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großes kino exhibition catalog_colour reproduction / interview_111123


the staatliche museen zu berlin (state museum in berlin) wrote and printed a 280 page catalog for their großes kino exhibition. the catalog was beautifully designed by sandstein verlag and it details every aspect of the exhibition. included within its pages is a full page colour reproduction of the poster we made for alexandra stergiou’s short film the act of coming out, and an interview with german graphic designer christiane feneberg, MUBI germany’s director of distribution lysann windisch, and caspar.

the interview, titled “between paper and pixel: film posters today”, was conducted live on zoom by christina thompson, and then later edited for clarity. here are a few excerpts:

CT: In your professions – as designers and distributor – you are dealing with advertising and communicating films on a daily basis. In this, the film poster is only one aspect of many. How important would you say it is in what you do?

CF: The word “poster” is perhaps a little restrictive. 50 years ago, the printed poster may have been the main piece of publicity for a film, but nowadays, the scope is much broader. Contemporary designers create artwork that gets used for many different purposes, from mega prints to small website banners. So what we do is more like a corporate design for the movie than just a poster. Today, everyone is used to getting information visually – images are what attracts us, what makes us stop and think. That means: designers have the most powerful tools to communicate films. I mainly work with distributors in Germany, both creating fresh artwork and adapting existing designs. Hence, I look at the topic more from the marketing side, less from the art side.

LW: At MUBI, we also never talk about the “poster” but about the “key artwork” for a film. The key art is a central element of a campaign: it defines the look by being customised to each communication channel, whether this is a small digital banner or a large scale out of home promotion. As to the ratio, I’d say at least 50% of our communication output is centred around the film’s artwork. The rest of the campaign is built on moving images such as the trailer.

CN: I agree, but things look different from my perspective. I spend much of my time making physical posters for films. Generally, I am approached by film directors who have a powerful emotional attachment to their work. They are less interested in website advertising or such like. What they want is something beautiful to go on their wall, a poetic image that emotionally captures the piece of cinema they have spent years of their life making. For them, the film poster is like an album cover – you know, in the music industry album covers rarely ever change. I will make a film poster for them, but only the poster, as most of the best images cannot just be reformatted to fit any shaped hole.

CT: So the perfect film poster for you is one that remains unaltered?

CN: In a way, yes. The film poster, in its traditional format, has a great power. It is faster than a trailer, faster than reading a review. It captures the film in a glance, and it grabs your attention, whether someone is scrolling on their phone or walking down the street. If you make this glimpse unique and interesting enough, they’ll stop and wonder: why does it look like that? – and perhaps consider seeing the film.

CT: So is the film poster indeed one of the most restrictive fields of graphic design?

CN: Many of my contemporaries in the field are traumatised and underpaid. They are constantly coerced into making their work worse. They spend endless hours diluting the work with pointless revisions, and are left with pieces they’d never willingly put in their portfolio. As a result, they lose trust in themselves and struggle to get the jobs they want– they have effectively become someone else’s photoshop hands. I have fought hard to reverse this situation: I present several ideas to a client as text and reference image only and after some discussion ask them to choose just one. I then make the poster and what I come up with is effectively what we must work with. This way, I am free to produce what I believe to be the greatest possible poster. As a result, I hold myself to a much higher standard than they would or could, and I can really experiment. Plus: I sidestep the suffering.

CF: Occasionally, I have been tortured, too. Having worked with distributors for many years, I understand their needs well. But sometimes it just doesn’t go smoothly.

CN: I have been fired several times by distributors. For me the quality of the work comes first, and the money second. I’m of course not rich, but I can’t sleep at night if I’ve done bad work. They quickly forget that they couldn’t do it without us and it’s only when that understanding is established and respected, really beautiful things can happen. Then there’s a conversation rather than a bullet point list from them of changes to be made, like bullet holes in the work.

CT: Lysann, how does this look from a marketing point of view?

