When you go to the movie theater, have you ever stopped and really looked at the movie posters displayed there. Sometimes they are posters for upcoming attractions, and at other times the theater might display posters from classic films.
Either way, what these posters have in common is that they manage to convey, powerfully and with a single image, what the movie is about. You can often determine the genre and key elements of the plot simply by glancing at the poster. That should tell you something about how powerful they can be.
If you’re searching for inspiration for a new logo for your company, you might consider looking to movie posters for inspiration. The creativity and passion that goes into creating them can help you work with a designer to come up with a unique and compelling logo.
Components of an Effective Movie Poster
Let’s start by looking at the components of an effective movie poster so you understand why they overlap with logos.
One of the first things you might notice about a movie poster is the typography. Many posters use unique fonts and lettering that highlight the plots and themes of the films they represent.
One iconic example of compelling movie typography is the lettering used on the posters for the Harry Potter movies:
As you can see, the lettering echoes the infamous lightning-shaped scar that appears on the hero’s forehead.
Images, Photos, and Icons
The next thing to check out on movie posters is the images they use to convey the film’s plot and genre. Some posters are busy, but some are deceptively simple. Look at this example for the movie Sideways:
This film is about two friends who go on a wine-tasting trip before one gets married. Along the way, their lives get off track a bit – they are thrown out of their comfort zone. It’s not unreasonable to say that one of them, at least, is trapped in the bottle, metaphorically speaking. This simple poster says a lot about the movie despite its minimalist nature.
Colors and Composition
Finally, the third key element of movie posters is the colors used and the composition of the images themselves.
Colors have psychological meaning and impact. For example, red conveys excitement and passion, which makes it a popular choice for romantic comedies. However, it can also be used to represent blood and violence, which is why it makes an appearance on many horror movie posters.
The composition of images determines where your eye will be drawn first. Some movie posters have several images competing for attention, but those that are most effective tend to focus on a simple imagery that captures the viewer’s imagination.
Examples of Effective Movie Posters
Now let’s look at five particularly effective movie posters so you can get an idea of why they might help you pick a logo design for your company.
Jaws was the original summer blockbuster, and its poster is one of the most famous and iconic of all time.
Really, the images in this poster tell you everything you need to know about the movie: giant shark versus unsuspecting swimmer. However, the blocky red font also hints at the violence to come, and the stark division between sky and sea shows where the ultimate battle to destroy the shark will occur. It’s very effective.
Maleficent was a retelling of the classic story of Sleeping Beauty from the viewpoint of the queen. Here’s the poster:
This poster uses the iconic silhouette of the villain made famous in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, but with a twist. Here, Maleficent is more beautiful than scary, and the incorporation of the imagery of Beauty herself into Maleficent’s silhouette implies that there might be more to this story than viewers suspect.
The Godfather is certainly the most famous mafia movie of all time, and its poster is as iconic as the movie itself:
This poster is very simple. What makes it special is not the image of Marlon Brando, but the marionette strings that appear next to the film’s name. They imply that the title character is a puppet master – someone who can pull strings to get people to do what he wants. That suggestion is certainly proven by the plot of the movie.
Zodiac is a film that traced the efforts of police and reporters to track down and arrest the infamous Zodiac Killer. Here is the film’s poster:
This is another very simple poster. It shows the Golden Gate Bridge enveloped in fog. In the film, and in history during the time that the Zodiac Killer was active, the city of San Francisco was certainly enveloped in a metaphorical fog.
The typography adds to the poster’s appeal – the use of the crosshairs as the O in Zodiac demonstrates that the movie is less about the killer himself, and more about the hunt for him.
Empire of the Sun
Finally, the film Empire of the Sun told the story of a young English boy who was taken captive and put into a Japanese prison camp. Here is the poster:
The poster shows a red sun, which echoes Japan’s flag. The image of a plane going down combined with that of a boy on the ground leaping up represents the friendship that develops between the boy and a captured sailor. The barbed wire at the edge of the poster gives a hint of the prison camp setting, but the focus is on the boy – and that’s true of the movie as well
Where to Gain Inspiration for Your Logo
Now let’s take what we have already talked about to see how you might be able to get inspiration for your logo from movie posters. There are three basic takeaways here.
Conveying Complex Ideas with Simple Images
One thing that you may notice that all of these posters have in common is their relative simplicity. None are particularly busy. The Maleficent poster has the most going on, but even that is pretty pared down and easy to understand.
The key thing to remember is that audiences – whether we are talking about your target audience or a movie audience – are smart. They understand stories and imagery far more than they think they do, and you don’t need to spell everything out for them.
The Sideways poster is a good example. The fact that the men are trapped in the bottle tells audiences quite a bit about the movie without actually giving away the plot. They might or might not know that wine bottles are stored on their sides, but they don’t need to know that to appreciate the poster.
How can you use this knowledge? Try thinking of widely-known symbols that you can use in your logo in a unique way. You can trust your audience to make the connection.
The next thing you can learn from movie posters is the impact of minimalism. A very simple logo can convey a great deal.
Some of the most famous logos in the world, such as the McDonald’s Golden Arches or the Nike Swoosh, are incredibly simple. Any child could draw them – and yet everybody recognizes them instantly.
You might have many ideas that you want to convey with your logo, but you should pick the most important one and work with that. What image or icon will get your point across at a glance? Whatever it is, that is the thing you should use in your logo.
The final takeaway here is that the use of layering can help you get the point of your logo across effectively. The Maleficent poster does this by giving us a glimpse of Beauty in the middle of Maleficent’s silhouette.
Many logos use one image inside another to communicate with the company’s target audience. Can you combine two images into one or incorporate an icon into your typography? Anything you can do to add meaning to your logo without complicating it is a good thing.
Some companies layer their logos by using more than one kind of typography in it. If your company does more than one thing – and if your multiple products or services are reflected in your name – you might want to find a way to demonstrate those things with the lettering you choose.
Movie posters are full of creativity, color, and inspiration. You don’t have to copy them to allow them to help you conceptualize a new logo for your company. Just keep in mind that less is more, and remember, above all, that your audience is smart. If you do that, the rest will follow.