Historically, the film poster is a rather tricky thing to design. It has to be big, bold and punchy in both its visuals and communication and it is universally recognised as no easy feat. The designs have to possess that perfect equilibrium between just enough, but not too information, and have to grab the passer-by’s attention at the same time. For Siyoung Park however, this task is a daily recurrence, for his graphic design studio, Bitnaneun, specialises in the design of film posters.
Since 2006, the Seoul-based studio has designed a multitude of posters across all genres of cinema. From independent Korean flicks, to Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel and Sean Baker’s The Florida Project, Siyoung has designed for all manner of films big and small. For the Korean designer, graphic design is not just a job, it is “the most common and equal medium in modern times,” he tells It’s Nice That. Wholly ubiquitous, he cites the integral importance of his job which informs everything from the names embroidered into our children’s socks to the logo carved into the thermos of any poor trade worker.
He recalls the first time he realised the importance of the discipline. “It was probably when I was about six or seven years old, it was when I first understood Hangul,” explains Siyoung. Born into a poor neighbourhood, Siyoung didn’t have the opportunity to read or write properly as a child. His mother learnt to read the signs in the market one by one, learning the written Korean form by connective food signs with their products. So for Siyoung, “it was not just a language, but also a beautiful form.”
With designing film posters however, Siyoung likens the condensing process to “replacing a novel with a passage of poetry.” Compressing a film of approximately two hours into a single image, he considers the fundamental essence of the film, and curates this information onto the page. Nowadays, the most important aspect of a film poster to get right is the colour.
“A lot of thought goes into the colour treatment of film, it captures the overall mood of the film,” says Siyoung. Not only that, but colour is also an “easy means of entertaining the public.” If cleverly selected, a colour palette alone can grab the viewer’s eye, regardless of the composition, and in this vein, Siyoung makes the most of original colour combinations to catch the public’s attention.
He talks us through three recent designs for the three recently launched films in Korea. Maggie, a Korean film released last month in September, is in the words of the designer, “a funky movie filled with many metaphors.” Designing a poster based on Gilbert and George’s ecclesiastical artworks, Siyoung peppers the film’s visual motifs throughout the poster designs. Most importantly incorporating the colour orange into the design, signifying the colour of the male protagonist’s pants.
For Jonah Hill’s writing and directing debut, Mid90s, Siyoung’s poster design centres on the trends of the decade. “I was a teenager during the 90s,” says the designer, but the 90s he experienced in Korea was pointedly different from Jonah Hill’s expression of nostalgia depicted in the film. Though subcultures such as skateboarding were unfamiliar back in Siyoung’s native landscape, the designer emphasised the visual language of this subculture to evoke Hill’s sense of nostalgia. Constantly asking himself, “does this poster entertain people?” as well as “does the poster resemble the film?” throughout the design process, Siyoung’s sensitive and considered posters are a remarkable snippet of moving image.
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