28 November 2012

Know Much Too

The American Institute of Graphic Arts --that's the AIGA for those who enjoy their alphabet soup-- has posted a behind-the-scenes article about The Criterion Collection, detailing the creative process for The Man Who Knew Too Much. It's a terrific glimpse of the Criterion process from initial editiorial deliberations, on to the conception and completion of a cover. It's an honor to be included. Check it out!

• The Man Who Knew Too Much: In House Design at The Criterion Collection

15 October 2012

The Man Who Knew Too Much

Happy New Year already! Come January 2013 The Criterion Collection will release the original 1934 version of Alfred Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much. They kindly asked me to design the title treatment for the cover as well as the creating the menu and package design. I'm looking forward to showing off all that when the time comes so please stay tuned. As for the excellent cover illustration, it's by Bill Nelson --beautifully done, right?

18 September 2012

Les Visiteurs du Soir DVD Menus

I also designed the sister release to Children of Paradise, Marcel Carné's Les Visiteurs du Soir. The setting for this one is mediaeval France. Toggling my design sensibilities between the two epochs made for one schizophrenic month! Again, the cover painting is by production designer Alexandre Trauner. The design choices here are largely informed by the illuminated manuscript which is featured in the title sequence of the film.

Children of Paradise DVD Menus

Here's a selection of DVD menu designs for The Criterion Collection's Children of Paradise. It's a two-part film spread over a two disc set (for the DVD at least) and it's packed with all kinds of extras which makes for a lot of screens. These are just a portion of them.

One of the challenges with this package was to interweave the whimsical sensibility of the Alexandre Trauner production painting which appears on the cover (as well as the theatrical re-release poster) with the film imagery. I stuck with type styles that were true of 19th century France and at the same time reflected of a certain 1940's aesthetic as well. The result is more storybook than history book which really seemed in accord with the movie.

27 August 2012

Lonesome Menus

Here's a selection of DVD menus for the Criterion Collection release of Lonesome. You may spot some place-holder text here and there. Sometimes a menu must leave my desk before all the copy has been finalized and locked-in. --out on August 28th!

14 August 2012

Covering Lonesome

Here are a couple of murky iPhone pics of the cover painting in-progress as well details from the completed cover image. Blogger has a way of down-resing jpeg files. So these won't convey the details of what's been uploaded, alas. It's all painted with gouache on illustration board, letters too. The radiant lines of the setting sun were done with a ruling pen and beam compass. Nervous making? You bet! Those things seem to have a mind of their own sometimes. Here's how it turned out. Lonesome comes out, for the first time ever on home video, August 28th. I can't reccomend it enough. I'll put up a few more images from the package as that date comes around.



26 July 2012

17 July 2012

Ladri di Biciclette

This isn't a poster. Nor is it DVD or BluRay art. It's a getting the mood piece. Sometimes I find it useful to make non-specific stuff as I work to set a tone for the direction. This is one of those things for Bicycle Thieves.

You've Seen The Opera, Now Use The Pencil

Did you know The Mikado is among the first properties licensed for merchandising? That's something I learned doing research for the graphic design of the Criterion release. There were soaps, sewing threads, toothpastes, tobbaco --all kinds of things. Even the type ornaments I use throughout the package were Mikado branded.

They Got Away

Sometimes when a photo doesn't exist --that you really wished existed, or possibly once existed--you can always try to create it. This was the beginnings of a short-lived project once upon a time. Alas, it didn't get much further than some initial explorations and this, still a little raw, image. Its for City Streets, starring the impossibly beautiful Gary Cooper and Silvia Sydney.

26 June 2012

The 39 Steps

"How about some Hitchcock?" asked Criterion art director, Sarah Habibi in the subject of an e-mail last January. Um, sure. (Really, is there any another answer to that?) Criterion was set to repackage The 39 Steps as they had recently done with The Lady Vanishes and were looking for a way to pair them well together. To me that signaled some period type and an old school poster vibe.

The 39 Steps is great cloak-and-dagger fun --the prototype for the wrong man, cross-country intrigue which he would later embellish, elaborate and build a Hollywood career upon. It was made at the height of Hitchcock's years in Britian and is said to be his favorite from that era.

Central to all of it is the MacGuffin -- a kind of who-knows-what secret spy ring that --well, I'm not going to spoil it but it served as premise for the first cover here. 

The cabal leader is known for a conspicious physical deformity and his reach is all pervasive. You can run but you cannot hide, that sort of thing. Criterion was jazzed by the image of the reaching hand, they loved the energy of the thing, but in the end it was felt that the image bore too strong a comparison to M despite the fugitive digit.

A handcuffed couple-on-the-run plays large in this adventure too. The nagging thing for me was Criterion had just released Something Wild and used handcuffs to great effect on that cover. I didn't want to compete with it. I wondered if cuffs could be an element yet not a feature? 

The photo-montage of the cuffed pair over a map of the Scottish highlands --where much of the story takes place-- renders a certain amount of dramatic tension yet does it say enough about the movie? I enjoyed positioning the map so the letters KILL ominously peak out from beneath the title treatment. Thank you Mr. Hitchcock.

It's worth reminding that The 39 Steps is also a terrific romantic comedy. There's a great publicity photo of actors Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll shot during production, cuffed and hiding under a bridge. Showing the two leads bound together personalizes the experience more and it surely brings the glamor. Still, it's a well traveled image and perhaps in the end, a little too much been there seen that.

Despite the reaching-hand-of-the-39-Steps cover having been rejected, it stirred a lot of interest. It felt like fertile territory to explore further. Production photography really wasn't affording the dynamism needed to describe the excitement of the film so I turned to frame grabs in hopes of creating a few alternatives to my initial concept.

The chase across the moors is a terrific set-piece in the movie. Hero, Richard Hannay is pursued by Scotland Yard both on land and from air -- in the form of a really cool whirlybird! The sequence is all shadow, light, sky and clouds with great use of scale. A real standout. I pulled the best from it and came up with a few more montages.

The first had Hannay close to camera with his pursuers behind him. It was getting there but I was missing a particular use of scale which I think Hitchcock utiizes so effectly during that chase. It wasn't really speaking the language of the movie. So, good but not great.

The next illustrates the reveal during the pusuit as Hannay discovers a residence of great importance to the plot. It's a quieter moment than the straight-out chase. Still, it underscores the mystery. It also implicates the enigmatic title into the proceedings in a way that the chase covers don't. Perhaps, even, can't. Just what are the "39 Steps" anyway? --and do they lead to this place?

Finally, building upon many of the same elements of the reaching hand comp, the montage which would become the cover. Hannay takes the center spot, surrounded on all sides by his pursuers. The scale of all the elements was in keeping with the tone of Hitchcock's film. Just right. It and felt at once a classic yet with a fresh, modern take. Criterion agreed and our chase was over.

19 June 2012

Two by Marcel Carné

On September 18th, The Criterion Collection releases two films by Marcel Carné; Children of Paradise and Les Visiteurs du Soir. I had the pleasure of designing for each. The pair feature cover art by Alexandre Trauner who served as production designer on both of the films. These are actual production paintings and, without giving too much away, there's more where that came from. I recreated the title treatments for the covers based on each of the film's main titles. You can read about the process for Children of Paradise here. I'll have more to show of these packages as the release date nears. In the meantime, if you can't wait to see Children of Paradise and you happen to be near where this spectacular restoration is touring, do check it out. You'll be glad you did!