Project Four: Final Documentation


In this project, our objective was to develop a series of three posters that each act as an advertisement for one of three events in an arts festival of some sort.

In terms of requirements, each poster had to have:

  1. The title of the festival
  2. The title of the event
  3. The name of the artist(s)
  4. A short paragraph or sentence about the artist/event
  5. Date, time and location of the (fictional) event
  6. Any relevant information like ticket price, where to purchase tickets, etc.

In particular, we were supposed to utilize color and grid, as well as hierarchy and typography which we learned about from Project Three. We also used the pen tool in Illustrator for the first time, adding the element of illustrations to our posters as well. One of the main goals was to utilize these design elements to create a cohesive series, which we learned could be done using any combination of design elements.

For my particular project, I chose to create a Studio Ghibli film festival series, focusing on the screening of three films: Princess Mononoke, My Neighbor Totoro, and Spirted Away. Some of the research details I used in my posters can be found here.

Initial sketches

In my initial sketches I made 3 of each poster. At this point I was still not sure if I was going to do Howl’s Moving Castle or My Neighbor Totoro, so I based my sketches on Howl’s Moving Castle knowing that when it came to digital iterations that it would be the harder of the two to illustrate.

From the get-go I tried to incorporate a grid and separate text from a main graphic that represented the movie on each poster. In terms of text hierarchy, I knew the title of the movie would be highest so I made sure to either give it priority in terms of size or centered placement.

Two of the 3 overall designs were focused on a similar type of graphic — either a face, mask, or icon within the movie that would draw the viewer in. The third focused on a famous item of scenery in each movie — though I liked this idea conceptually I definitely knew it would be a challenge to create digitally.

In my head, I was thinking a little bit about the Medea poster from the Swiss Poster Exhibit, that was very clean and sparse but had a single ‘m’ that brought forth meaning in the poster that was relevant to the meaning of the play. I used this idea when I went into digital iterations by using mostly black and off-white.

Digital iterations

A lot of time in digital iterations was figuring out what I could make successfully using the pen tool. I found that the houses and poster design that included scenery and backgrounds was way too complicated for me to complete, which pushed me towards the two designs that had faces and masks.

I also found that the digital iteration I made of the Howl’s Moving Castle fire did not look very ‘fire-like’ so I decided to stick to My Neighbor Totoro instead.

At first I tried the sideways-title idea, but I found it difficult to read both in uppercase and lowercase. Instead I decided to make an iteration of the designs featuring the illustrations falling off the page. Though I liked the appearance of the poster I wasn’t sure if it functioned well in terms of information. I also found that I had a lot of information and not a lot of space, so I tried to use a column grid to make the information easy to read.

Critique and refinement in digital iterations

After producing my first draft of posters, this was the critique I received:

  • A lot of text on the top makes it feel like less of an event poster
  • Poster could be more noticeable from a distance
  • Liked the tracings/creatures/illustrations
  • Stroke colors
  • Disorganized text
  • Consistency between posters made them feel like a series
  • Not a lot of hierarchy in the text itself
  • Effective use of color
  • Some liked the layout but others thought I should play around more
  • Minimalist, clean, simplistic feel
  • Too much text

After this critique, I learned that for the most part my poster seemed to be hitting the right marks — it was interesting to look at, and it had all the right information. People liked the illustrations, so I knew they were interesting enough to pursue fixing and refining during the next iteration of my posters.

The biggest problem was that the information was not organized well, with big blocks of text at the top that no one really bothered to read. I definitely felt after reading the critique that my work was not very consistent or purposeful in the way text was presented, especially because a lot of the smaller text was all the same size. To fix this I want to do two things: 1, cut the amount of text on the poster. It turns out I do not need a full on paragraph, and I definitely included extraneous information that I would not include on a real movie screening poster if it was up to me. 2, I want to make the text look more cohesive and implement some proper hierarchy in it.

Some people also commented that I could be more creative with the font and layout of the poster, and I felt like some of the comments implied that my posters did not suggest a movie or a screening of any sort, and seemed more formal than I wanted the event to be. I also attributed this to the sans serif font, which was very clean and minimalist, but also lacked the fun or cartoon-y aspect of the films that I wanted to bring forth. For my next iteration, I am planning on playing with the font and seeing if something more playful adds or takes away from the simple layout I’ve made.

As for color, one person commented on stroke colors, which was something I had noticed when making my posters but decided to change afterwards since I had to go print and it seemed like a little detail. I think people did really like the consistent color palette between the three graphics on each poster, but I myself felt like they were a little too much. I remember in class we discussed how dark colors suck in light colors and make them smaller — in this way, I felt that the text was eaten up by the black background. It was nice how the black contrasted against the graphics. Julia also mentioned that she would be interested in seeing the posters with colored backgrounds rather than black, so in future iterations I think I will be playing with the colors, particularly that of the background.

No one in particular commented on the grid, which made me feel like it was not very obvious or present in the poster. In the future, I want to make it look more purposeful, since I think a clear grid will make the text look both interesting and purposeful, as well as easier to parse and read.

