For over the past 100 years, movie posters have been the number one way to get moviegoers to purchase tickets and get people in front of the silver screen.

So, who creates these amazing pieces of art and design? Is it fine artists, illustrators, photographers, or graphic designers? It is very nuanced, but the answer is that graphic designers design a “majority” of movie posters, but when you break it down, it takes a team to make a movie poster in contemporary times and in the past, which you will see!

What is a graphic designer anyway?

The medium can vary -it can be the motif in a piece of packaging, the layout of a book, the lettering of a brand’s name, the digital ad you come across on Instagram, or the logo you see when you enter your favorite bar- but the work of a designer is always a composition of images and/or typography (sometimes with animation involved) organized to present information in a readable, attractive and memorable way.

A graphic designer is a mix between an artist and a communicator with a clear goal: to sell the client’s product through the use of visual concepts. 

While an artist is supposed to create unique, signature work and a communicator is expected to simply deliver information unquestionably; a designer needs to disappear behind his or her work while also making said work look outstanding.

The designer that creates mostly designs to be printed and published is a graphic designer, while the one that creates designs meant to be seen through electronic devices is a digital designer. Both professions are similar.

Never mind if the sketches were developed by hand or with computer software assistance, the maker will be referred to as a graphic designer. 

The tools of a graphic designer can vary, too, for different ideas require different visual translations. Shapes and colors are the core of design in general, but they can appear in the form of type, photographs, illustrations, and collages, just to name a few.

And speaking of tools, a lot of people ask about pen tables and that’s why we created this article:

Words and graphics come together in compositions that, when good enough, are both forms of art and publicity at once. If the designer is great, the client will be recognizable, and the consumer will be able to tell a product from the neverending sea of similar offerings the market has to give. 

The Mummy
1930 lithographic movie poster for the movie “The Mummy.”

A brief history of poster design

The poster, in its modern version, as a form of expression and communication, was undoubtedly born in France, and its father was the artist Jules Chéret (1836-1932).

Chéret did not invent the poster per se (some copies precede him), but he did determine the characteristics that would define this medium from that point on.

In addition to this artist’s presence, another factor that influenced the consolidation of the advertising poster in the way that we’ve known it ever since was the technical evolution of lithographic printing.

The artistic genius and the modern technology came together to give the urban landscape of Paris a new skin: one made out of illustrated posters advertising all kinds of products and spectacles. Afterward, of course, this new invention traveled all over the globe.

Chéret, the father of all posters, also created one of the first to be exclusively devoted to advertising a movie. In the 1890s, the world woke up one day to see a lithograph printing that combined typography and graphics to advertise a short film, and so the first movie poster was born.

That first poster already had some of the elements that still appear in movie posters today: the human figure of an attractive young woman, a striking title, the name of the director, and clear information about when and where to find the projection of the film.

The movie posters that followed were usually meant to advertise the film itself and the technological innovations of the modern theater. Ever since this form of art and publicity was born, its main goal has been to convince an audience to buy movie tickets. 

Nowadays old movie posters have become major collector items. If that is of interest then this article should be entertaining and educational:

As we all know, in the last 130 years technology has evolved in ways that the people from 1890 couldn’t even dream of.

Movies have come a long way since silence black & white, and printing has evolved from a hand-carved matrix to electronic 3D printers. Designers have expanded their field of knowledge from hand-drawn illustrations to digital composition in computer software. As movies evolved, movie posters evolved with them.

Before, you could only see a movie on a specific date at a specific theater, and the posters announcing would only be displayed in said theater.

Today you can see both the poster and the movie anytime, from any place in the world with a decent internet connection.

Both movies and their posters are now inseparable from computerized editing.

Movie posters in the fashion we’re familiar with today are about 40 years old. The ’80s saw the dawn of CGI and other special effects, which became an interesting point to advertise in the posters.

Some of the most beloved collector’s movie posters are from this time, in which typography and photography finally found some balance and worked together to create the kind of layout that can no longer be associated with anything but a movie poster.

In the next decades, the posters’ imagery varied according to the prevailing trends, but the layout didn’t change much. 

Wacom Artist 2

So, do graphic designers make movie posters?

But of course! Is there even a more perfect match? Movie posters are advertisements of movies, which are an art form, and designers combine the tools of marketing and art to create their designs.

Movie posters have survived for longer than a century because studios realized that they were a perfectly valid way of promoting their films.

Still, there are many characters, landscapes, and objects taking part in the plot of any film, and it is the job of a graphic designer to arrange how some of those elements will appear in the poster. Film posters provide designers with an opportunity of showing their knowledge of sales most artistically.

The birth and the evolution of graphic design run pretty aligned to those of movies and posters, even if the graphic designer’s profession is a bit newer than the other two things.

And when it comes to the profession of movie poster creation we cleared up a few confusing topics with these articles:

Even at the beginning, when movie posters were printed on cheap paper and meant to go from cinema to cinema (and probably go back to the studio at the end of that cycle), people were trying to get copies to preserve in private collections.

The existence of collectors from the very start of movie posters serves as proof of their artistic value. In the 1920s, the term “graphic design” began appearing in essays at the same time that movie studios started developing unique styles for the art of their movie posters by hiring illustrators of recognizable artworks.

Today it is way less common to recognize which poster belongs to which studio, but it is quite possible to guess which genre does the advertised movie belongs to. 

It should also be noted that you will find designers that create alternative movie posters also get commissioned to create commercial movie posters.

Throughout the history of movie posters, there have been different trends in the layouts, the type, the photography, the color palettes, and even the size and the quality of the paper used for the prints.

These changes came to be because designers worked behind them, answering each generation’s spirit with a different kind of design.

As society changes, the psychology of the buyers changes too, and design chases after it. 

The latest trend in the film industry is a progressive tendency towards an online market. Even if the magical experience of the cinema will never be replaced by a streaming service, printed and framed movie posters are more likely to be replaced by video screens displaying digital versions of them.

As I said at the beginning of this article, the medium can always vary. In any case, promotional posters will only ever be as good as the creativity of their designers.

Nonetheless, one thing is certain: from the lithography printings with barely any color to the computer-generated digital compositions; graphic designers have created movie posters, are creating movie posters, will create movie posters into the future. 

Making a Poster Illustration

Do you want to become a movie poster graphic designer?

If the idea of creating beautiful works of art geared toward selling a movie or TV show is appealing to you, then you will want to take a look at our online movie poster classes!

That’s right; we are currently producing online classes taught by actual graphic designers and art directors working in the movie poster design field.

Because the classes have yet to be released, we suggest signup to our newsletter to be notified as soon as classes become available.

In the mean time you will want to check out our YouTube channel which has plenty of “free” tutorials to get you moving in the right direction!