From the Design Desk: The Art of Covers for a Collection of Movie Posters

It’s easy to get the appeal of The Art of the Modern Movie Poster. Fresh from the press, the book is gorgeous. It’s over 500 pages, with about 1,500 international postwar movie posters, weighing as much as full a grown English bulldog. It doesn’t get much more comprehensive than that. This fat puppy should appeal to movie lovers and design-minded individuals, and therein lays one of the great challenges in coming up with the best cover.

Designers Judith Salavetz and Spencer Drate, based in New York, naturally started out with images that appealed to them; quickly the challenges became evident. Besides needing to appeal to film and design audiences, the cover also needed to convey the book’s great mass. The cover needed to be indicative the $75 price tag and of its expansive coverage.

They tried multiple images / grid approach to illustrate the wide range of posters.

Meanwhile, the Chronicle in-house design team also looked at covers with single appealing posters.

Easy enough, but they still looked too much like small paperbacks.

We tried to find iconic images with a strong impact and pull. Favorites emerged in the design process, but none rose above the rest as a definite winner. Although these covers had potential, they failed to convey the rich denseness of the interior.

The book has stunning, rare, Czech posters from the late 40s, American pulp posters from the 50s, and Italian classics. Since none of our iconic, single image covers seemed able to convey that, we too tried the grid approach.

In the end, the chosen cover was a dense grid of posters on a metallic silver background. We didn’t want to take away from the beautiful typography on the posters, so we put the title on a removable and recyclable bellyband. Undeniably graphic and lush, it’s possible to stare at this cover for hours . . . the inside could last you a lifetime.

Suzanne LaGasa

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