Exercise part 2: Soviet remakes

‘A film festival in Gdansk, Poland is screening a selection of classic Hollywood films as part of a retrospective on the cinema of the Cold War era. They want you to redesign the posters for these films in the style of Soviet film posters.

Choose a classic Hollywood film to work with; use the title of the film, names of the director and the lead actors for text, and any appropriate images that connect with the film.

Start by researching Soviet film posters and the Constructivist artists. Reflect on how they use colour, shapes and the action of arrows and lines to create strong visual dynamics. Think about their use of figure and grounds and how their work plays with layering to create visual depth. Also consider the integration of image, typography and white space within their posters.

Develop a range of ideas that fully exploits the visual dynamics the Soviet designers employed. Reflect on which of your designs works the most successfully in relation to both the film’s content and the style you’re working in and develop it as a finished design.’

According to the Tate; “Constructivism was a particularly austere branch of abstract art founded by Vladimir Tatlin and Alexander Rodchenko in Russia around 1915”. Tatlin was influenced by Picasso’s cubist sculpture, and indeed early Constructivism was often in 3D, and concerned with exploring which materials were fit for purpose. The ideas developed into different media.

In 1923 the Constructivists published a manifesto stating:

” The object is to be treated as a whole and thus will be of no discernible ‘style’ but simply a product of an industrial order like a car, an aeroplane and such like. Constructivism is a purely technical mastery and organisation of materials.”

The driving force was to produce work that was utilitarian and not ‘stylish’. The early work was supported by left wing ideals, and Trotsky was a fan. However, later, as the revolutionary ideals fell into dictatorial nastiness, Constructivism was viewed with suspicion.

Alexander Rodchenko and El Lissitsky worked are responsible for such of the graphic design we associate with this style. What stands out is the use of geometric forms, usually in cream, reds, and blacks, sometimes combined with photomontage.

When looking for images, I found a great deal of modern work that is – directly inspired by Constructivism. Heres a mix of original, and modern Constructivist inspired posters

Alexander Rodchenko


Generation X Modern album covers


Paul Sizer (2010)


Alexander Rodchenko


Georgii & Vladimir Stenberg, In the Spring (1929).


The Sternberg brothers produced some fantastic film posters



Tribute to the genre by Dog on Fire (Pinterest)


El Lissitsky



Russian Exhibition poster
(1929) El Lissitzky


I didn’t know that Kandinsky was pushed out by the other Constructivists, as they thought he was too much of a hippy (I think their word was ‘mystical’, but you get the idea)


Beat the Whites with Red Wedge (1919) El Lissitzky 

poster that inspired 1980’s “Red Wedge”.


This is a modern work by Kevin Chua, I really love it, horizontal lines act as a feeling of directional energy – an abstract version of blurred lines to indicate speed.


Poster urging Soviet citizens to become stockholders (1923) Alexander Rodchenko


Poster Advertising Leningrad Publishing House(1925) Alexander Rodchenko


Album Cover, Franz Ferdinand – You could have it so much better


I read an online article in the Creative Review sniffing about the number of art students and advertisers who appropriate the style without the politics.

However, just when you think commercialism has gone mad, the artist/designer who is responsible for this:

Advertisement for Saks Fifth Avenue (2009) Shepard Fairey


Is also responsible for these:

Say Yes! (2008) Shepard Fairey.



Constructivist stuff may be everywhere, but really, who doesn’t miss Obama???

My Work

As I’ve just watched a documentary about Audrey Hepburn, I thought she’d be an ideal subject – particularly as she had such an iconic image. Even better some of her images are available to use. Heres a selection:


These are mainly from three films, Roman Holiday, Breakfast at Tiffanys and War & Peace. I began my sketching my ideas on paper, mainly focusing on War & Peace as its less well known, to introduce a bit of freshness.



I felt some of the designs were moving away from using images as the main focal point and as its a film, you need images (especially of Audrey).

So I set myself the (awkward?) challenge of picking Audrey, a classic hollywood icon, in a lesser known film (lets hope its an extensive film festival) with only two images to choose from, which are both partial images that will have to be placed carefully, because they are already cropped …Hmm.

Here goes.

This is Audrey and co-star Mel Ferrer, isolated from their background in photoshop


And my choice of typography. I chose to work with Futura because its so crisp and geometric, but I also hunted for Soviet inspired ones…and I found Metro and Kremlin.


Kremlin is great, but actually I’m not confidant its instantly readable. As a reader, I don’t enjoy having to decipher text, so I’m not going to use it. (I know, apologies if I’m being boring… Its possible I’m mildly dyslexic and I get easily irritated over lettering!)


The Design

I really wanted to use a ‘sun burst’ pattern in my design, and the colours chose themselves, as I stuck to reds. Firstly I created the sunburst pattern, and added Audrey, flipping her image so she can sit on the right.


I discovered text is best altered by ‘convert to shape’ first, then I played with the different options.


I added the circle as its a sort of target, which then arrives at her face.


Finally I added the additional text, experimenting with placement. This first one is cluttered and not working well.




Theres too much fuzziness on her hat



I’m still not sure how much of the lettering can follow the direction of the rays.

My second design introduces Audrey’s leading man, Will Ferrer. Heres I’m just placing the basic elements.


Introducing a solid overlay, and a slightly transparent circle, to allow the text to have a solid background.



Maybe this could have been layered up further? Its not really what you’d call photomontage. I’m fairly pleased with my attempts though, and I’ve learnt a few more photoshop skills too.






Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s