Design Lessons from Vintage Movie Posters

- Maureen Dillon 06.30.2015


Inspiration for website design can come from anywhere. Most web designers often look at other websites for inspiration. But a few look outside the World Wide Web. Hey seem to draw inspiration for their designs from the most unusual place. Now, have you ever thought that you could get design ideas from old movie posters? That's right. As surprising as it may seem, vintage movie posters offer great lessons in website design. Here is what they teach us.

Why vintage movie posters?

This article focuses on the lessons that vintage movie posters teach us about website design. Before the digital age set in, posters were the most important tools used for promoting the movie. Designers had to give their all to create posers that were appealing enough to draw crowds to the theaters. Besides poster, it was just word of mouth (no Facebook or twitter!). Designers created some of the most inspiring and attractive posters that are used for adorning walls of movie theaters, restaurants and some coffee shops even today.

That said some of the latest movie posters also work like charm on movie goers. But right now, here are 5 such lessons that vintage movie posters teach you about design. 

1. Bringing out the desired reaction from audience

Movie posters focus on one thing - how the audience would feel when they look at them. Remember the last time you felt scared or all lovey-dovey when you saw a movie poster? That's the first lesson you should take from vintage movie posters. The poster would incite a feeling or emotion that would be strong enough to draw people to the theaters. 

The design you create for your website should incite similar emotions in your audience. This, however, is a crucial aspect you should carefully determine. If you are not sure what you want the audience to do, you may end up getting the design all wrong. So talk to your clients and find out

  • Who the target audience is
  • What are requirements of the target audience and what inspires them
  • What you want the audience to do on the website

Once you know what you want from the audience, getting the design right won't be that difficult. 

2. Revealing enough to make them curious

Another important lesson you can learn from movie posters is that they tell you only enough to get excited or interested in it. They don’t tell you the full story. They make you curious enough to make you watch it to know the rest. This is a tip that web designers can use when designing the home page or a landing page. If you want to divert more traffic to the site, create a landing page or a home page that makes the user curious about what they are going to find inside. Reveal the whole thing on the first page and you may spoil it for them. A little bit of drama does no harm to your brand.

In fact, the most appealing part of vintage posters is that they only show, but don’t tell the whole story. Want your audience to get curious about your offerings, then focus on product images to get them to the site.

3. Personalize it

Movie posters make it personal - they focus on people or the actors and not inanimate objects. Let's take the example of Casablanca - all you see is a romantic Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in love. Not about the club or the place. That is what your website should be about - people and what they want. Focus on creating designs that reflect what people want - their requirements and their emotions. Include images of not just the products, but of people using the product or service. 

The design should make people believe that the product or service you are offering is for them. 

4. The right colors

The colors you choose can make a huge difference in your web design. The right colors will help you extract the right kind of emotions from the user, while the wrong ones can simply turn them off. Use appropriate colors that match the theme of your product or service. The colors you choose should also reflect your brand. At the same time, the hues and the shades you choose should also be easy on the eye.

Remember, the aim is to keep your target audience as long as needed on the website, to encourage them to perform the desired action. The colors referred here are not just for the background, but also for the headings and the text you place on the pages. When it comes to background colors, pick colors that are not too sharp or glaring. And as far as possible, use contrasting shades where you can. For texts, stick to the classic black. 

5. Bold is not bad

Don’t be afraid to be bold and daring when you create a website design. After all, you want to get a specific reaction from the audience, which means you need to give them something strong enough to react to. So if it means using bold text, images or shades, use them. Only make sure they are not offensive. That is exactly what the vintage styled poster of Kill Bill does - reveals the violence in the movie in a subtle way. 

In addition to these, the fonts that are used in vintage styled movie posters are mixed intelligently. Most posters have more than one type of font, but mixed in an elegant and attractive way. Use of different fonts can add to the appeal of the website and make it look more stylish. That said, the combination of fonts you use should be chosen carefully. Use the wrong combo and you could end up making the page look really odd, rather than attractive. Use of different fonts can also be used to highlight something specific in the text. In short, you would be replacing italics in the same font with a different font altogether. 

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