This article originally appeared as a guest post on the Beach Package Design blog – Box Vox.
My background originally being in illustration, I find myself always looking for examples of it in graphic design. And being that I live in a place where the temperature has been in the single digits for several weeks, I’ve found myself renting a lot of movies lately. As a result, my need to distract myself from my upcoming heating bill has inevitably led me to spend an inordinate amount of time noticing movie packaging.
One of my observations, sadly, has been the near vanishing act of illustration from movie covers. Back in the heyday (like the 1980’s) illustrations were common on covers. Two of the more prominent figures in this arena, Drew Struzan and Richard Amsel, were among many who helped create part of movie magic. Amsel (who passed away in 1985) and Struzan both produced work for the Indiana Jones series, and Struzan continues for such notable titles like Harry Potter, The Star Wars series, Shawshank Redemption and Pan’s Labyrinth (not to mention several hundred more). Still, the majority of his work seems to have come from the mid-1980’s.
It seems that now movie cover design has become a mostly diluted and uninspiring sea of big-star-looking-off-into-distance-with-dramatic-facial-expression. Or, you have movies that look like they SHOULD have been illustrated, but instead were done with a photo-montage. For example, compare Road to Perdition and The Green Mile (below). Same actor, same dramatic lighting, same usage of small foreground imagery against a larger main image. Yet, the illustrated cover A) alludes to more of the story (and shows more of the cast) B) creates a more interesting composition, and C) has a more “premium look” because of that intangible, extra something that illustration gives it compared to its counterpart using only photography.
Now, I’m not saying that all movie covers that lack illustration are bad. However, I think the category as a whole is slighting itself with boring images of the actors looking dramatic. The criticially aclaimed The Departed, which won about a billion awards, has nothing more than shots of Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Jack Nicholson on the front. What if an illustration had been utilized? Maybe we’d have something more along the lines of The Shawshank Redemption or Torrento 3: El Protecter.