• Sa1

    Sam Ashby Studio: I’m Gonna Explode

Graphic Design

An interview with Sam Ashby, designer of fantastic, contemporary movie posters

Posted by Liv Siddall,

There are books dedicated to it, there are collectors that go wild for them, and there they are on nearly every street and tube stop in the city. What are they? Film posters, and Sam Ashby has been delighting commuters and subconsciously luring people to the cinema with them for many years now. Working as Sam Ashby Studio, the young and very cool design consultancy dedicated to “distilling a film into a single image,” he has created much loved posters for the sort of indie films that would make it on to your top ten. We asked him a few questions about what it’s like to have a lot of responsibility and a pretty dreamy job.

  • Sa

    Sam Ashby Studio: Alice in the Cities

Hi Sam, tell us a little about Sam Ashby Studios, how did it begin?

I set up the studio when I left my previous job with Allcity, a small design agency specialising in film posters. I had started there as an intern and left four years later as head designer, so it was a very steep learning curve. I had wanted to explore different kinds of work and also had the idea for Little Joe which, for one reason or another, couldn’t exist until I left and went it alone.

I assume from your studio and Little Joe magazine that you’re a bit of a film buff, am I right?

I’m useful in pub quizzes. I have a big appetite for film but there are still huge, embarrassing gaps. I love that there is still so much I haven’t seen.

  • Sa3

    Sam Ashby Studio: We Need to Talk About Kevin

Tell us a little about Little Joe magazine…

Little Joe is essentially the magazine I always wanted to read. It’s all about film but from a queer historical context. It’s a way for me to connect with what I see as a queer past, a murky, unexplored place full of incredible stories. Most film magazines fail to register on a personal level, so Little Joe is an attempt to do that.

What did you do prior to designing movie posters?

I worked in Waterstone’s in Basingstoke and sold countless copies of The DaVinci Code and Being Jordan. It was not a good time. After that I moved to London and took a short course in Illustration at Central St. Martin’s. My tutor saw my potential as a graphic designer and encouraged me to pursue that instead. He is now a great friend and we collaborate on projects together.

  • Sa4

    Sam Ashby Studio: On Tour

  • Sa5

    Sam Ashby Studio: The Turin Horse

Can you tell us a little about the process of transferring all the qualities of a film into one image?

Distilling a film into a single image is strangely intuitive. While watching the film I will sketch out ideas which often form the basis of the final poster. There will be a moment in the film that I try to recreate or that sparks an idea for a more graphic, symbolic approach. I try to create a sense of the film and be faithful to it through colour, composition and type.

Do you have any design heroes or a specific era that inspires you?

I’m interested in so many eras and try to avoid getting stuck in one style, but generally I am drawn to minimalist design. I like clarity and space and beautiful typography. I tend not to look to specific designers for inspiration, but am constantly amazed by the work of Eric Gill. I use Gill Sans a little too often. 

Is there a film maker or film that you’d particularly like to design a poster for?

I’m still hoping I’ll get to design a poster for a Tilda Swinton film that will get past the concept stage. As for filmmaker, I’d like to have had the opportunity to work with Derek Jarman.

  • Sa6

    Sam Ashby Studio: Two years at Sea

  • Sa7

    Sam Ashby Studio: Weekend

  • Sa8

    Sam Ashby Studio: Weekend

Ls-300

Posted by Liv Siddall

Liv joined It’s Nice That as an intern in 2011 and is now one of our editors. She oversees itsnicethat.com and has a particular interest in illustration, photography and music videos. She is also a regular guest and sometime host on our Studio Audience podcast.

Most Recent: Film View Archive

  1. Main

    How refreshing to see a music video that isn’t three minutes of slowly buffering and ultimately mind-bending CGI. The videos we cherish are always a combination of great idea plus low budget – which is what makes this new one for White Fence so perfect. Why has no one thought about putting a lead singer of a band in a prison for a music video before? I love the idea that no matter how much we worship bands and frontmen, if you threw them in the clanger for even an hour they wouldn’t last five minutes.

  2. Haim

    This is great! Haim have actually had a really great back catalogue of videos so far, proving to everyone that this medium is still mega-important as to how a band is seen (Metronomy also do this well). Now I may not recognise many (any) of the trendy music names that star in this video, but what I do know a lot about is chat shows. The whole video is a pastiche of ubiquitous telly fodder like Jerry Springer, Jeremy Kyle and Oprah – the gross chairs, beige set-design and on-screen graphics that remind you of Saved by the Bell that we all know and love.

  3. List

    There can be no question that ballet is one of the most enrapturing art forms out there, but I sometimes wonder if the archetypal representation of the dance as graceful, pristine and effortless quite does justice to the physicality of it. How refreshing is it to watch a short film about a ballerina, that doesn’t airbrush over the fingerprints on the mirror, the beads of sweat on the shoulder blades, the tremble of a lip as a dancer exhales?

