An idea? On a film poster?

A meeting of two brilliant minds – Hans Hilmann and Jean-Luc Godard – resulted in a series of ads that are everything most film posters are not

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The designer did brilliantly. But so did the client. In this instance the client was the great film director Jean-Luc Godard. During the late 60s and early 70s, he commissioned the equally great designer Hans Hillmann to create a series of posters. They were for the German releases of his movies. This one is for Vivre sa Vie. It’s just one of many classic designs that resulted from the partnership.

Of course you can’t always have a creative giant of the 20th century as a client. But this is what happens when you do. Such was the trust and respect in the designer’s abilities, Godard gave Hillmann carte blanche to create something wonderful. So he did. And then Godard bought it. Ah, if only life was always like that.

I somehow think the army of producers, PR professionals and studio executives behind the latest Hollywood blockbuster won’t be able to keep things quite so simple. And we all know the predictable, formulaic, ignorable garbage that will result. A great shame. And more importantly, a complete waste of money.

In fact this poster is everything that your average movie poster isn’t.

For a start, where are the actors? Instead we get a brilliantly clever visual. Yes, an actual idea. On a film poster. Wow. Such a bizarrely rare thing. Why don’t more film posters have ideas in them? It would make them more effective because people would actually remember them. But back to the visual. The film is about a woman who becomes a prostitute. A narrative simply and brilliantly expressed in a zipper unzipping to create a female form. Very clever (the graphic gift is often there in any subject matter if we just look).

The typography is also different to your average movie poster. For a start, there isn’t much of it. And what little there is, has been set beautifully in just one typeface and one colour. (It’s interesting to see the cinematographer’s name above the actors.) The type perfectly complements the stark black and white, minimal visual. The distributor’s logo is also well handled, perfectly positioned in the lower right corner.

That’s it. Except for the interesting subtle red to green gradients across the whole poster.

Why on earth can’t all movie posters be this good? Do we really need yet another vacuous picture of a row of Hollywood stars? And zero ideas? And multiple logos? And lines and lines of small print and credits that nobody ever reads? And all the other clichés? You know, the typical received wisdom (or should that be received ignorance) of the genre?

The answer of course is very simple. Clients. Just going through the motions, doing what all the other bad clients do. Desperately trying to avoid any potential criticism. And ending up with boring, invisible, lowest common denominator rubbish.

Not enough is said about the need for creative people to persevere in the face of client ineptitude, cynicism or bullying. Let’s face it, it’s an all-too-common fact of life. For what it’s worth, my tip is very simple. If you don’t show them crap then they can’t run it. Try it. It works.

Paul Belford is the founder of multi-award-winning advertising, branding, graphic design and digital agency Paul Belford Ltd, based in London. He tweets from @belford_paul and more of his work can be found at

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