Featured Artist: Designing Movie Posters with Bill Gold

by . March 12th, 2013

We all have our favorite movies, and most of often than not, the most memorable aspect especially for classic films are their official posters. The use of movie posters tracing back in history has given a huge opportunity for graphic designers to take part in the success of the best movies of all time. In terms of designing posters, one name is considered to be a legend after being in the industry for 70 years and counting. Lets take a look back at the amazing career of Hollywood’s legendary movie poster designer, Bill Gold as our featured artist this month.


Movie Poster Designer Bill Gold via RoundTablePictures

Movie Poster Designer Bill Gold via RoundTablePictures

Bill Gold has worked with some of the greatest filmmakers in Hollywood like Clint Eastwood, Laurence Oliver, Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick and many more. His very first movie poster design was for the movie Yankee Doodle Dandy (1941) and the latest was J. Edgar (2011). Other popular works include posters for Casablanca, Alien, A Clockwork Orange and The Exorcist.


Bill Gold  movie posters


Born in January 3, 1921 in New York City, Gold studied illustration and design at Pratt Institute. His professional design career started in 1941 in the advertising department of Warner Bros in which he became the head of poster design in 1947. Bill was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1994 from The Hollywood Reporter. In 2011, Bill agreed to create posters for Clint Eastwood’s film, J. Edgar as an end for his unsuccessful retirement. Bill Gold is currently an active member of the Society of Illustrators, the Art Directors Club and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

You The Designer is very honored to get the chance to talk to Bill Gold and ask him few questions about his career and more. Check out the short interview below.


YTD: We’ve seen most of the posters you’ve made and we have to say you’ve got a wide taste for art – from the colorful My Fair Lady poster to the bleak Exorcist poster. What’s your recipe for triggering your creativity, and how do you usually start your projects?

BILL: I think the thing that excites me most is when I hear about the project and I know what the subject matter is. It’s exciting to know that the subject will appeal to people who see the movie poster, which then inspires them to choose to see the movie.


My Fair Lady poster design by Bill Gold

My Fair Lady (1964)


YTD: You have worked with different directors, e.g. Kubrick, Eastwood, Hitchcock, et al.; we’d like to know how your collaborations worked with these creative juggernauts.

BILL: Each was unique. Eastwood was always fantastic. He’d give very little direction and would let me do what I wanted. He trusted my marketing judgment. On a couple of occasions, he’d ask me to go back to the drawing board and re-think things. He was always complimentary and appreciated everything.

Kubrick always wanted to be in control. He wanted to be aware of every step I was taking. He needed to know he had an input and was part of the thinking process.

Kazan was remarkable: brilliant, authoritative, and knew exactly what he wanted to look at.


Dirty Harry poster design by Bill Gold

Dirty Harry (1971)


YTD: When you’re working on a film poster, do you watch the movie first or do you make it up as you go?

BILL: If the movie was finished or a rough cut available, we would look at it and go from there. However, most of the time we started with reading a script. Then I’d have a meeting with my art directors and we’d start to come up with rough ideas. Once the stills became available, we’d choose the ones we wanted and the studio would send us 8 x 10 black and whites. Then, in the ‘90s, we would get a CD of the stills, and create rough comps on the computer.

YTD: Was there a film that you really liked and wanted to make a poster for, but wasn’t awarded with the commission?

BILL: No, not really.


Bird movie poster design by Bill Gold

Bird (1988)


YTD: How was the graphic design industry back then during the first few years of your career?

BILL: Completely different. Of course in the ‘40s, ‘50s etc. there were no such thing as computers. Everything was done by hand, even the lettering. An artist was a real artist and had to have command of his craft. If we created a comp or even a finished a comp and the client made a change, we had to re-start from scratch. Unlike today, there were no computer buttons to push, re-doing the process in minutes. No Photoshop to retouch anything. After years of hand lettering, a machine called a typositor came into use. You would buy libraries of fonts on reels and feed them through the machine to get the letters and sizes you wanted. Now, of course, the computer is a much easier and quicker method to do the same thing. However, not all computer artists are artists in the true sense. There are many so-called artists/designers that are just computer technicians!


Yankee Doodle Dandy poster design by Bill Gold

Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)


YTD: Have you worked as graphic designer in a different industry?

BILL: No. Most of my work has been designing movie posters. However, I’ve done some Broadway shows, record albums and for a short time, I did some toys for Mattel. Of course, it’s because I love to play!

YTD: Is there a big difference between a graphic designer working for Hollywood and a graphic designer working for a different industry?

BILL: Yes. The product is totally different. Designing a Bic pen is like designing a can of peas. It’s a product you are trying to sell to a consumer. In my opinion, it’s kind of boring. Designing a movie poster has an emotional quality to it, a personality. Every movie is different. It’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s challenging, it’s different, and it’s wonderful! But, one thing, it’s HARD because you can’t hold it in your hand, like a Bic pen!


Pale Rider poster design by Bill Gold

Pale Rider (1985)


YTD: How do you usually start your day?

BILL: Hopefully, I get up, and then take it from there!

YTD: What inspired you to pursue a career in graphic design specializing in the creation of movie posters?

BILL: I have always loved movies. As a young kid, I would go to the movies every weekend with my cousin. Most Saturdays you could watch a double feature. In those days, the movie theatre was a safe babysitter for children!


Mystic River poster design by Bill Gold

Mystic River (2003)


YTD: What’s the biggest project you’ve worked on?

BILL: I’m not sure what you mean by “biggest”. I’ve worked on many big box office hits. Oscar winners, a long list of celebrities. I’ve worked with all the studios. If you mean the most work I’ve done for a particular film, two come immediately to mind. In the late ‘70s, I worked on Invasion of the Body Snatchers. We started showing our usual twenty plus comps and the powers that be kept asking for more and more. I have no idea how many comps were shown before we finally got an approval. I also remember the same problem with In the Line of Fire. I think we did over eighty-five comps, and the one they picked was one of the first ones we submitted!


J. Edgar poster design by Bill Gold

J. Edgar (2011)


YTD: How do you deal with deadlines?

BILL: You worry about it. Your brain is on overtime. But with the knowledge and support of a great staff and network of artists, photographers, and production people, you manage to meet that deadline.

YTD: Do you have other projects you are working on?

BILL: Right now my biggest project is going to sleep tonight.


For Your Eyes Only poster design by Bill Gold

For Your Eyes Only (1981)


SEE ALSO: 30 Awesome 2013 Movie Posters


Feel free to tell us your thoughts about our latest featured artist by commenting below and might as well suggest some artists you know and wanted us to feature them in the future.


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