LW: I am speaking from a luxurious position, as MUBI has a whole creative team inhouse to create campaigns. All designers are employed. I hope that our gifted creative director, Pablo Mantin, is not suffering like Caspar and other designers. As a global platform, we work across territories, building international campaigns for our films – quite unlike the situation dealt with by most distributors in Germany or other countries. Ours is a complex process that needs a lot of listening and understanding, because online design and distribution have different needs and expectations. And some filmmakers also have a strong opinion on how a film should be communicated.

CT: The film poster has a long history of being scalded for tastelessness and bad design. Today, too, you often hear it described as generic, unimaginative, formulaic. How much truth is in that?

CN: I’d say for every beautiful poster (whatever we believe that to be) there are around 50 terrible ones, made globally by people trying to very safely market certain kinds of films, be it comedies, horror or action films. We all know the poster types: movie-star heads, guns, 3D shattered typefaces, a backdrop of explosions etcetera. The companies producing them usually have a lot more money to put up their posters all over the world, while the interesting ones don’t tend to have much reach. So the public get the impression that film posters are generally bad – whereas in fact, it is just power by numbers.

CF: It is all about daring to do things differently. Yet the main enemy of design courage is money: if you produce or buy a film, you have to get your investment back – so you play it safe. The assumption is that if a thing has worked once, it can be used as a formula. In briefings, I often get such references. At the end of the day, however, going to the movies is still a special experience. So I remain hopeful that distributors will dare new paths and change the recipe a bit more often.

LW: Yes. Working internationally, I have learned that, to a certain extent, you have to trust people to understand what you want to communicate. Perhaps German distributors don’t do that enough.

CN: I brought a quote which I think sums up a lot of what we were discussing. The Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky said in 1984: “Cinema is an unhappy art, because it depends on money. Not only because a film is very expensive, but it is also then marketed like cigarettes. A film is good if it sells well. But if cinema is art, then such an approach is absurd. It would mean that art is only good if it sells well.” With film being such an incredibly expensive art form, it seems understandable that marketing wants to attract everybody – it just cannot afford risks. And that’s where, design-wise, things start to suffer.

CF: Then again, maybe not every not every film poster can be art, or has to be art. It is also simply publicity. People decide for themselves if they want see an arthouse film or a cineplex movie. Is every chain-produced Marvel production a piece of art? Or is it a commercial project? Personally, I consciously chose being a graphic designer, not an independent artist. I believe it is OK that both exists. Big blockbusters don’t have to be ashamed of their commercial artwork, but it’s also very nice and refreshing to have individual, even arty, independent film posters.

CT: To sum up, let’s briefly consider digitalisation. Would you say the printed film poster is dying out?

LW: I wouldn’t say that. We still produce many analogue and haptic things, such as the printed version of our film magazine, the Notebook. This experiments creatively with different designs, adding another layer to campaigns. And for me, thinking about the printed version of a poster is just as important as thinking about a digital version. Nevertheless, we need formats to be adaptable to different communication channels, standardised versions don’t really work.

CN: I regard this hyper-adaptability with some caution. Watching a film on the big screen, you see many more details than you would on your phone, for example. In the same way, a poster tells you so much more than a small display, and it creates different emotions. There’s a value to understanding the different formats and how they work. I am sure that one day, there will be digital screens everywhere. That will also herald animated film posters – which is a whole other dimension. But then I think fondly of vinyl records. Why are they still here? Because people like holding the artwork, they like tactile, haptic things. It’s the same with paper posters.

we’d once again like to thank christina thompson and christina dembny at kunstbibliothek for creating such an extraordinary, in-depth and thought provoking exhibition and catalog. if you have the means, do see the show before it closes march 3rd, 2024. in the meantime you can purchase a copy of the exhibition catalog here.

