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Portfolio of the Week: Olly Moss And The Reinvention Of Movie Posters

by . November 7th, 2015

One of the integral parts of a movie is its poster, used for marketing along with the film trailer to fuel viewer anticipation.

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Before the film is even screened, we are treated with a condensed graphic representation of the whole movie in print format. Featuring scenes taken from the movie or the artists who will star in crucial roles, film posters are designed with commercial intent, that is, to attract movie goers to check the film.

The first movie poster was created by French painter and lithographer Jules Cheret for the 1890 short film called “Projections Artistiques”. Before this, most of the film posters only includes the title as well as the names of the artists, directors, and producers in block text.

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With the marketing value that these posters brought to ticket sales, it became a standard within the film industry. They were printed in cheap paper, however, and were not meant to be collected or preserved.

Over the years, the movie poster has evolved to become a part of pop culture. Some poster enjoyed iconic status such as Jaws, Silence of the Lambs , and Scarface. Sometimes, even the poster itself is equally anticipated as the movie, like the case of Star Wars: The Force Awakens poster.

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This pop culture status of movie posters has prompted graphic designers to give their own take on creating a poster for movies they liked. One such designer is Olly Moss.

Olly Moss is an English graphic designer and illustrator best known for his unique take on reimagining movie posters. He grew up in Winchester and majored in literature in the University of Birmingham. He started creating his unofficial versions early in his graphic design career, with a style that is quite unorthodox at the time. He didn’t have a traditional design training.

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Today, Olly Moss is a legend of the movie poster design world, with designs that could sell for thousands of dollars on Ebay.

In an interview with iO9, Olly commented on the state of official movie posters in our time, stating that it is ridiculous. “It’s always really last-minute, you have to get it through so many levels of approval, and the culture is that you are encouraged to submit a book of like fifty ideas. And no one will ever pick one idea and just run with it. They’ve got to see like every single variation of a theme, every single possible iteration of an idea, and it eventually ends up being floating heads because that is what will get approved.”

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Olly added further the problem with a committee handling the design decision process, something we could all relate to. “There’s big legal things as well. If you have Sean Penn’s face on the poster, it needs to be the same size as, I don’t know, Don Cheadle’s or something. So that kind of limits what you can do in terms of composition.”

“I just made things based on what I was really interested in, and being a massive nerd, I was really interested in films and video games. People seem to really dig it, so now I’m able to make a career out of it.”

Without these constraints, Olly was able to make his movie poster the way he envisioned it. Using his experience creating shirt designs for Threadless, Olly’s minimalist style was transferred to his movie poster design career.

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“There’s a reason you do minimalism,” said Olly. “It’s because you’re using it to get across a core idea.” It’s not that difficult to see how Olly achieved his status within the community. His clever use of negative space and his attention to detail gives a more sophisticated focus to his core idea, something that most posters fail to achieve.

“A lot of the minimalist posters completely ignore the idea, they just focus on the style, and the style is completely the least important part of it. It’s about the thought behind it, what are you trying to communicate, and a lot of those posters don’t really communicate anything, and it’s just a picture of something from a movie.”

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Moss sells his posters through Mondo, the movie poster web store and gallery, and his prints can sell out within seconds. His posters for the geek culture proved so popular, and even cited as superior to official artwork.

This led him Marvel where executives Craig Kyle and Kevin Feige commissioned him to create the poster for Thor. He has now since done work for comic books such as Before Watchmen and video games such as Resistance 3. 

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In an interview with The Daily Beast, Olly stated that he never thought that art was a viable career option for him. “Art for me was always a hobby,” he says. “I just made things based on what I was really interested in, and being a massive nerd, I was really interested in films and video games. People seem to really dig it, so now I’m able to make a career out of it.”

Thing is, creating unofficial movie posters like Olly is technically violating the copyright of movie rights holders because of the use of their visual assets and trademarks. Film companies are yet to exercise these rights against graphic designers. I guess it’s all good publicity in the end.

Check out his movie posters and other design work on his website.

Which Olly Moss poster do you like best? Comment below!

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