Guest Post: Alexis Hickox, Graphic Designer and Friend

Design Inspired by Film.

Art Inspired by Art.

It is rare to get a project that allows for “complete creative freedom.” Even when this phrase is expressed in earnest, opinions are plentiful, and a certain direction usually predetermined. Landon Coats, however, proved to be a man of his word. He approached me earlier this year with a script and asked if I would create the poster for his film, You’re Grounded. That essentially was the entire design brief. Challenge accepted.

It’s important to know the story if my job is to entice others to see it. After reading the script a few times, I wrote down my emotional responses and reactions. I am inspired first by my feelings. If my design could elicit the same; success. Thankfully, Landon gave me a working version of the film as well, which guaranteed that the tone and vibe of Landon’s vision would carry through to my final piece.

After looking at the haphazardly scribbled brainstorm in my sketchbook, I chose the top twenty or so words/phrases to integrate into the design. I knew upon assignment that I wanted to wordplay off the title’s meaning of parental house arrest and literally being close to the ground. I knew that the poster needed to be dark and sepia toned in order to match the film’s cinematography. I wanted something minimalist in order for the audience to feel uncertain and curious about the plot. Dark empty space has this wonderful way of representing both the unknown and loneliness. The type needed to be bold and legible yet imperfect. It needed to portray the same uneasiness of the film.

As these thoughts swirled, I circled the word “door” in my sketchbook. This would be the only image. A door immediately hints at the film’s major arc while simultaneously symbolizing the anticipation a thriller demands. A single lonely yet menacing door. A door is nothing new on film posters. Usually they appear as large wide open doors with ominous figures at the threshold as in The Boogeyman, Beyond the Door II, and Wolves at the Door. The most eerie and evocative of these use limited color palettes with one light source. After sketching several different iterations, I had my solution. A tight textured and tense composition literally resting on the bottom third. The door and the type would be supported by a heavily shadowed floor all enveloped by the darkness.

The nerve-wracking part as a designer is translating the solution into something palpable. Though there is a nuanced feel to what makes a design “right,” it really starts and ends with a mundane list of things to do. 1.Refer to the sketches and choose the right door. (Yes, different doors will make you feel different things.) 2.Make sure the chosen type works next to the door. 3.Determine where the light will be directed. 4.Did you spell the actors names right? 5.Is the spacing correct? This list could go on and on. Every element is there by design and for good reason. Perhaps the real nerve-wracking part of the process when given “complete creative freedom” is presenting the final composition to the client. Will they understand the visual interpretation? What do you think?

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