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criterion collection, saul bass interview_050820


today marks the 100th anniversay of the birth of saul bass, whom in our book is one of the greatest graphic designers there’s been yet. to celebrate this day criterion collection—amongst other things—interviewed a few living title designers about the impact saul bass has had on their work. caspar was included in the selection and wrote about saul and his wife elaine’s work on the west side story title sequence. here is an excerpt from what caspar had to say:

“Around that time, I attended an exhibition of his work in London and heard a recording of Bass talking about an argument he’d had with Otto Preminger while creating the title sequence for The Man with the Golden Arm. It was from hearing about that particular fight that I started to learn about the nature of good collaboration in graphic design, and also about how much can be said with so little material.”

and here’s another:

“The part of this sequence that means the most to me is where Saul and Elaine wrote their initials into the graffiti on the background wall not once, not twice, but three times. At least one of those times, their initials are written inside a heart. For me, it’s this desire to include personal touches like this that often makes good work exceptional. Their joy and their care for what they did is present from start to finish, to the point where they’ve included a piece of their personal lives within it.

As a graphic designer and filmmaker, I’ve always had the goal to not only make everything I do by hand (even the typography) but to film live-action title sequences when possible. That requires immense trust from the directors and producers.”

a huge thank you to hillary weston, andrew chan and all at criterion.

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wild light_100313

65_wildlight_cover_750

creative review?asked?to include 65daysofstatic’s wild light album cover in their monthly round-up of great album covers. in doing so they interviewed us about what went into the making of the sleeve –

could you tell me more about the inspiration for this design, how it relates to the music and how you came up with the idea?

65daysofstatic have always had a strong socio-politcal mindset whether that has directly influenced their music or not. therefore it came as no surprise to me that whilst in the studio they’d read and discussed a wide array of contemporary and historical political and artistic literature. for this reason when they approached me to create the artwork for the album i was given a good deal more than just their definition of the term ‘wild light’.

leading with ezra pound’s imagist poem ‘in a station of the metro’ they lead me down a path of minimalist, suprematist and futurist thinking including snippets of conversations they’d had over instant messenger, photographs of sculptures, scans of paintings and lengthy 20th century manifestos. my favourites of which were a book called ‘the vagrant light of stars’ which depicted a memorial to albert einstein being launched into deep space traveling on a beam of light, and a supremacist, communist, modern art children’s book called ‘about 2 squares.’

i’d had the demos for the songs for a while and around the time I received the above documents from the band i’d been given a near final version of the album. what struck me immediately was that whilst minimal in its conception, cinematically speaking the sounds on the record created some incredibly beautiful, richly coloured and vibrant images in my head. tracks like ‘heat death infinity splitter’ and ‘the undertow’ took my mind from a sense of something vast moving through the chaotic depths of outer space, right down to microscopic organisms and cells living in our oceans and under our skin.

bearing all of this in mind I made the cover you see now. appropriately adopting where possible various lines in supremacist, futurist and imagist visual thinking, i created a wide-format piece that i felt resonated with the music as much as with those old explorations of artistic expression. if those were one band of hapless, anti-establishment types trying to evolve our way of thinking about and perceiving the world, here was another band with their designer in tow – trying his best at the impossible task of visualizing music for those who’ve seen everything before.

i understand you’re a fan of 65daysofstatic – how important is it, do you think, that the designer creating cover art engages with or enjoys the music?

in 2006 i wrote to 65 and asked if my business partner giles and I could make their website. i’d seen them live in 2005 in london and knew that – like many of the bands I’ve asked to work with over the years – i’d make my best work if their music was the soundtrack to it. little did I know we’d become such good friends and that I’d be sitting here today having finished not just my third album cover for them, but also the best record cover I think I’ve made to date.

from my perspective being a fan of the music is essential. i give talks to independent filmmakers here in New york on the same subject. I implore them to not pay money to anyone that isn’t already immediately and very clearly a fan of the film they have made. money cannot and will not ever be enough motivation to make a truly beautiful and appropriate design or piece of artwork. despite having worked over 10 years in this role, i continue produce some of my worst work when I am not a fan of the film or music i’m working to support.

the graphic designer david carson pointed out that it’s a gross misconception that you should not judge a book by its cover. everything about how a band presents itself is a reflection of the amount they have cared for and thought about the the music they have made. a record cover is a huge responsibility, particularly so when you’re handed a record like ‘wild light.’ something this good demands to be heard and it’s my job to make sure someone clicks on that cover on the net or picks up that record in the store, even if just out of curiosity. It’s debatable to this day whether an image can represent a sound, but I work based on the belief that you can at least try to achieve such a thing.

an excerpt from this interview can be found on the creative review website here, along with some write-ups of some other great covers. we hope the above interview gives people some further insight into what it’s like working with a band like 65daysofstatic, who’s intense worth-ethic continues to push us to new levels.