  4. List

    You know those CDs of whale music you can buy at the tills in garden centres? If, rather than listening to those, everybody in need of a couple of minutes of downtime halfway through the afternoon could just take the time to watch The Ridge, the world would be much, much better place. It’s kind of a spectacular bit of filmmaking; filmed for Camp4 Collective in Denali National Park, Alaska, the camera sweeps across mountains buried in fluffy snow, rocky ridges brandishing over barren expanses of white and mountain faces that look curiously like old men’s faces (watch out for the moustachioed bloke at 1.40).

  5. List

    You know how it is; you’re filming your latest music video, taking instructions from cue cards administered by an overbearing director when suddenly he’s distracted and is no longer showing you what to do. Do you stop what you’re doing and risk looking like a chump or just keep on dancing until the next cue card flashes up? This is the great existential debate at the heart of Ninian Doff’s latest video for Peace, which sees him taking this line of inquiry to extremes; crashing cars and terrorising families in the process. Fun times!

  6. List

    It’s always fascinating to see how different cultures take certain musical genres and shape them into something quite unique depending on what they adopt and what they re-imagine from the original. Scene Unseen is a new video series from Bose and Vice which explores this phenomenon through three examples; indie in Mexico, electronica in India and dancehall in Japan which is the subject of the first film.

  7. Main8

    Is anyone else slightly unnerved by how happy Bill Callahan has been of late? His songs no longer deal with loneliness and somewhat terrifying obsession and now dwell on nicer, every day things such as driving in the car with your loved one as a snoozing pillion passenger. Yes I know it’s nicer to listen to songs about that sort of thing, but I kind of miss wigging out to some of his earlier classics where he would, for example, go into stark lyrical detail about arranging a woman’s lingerie into the shape of a little dolly on the bed while she’s out.

  8. List

    Every friendship has its issues. A mate I used to live with once cooked baked beans in a wok; a culinary move so baffling that I can feel the irritation welling up every time I see him (it’s now seven years after the incident). Maybe we should have gone to therapy, because it seems to be working for Daryl and Joe, the stars of this terrific unscripted web series. In each short clip the pair discuss something about the other person they believe affects their relationship; from drinking to punctuality and a racist dog to an inability to pronounce a sister’s name properly. It’s the kind of thing the web does so well; giving life to content that couldn’t really live anywhere else. It might, might, even help me get over wok-gate.

  9. Main8

    Pretty much anything created in the style of an old video game is fine by us. This partiuclar pixel art music video created by animator Mattis Davier is a thrilling, erotic voyage into creepy suburbia where we’re faced with a Twin Peaks style horror story and a lot of visuals that kind of remind me personally of the Are You Afraid of The Dark? intro.

  10. List

    Lana Del Rey is something of an opinion splitter in the studio, so it’s with great relish that we’re posting her highly-anticipated new video for Ultraviolence. In a glorious twist from the super long epic Tropico that she released in December, it’s incredibly lo-fi and brings to mind that first video for Video Games. Directed to feel like a home video made by her husband on their wedding day, it focuses pretty heavily on Lana herself; putting her veil on, eating an orange and walking to the church. Whatever you think of it, it’ll likely make you long to whack out a Super 8 camera and start writhing around in a wedding dress. Which, let’s face it, we all want to do secretly.

  11. List

    Jack Featherstone, Hans Lo and Simian Mobile Disco have long collaborated on music videos for the band’s singles, using highly complex analogue techniques to generate visuals that complement each song. But their latest offering may well be the most complex yet. Six months in the making, Tangents features live-generated digital imagery fed through an oscilloscope. The guys filmed, it, manipulated it and then knitted it all together into a four minute epic that builds from monochromatic morse dots and dashes to a full-blown crescendo of strobed psychedelia.

  12. Main

    I love how Beck is always pushing the boat out and doing something that bit more creative than other recording artists. Remember when he released stickers with his album so you could design your own CD artwork? Or that time he discussed the meaning of creativity with Doug Aitken for his show at the Liverpool Biennial? Or his astonishing Song Reader? Exactly.

  13. List

    We’ve all seen paper process films – all sun-dappled mills and babbling brooks – but we’ve never seen anything quite like Ben Stevenson and Made Thought’s jaw-dropping Bright Red for G . F Smith Colorplan. Borrowing more from the vernacular of horror than the usual creative fare, it’s an super-intense journey into the heart, and art, of making paper. Ben’s film was premiered at a series of Colour In Context events last month which took place in London, Manchester and Edinburgh. Each evening saw three speakers talk about how colour influences and inspires their practice, and you can now enjoy all the talks below. It’s Nice That was proud to media partner with G . F Smith for the series, on which we were able to work with some of our favourite creatives.