We were browsing Twitter one day when we saw a film poster for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and thought we’d stumbled across the official poster.
You could have blown us down with a feather when we realised it was the work of local designer David Williams – and then found out his incredible array of bespoke film posters.
You get, what, half a second to impress your audience with something as instantly gratifying – or not – as a poster? Fail and you’re forgotten. Succeed and poster art transcends the function and can become something else entirely (which is why Blade Runner and Hammer poster adorn our homesteads).
So, from that initial Twitter contact we sought, out David for an interview and discovered that Back To The Future was to blame…
What do you do?
I’m a full time graphic designer based in a studio in Liverpool City Centre so design is my day job as well as my hobby. Because my day job is often governed by brand guidelines and can sometimes be quite restrictive I’ve often taken on freelance work in my spare time which lets me be much more creative.
After the usual school path I studied a degree in Product Design at JMU, from there I noticed I wasnt the best when it came to the ergonomics and precise measurements that designing products required, but I did have a real passion for the graphics side of things so I took a year out then enrolled in a Masters course in Graphic Design & Communication at Salford University.
In that one year I learnt more and had so much more fun than I did in the three years I spent at JMU. I gain some experience for a number of Liverpool design agencies including Bolland & Lowe, Kaleidoscope then finally got my break at the studio I’m at now and things have just snowballed from there.
How did you get into designing film posters?
Bizarrely, it was through watching the TV show Entourage. I was a massive fan and really wanted to buy some of the fake movie posters as seen on the show so I googled them, only to find that they didn’t exist. I decided to design my own versions and create something more bespoke.
Around the same time, the 25th Anniversary of Back to the Future was coming up so I designed a simple Saul Bass inspired poster to commemorate my favourite movie of all time. I sold 50 prints via my blog and was amazed at the success of the print so I just went from there. Since then Ive designed posters for the whole BTTF trilogy, the latest Marvel movies and various other current films.
I’ve also been commissioned to design posters for small budget films, charity auctions and movie nights at a chain of London based independent cinemas. I’ve always made sure my prints are limited edition so I never make more than 50 of them.
People really love the limited edition aspect of it. There’s a good chance you will have something on your wall that none of your friends have which makes it that little bit more special.
Can people commission you?
I’m happy to design anything from a one off print to a batch of 50 posters. I’m currently working in collaboration with the Everyman Cinemas in London to design a monthly poster for their Cult Movie night.
Who buys your stuff?
There is a really wide range of people who buy my work. I suppose the core group are 18-40’s but they seem to come from all over the world. I think I’ve sold posters to over 15 countries now and built up a really great customer base worldwide. Twitter has been instrumental in this as it is the perfect platform to quickly and easily promote my latest work.
What’s the process you go through when designing a new poster?
I always start with research, it’s vital that I feel like I get an understanding for the film so if it is available I try and watch the movie a couple of times and sketch ideas or take notes on iconic moments that symbolise the story.
Once I’m happy with some sketched concepts I work them up on the Mac; play with colours, layouts and typography but to me the most important thing is the idea, if that is strong enough then the rest will take care of itself.
I then get my work printed as 24×18″ posters on some lovely matt stock to give it a really nice finish.
Whose stuff do you like?
Its very cliched but Saul Bass is obviously a massive inspiration. His posters and title sequences have been a huge influence on the whole movie industry. As a poster designer its also hard to not be in awe of Drew Struzan who illustrated the posters for classic films such as Back to the Future and Indiana Jones.
Studios nowadays seem to churn out badly photoshopped predictable rubbish all the time, which are all so samey. To me, movie posters are the film equivalent of an album sleeve, you want it to remind you about the good things in that film, you want it to be personal and collectible and cherish it and actually mean something.
You look at the recent posters for films like Twilight, which are basic studio shots laid onto an atmospheric background and then compare that to the original Indiana Jones poster and there really is no contest!
What else could you do with your designs?
So far I’ve stuck to posters, but t-shirts seem like the next natural step. The problem for me is that I work on such a limited budget that posters are a lot more flexible.
Anyone can buy a poster but doing tees would require buying stock in various sizes, which is a bit more risky. If any t-shirt manufacturers have a solution feel free to get in touch!