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caspar vs. monocle magazine_022813

monocle march 2013 cover

caspar was recently interviewed for monocle magazine. here’s an excerpt from the piece –

describe your work with bands.
i am responsible for visually creating their sound. i get images in my head from listening to their music and create everything from sleeves, posters and videos to documentaries. i only work with bands i like.

is art more influential in the music business now?
record labels have faded. bands work with us on artwork and we in turn can become a catalyst for them working with each other. it’s a creative nucleus. we all talk online but it’s as though we’re meeting up in a bar. it’s unusual that so many bands are grouped around us, linked by interest in our design ethic rather than necessarily sharing a musical theme. i’m treated like a band member – i’ve even gone on tour.

we’d like to thank belinda bamber for conducting such a wonderful interview, and of course?joshua simpson?for taking the great photographs.

you can read the rest of the interview here. the magazine itself is in stores now.

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caspar vs. black book magazine_021612


caspar was recently interviewed for black book magazine. here’s an excerpt from the piece –

how do you go about your creative process?
i?d say for me, it?s just read / watch / listen to anything you’ve been given a hundred times over until your brain is utterly saturated with and then just lie on your back and let your brain subconsciously do the work for you, and it will. it will tie, much the way dreams do, all manner of strange elements together based on personal experiences of old and the new elements you’ve introduced to it. in this way, i love the way david lynch?s writes his films. he?ll have one scene that?s just come to him out of nowhere that for some reason means a lot to him, and then another scene after it that?s this completely different — an unrelated thing that he also loves. he?s then compelled to put them in a film together and somehow find another scene that will perhaps connect them or explain why that was happening. it was the power of the two original scenes that lead to this new scene being made, rather than any sort of linear thinking process where you start with one scene and try and think of what might happen next. this is a hugely important way of approaching things because people don?t necessarily think ideas work like that.

you can read the rest of the interview?here.

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tron soundtrack –
javascript site of the month in .net magazine_032911


we’ve just had it confirmed that the site we did for daft punk’s TRON: legacy score, tronsoundtrack.com, was javascript site of the month in the january issue of .net magazine. click here to read the full PDF including a short interview with us about the making of the site. huge thanks again to remy sharp, mr doob, topspin and disney for the hook-up!

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love & glamour_090910


it seems like forever ago that we were first asked to work on this. watching the campaign go live now, it’s fair to say we still can’t believe we’re responsible for it. it’s easily the most elegant, refined, high-end and sophisticated website we’ve ever put together. a long time ago we did an interview where the journalist theorized that we just needed that one project to prove what we were really capable of. never in a million years did we think jennifer lopez of all people would be giving us that chance.

in short, the concept speaks for itself and since the campaign is still running, we won’t ruin its carefully crafted mystique by going into too much detail here. however to really get a feel for it we suggest you read the campaign blog post here and play around with the small, interactive scenes we built. completing each one brings you ?a step closer to the prize whilst simultaneously giving you a flavour for the overarching old hollywood, classic film noir aesthetic of love & glamour.

above all we’d like to thank all those at selectNY for being so fantastic at what they do. it’s not often you can get great ideas made. all those times you see something original, excellent and thought provoking in the mainstream media, someone will have fought very hard to make it happen. much harder than you think. selectNY believed in us and worked hard to make this happen, providing us with idealogical support and some truly excellent photography along the way.

loveandglamour.com

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03.01.08_010308


we have just launched our website for the vietnamese fashion house ipa-nima. we hope you dig it! also, caspar has just been interviewed by wise elephant over on their blog. you can read the full transcript here. happy 2008, everyone!

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