Post-critique changes

Below are the series of iterations between my first draft and my final product. I would say this is the largest amount of change I have had between desk crits/mini crits and my final product so far — though the center piece of each poster remains the same, the way it is presented is very different (not bleeding off the page, not as large but still the focus of the poster).

These are the changes I made:

I boiled down the text to the important details and ranked them visually, with highest hierarchy at the top of the page and more detailed information at the bottom of the page. At first I had all of the text at the top half of the poster, but after playing with it I found having the informative text and ticketing information at the bottom more effective, because it forces the reader to begin at the top of the page and end at the bottom to get all the information. It also gives more interest throughout the poster instead of a contrast between text on top and image on the bottom — I can imagine someone getting drawn into the image or the text but not both.

I played around with color of the background and of the illustrations themselves. I found that on my print the color of the red in particular was too dark so I lightened that, and I played around with the color of the orange in the eyes of the Princess Mononoke mask as well. When I began playing with color of the background, I first made the background the same color as the Princess Mononoke mask and made the mask black. I thought it made the poster more alluring in general and less dark, so I decided to do something similar with the rest of the posters, using featured colors or themes from the illustrations to color the background and the text color.

After checking my research I also noticed that the Spirited Away mask markings should have been a sort of blue or lavender color so I changed it. I tried to use the same saturation of color for all of the backgrounds, and I liked having some contrast between the posters (red, indigo/purple and brown background, different colors but same saturation). I tried to make the text a light version of whatever hue the background was, so there was a sense of unity between the text and the information. Before there was some strangeness to the text, where it seemed to just ‘be there’ obstructing the graphic, whereas now it blended in enough to be related to the rest of the poster but stood out enough in contrast that it was readable.

I also played around with the font. Though people did say they liked the font because it was minimalist, I felt that it did not represent the movies themselves well. I wanted to include the kind of whimsical and hand-drawn feeling that these animated films have, especially because my illustrations were quite flat. I picked a font that looked like rough brush strokes to give that feel (Mitral) and decided to use it only on the top half of the information since it was hard to read the smaller text on the bottom with that font. I liked it because it drew viewers in without being obnoxiously cartoon-y, while still conveying a fun feel compared to the very clean and even font I used before (Myriad).

Though not pictured here, I played around with the rigid box of text in the top half of the poster. I was contemplating having a single box (the title, studio, date, time and place) for all the information, or two boxes with one smaller than the other (studio, date, time place all in a smaller box, still centered on the image). After showing it to some of my peers they stated that it looked like the second smaller box was not married to the one above it, and that the boxy shape gave more unity to the text as a whole. I ended up sticking with that.

To develop the box shape, I played around with the font size and decided to give highest hierarchy to the title (the viewer needs to know what this poster is for), studio (the artist deserves credit), and date+time (help the viewer decide whether they can come to the event). As a result these have the largest size and are near the top of the poster so they are read first. All other information is in a smaller size, and because the colors are done so there is a dark background and light text, the smaller details aren’t relevant or seen until the reader looks for them. In other words the small text does not interfere with the hierarchy of the title, studio and date+time, which is what I wanted.

In an effort to improve craftsmanship, I cleaned up the line art and redrew some of the illustrations, and I also used rulers on each poster to align text. Spirited Away has a little difference in text if only because the title is so large, since I used a consistent column width for each space of text in the top half of each poster. I also developed a logo to make it look more professional, and did multiple iterations of the logo with different colors. I wanted the logo to not be too obtrusive so I ended up using mostly black in it and a little bit of beige text (same color of beige that is used in all the illustrations) so the logo was noticeable and readable but also understated.

Final Product


This project taught me so much about practical communication design. Even though our last poster was about communication, I feel like this one was so real because this is the kind of event I would really hold. As a result I felt very connected to what I was doing and I could look at it from a real world perspective; for example, I could have focused on making my poster artistically beautiful rather than working so much on the type, but at the end of the day these posters needed to not only convey an idea in appearance but also in content.

I also definitely see how there are so many approaches to how we communicate ideas. In this problem I had a really hard time making the ‘right’ choice, and that’s fundamentally a part of design: making tons and tons of little changes, saving them all, and looking back and seeing which one is the most effective. I really understood that during the critique, when I saw my posters against everyone else’s. Some people made huge changes to their poster that really helped the readability and communication of their design, whereas others stuck to what was safe or culturally normal (which made it easy to read, though perhaps less interesting to look at visually). Others had small changes to presentation that, while perhaps thought out with good intent, actually detracted from their work. Alternatively, sometimes the littlest changes made a huge difference — I felt that the logo, while not a huge portion of my own piece, made it more official and event-like than it was before.

For the final project, I know that I will need to give a lot more time to creating sketches before hand and doing digital iterations. I find that I can be quite meticulous when it comes to illustrator so I get frustrated easily and spend hours fixing one initial design, when I should really quickly draft a lot of ideas and work from there. I am excited for the book project, and I think with some proper planning before hand I should be able to experiment more and hopefully create a better design as a result of the extra thought put in during the early design stages!

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