetically pleasing result. It was important for the hair to be as realistic as possible, whilst also staying true to the colour palette chosen. As a result, the darker tone matching the frame was used.

Having the colour of the hair punch-out on the artwork meant every strand had to be there for a reason – whether to add to the perspective of a character tilting their head upwards, or assist the intensity of gazing out from behind it.

A second tone was also introduced into the hair colour to give it a sense of direction and volume. Similarly to the building of the flames, these strokes aid the direction of hair and help guide the viewer’s eye throughout the composition.

Ultimately, when building tones it was important to consider which elements on the poster were key.  The characters stand out distinctively from the background of the flames, while similar tones link the portraits to the burning house.

An element of the poster which took further consideration was the reflection of the figure portrayed in the eye of the gas mask.  At first, only a few lines of a silhouette were illustrated. However, to give this detail a horror make-over, darker tones and highlights were added into the glare.

This mysterious and chilling detail is completed with the tonal background shining from behind the figure – reflecting the colours from the flames. The washed-out features of the silhouetted character add to the eeriness, but the line-work and form elude to which film character may be in the gaze of this masked figure.

The final stage of the creative process was to include the graphic elements outlined by the client in the brief. During the planning stage, the areas in which the graphics would be placed were already decided – but choices for typography were yet to be selected.

Referring back to the film poster research at the beginning of the creative process informed the decision for the fonts used in the final artwork. Films in the thriller genre often use wide spacing between letters to create a sense of distance, mystery and emptiness – reflecting the dark tone of the plot. For similar reasons, a sans serif typeface was also chosen.

Sans serif fonts are simple in design, with no stylistic detailing. Although simple, sans serif typefaces are still very emotive and can generate specific feelings when used in a piece of design.

The font used for the Love Me Quixotic poster is Futura – chosen for its sharp, cutting angles on letters such as ‘A’ and ’N’.  This convention combined with a wide-set styling suits the thriller genre well, alluding to sharp twists and tense moments in the film.

Finally, and most importantly, I decided on the main film title for Love Me Quixotic. Deciding on the typeface of a design can present the same problems common when creating a film’s trailer – you can’t make an advert for a film that doesn’t exist. Similarly, it’s difficult to select the correct typeface for a film poster when the design’s key elements are yet to be explored.

Typography, as mentioned previously, can be very emotive to its viewer. Some typefaces can be extremely reserved, while others demand attention and flow seamlessly across a page. Cohabiting with the raging fire growing throughout the design, the custom typeface used for the title is very expressive and powerful. Its ascenders and descenders (flicks and curves at the end of letters) are very free-flowing, rise up and end similarly to the height of the flames.

As planned, the title is the most dominant writing in the composition. It is also the most expressive typography used on the piece, nicely counterbalancing the simplistic, wide-set Futura font. These conventions all work in favour of the title, demanding the attention of the viewer, even from across the room.

Conclusion

The Love Me Quixotic artwork promotes the film, while conventions of the thriller genre on the design hint at the film’s narrative – building mystery and alluding to danger through the growing fire, which dominates the composition. Mystery and danger is communicated to the viewer through 5 key character portraits engulfed by the flames of a burning house – this establishes the film’s setting, and who it is about.

Additional graphic treatments which help promote the film include the title in scriptive, emotive typography, counterbalanced against the simplistic sans serif typeface. This explains who the film was directed and produced by. The colours used for the typography and the Topless Studios logo compliment those used in the fiery illustration, bringing the whole artwork together as one cohesive piece.

Ultimately, the Love Me Quixotic poster uses a powerful colour palette, reflective of the thriller genre, and a dynamic composition to engage the target audience.  The design works in leading the viewer’s eye across the page to communicate key information about the film – whether they are first engaged either by the eye-catching typography, or the striking illustration.

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