Poster-A-Day No.1: Phantom Thread
When I set out to actually do this crazy fucking endeavor of designing and publishing 365 movies posters within the span of a single year, I started in around late November just messing around with some playful designs to get the juices flowing. I knew I wouldn't be able to start from day 1 to 365 with a cohesive style or design scheme but I also totally feared the idea of starting day 1 starring at a blank, white page. Having formerly designed Fake Criterion DVD box art in high school and college before working my way to my current job as a graphic designer at the queer streaming service REVRY, I had already done a number of designs for a number of my favorite classic films, and while I'm certain very few people ever saw those, I by no means had any intention of repeating myself.
My mother stayed with me throughout the majority of late December, 2017, and while she was here we made a point of seeing Paul Thomas Anderson's latest the day after Christmas (my mother is quite the fan of his films and first showed me Boogie Nights when I was in middle school. A memorable event to say the least.). Phantom Thread is a movie as beautiful as it is mysterious and deeply haunting. The story of Reynolds Woodcock and his constantly shifting relationship to women is a hypnotic experience. The movie left me with very precise impressions, sewn in secrets, an outstretched measuring tape, mushrooms, deep purples and yellows, and even half way into the film I knew I wanted to tackle a design for this film.
Let me first say that I am quite a big admirer of Tony Stella and Midnight Marauder, they are some of the greatest designers working today and their Phantom Thread designs are breathtaking. I love Tony's watercolor style so much. I knew I could do nothing near what they had so by all means I absolutely shouldn't. I knew the best way for me to convey the elements that I loved so much and that had haunted me more than anything about the film would be to do a collage. To get the beauty of the film across in a manner that is simultaneously crude and callous, while of course working those mushrooms right into the middle of it all. I started at my normal sites for free and Public Domain imagery and pulled as many flowers, mushrooms, dresses, and needles as I could. I was when I stumbled upon a beautiful dressmaker's mannequin with a tape draped around its neck that I knew I had a perfect base.
I started with a couple simple designs, just getting the root of the idea. Having flowers sprout from a patch of mushrooms to create the head of a dressmaker's mannequin. Pretty simple.
But having done title treatments primarily for queer 80s films for the past year, my first couple choices in title treatments were a little....off. Admittedly I did intentionally try to subvert expectations initially with a more "modern" title treatment but it never really worked.
These versions finally got me closer to the over feeling I was going for (and I finally landed a font!) but I still wasn't perfectly satisfied. It felt cold and detached and not in a way I had hoped it would. Despite the cruelty and strangeness in the film it still has a great deal of warmth, style, and class, at least to it's surface.
So instead of trying a more traditional route I decided to do the polar opposite and see if it would get me to any new ideas. Ultimately they did but boy were these a departure. I still kinda love em.
This finally brought me to the idea of the title treatment brandished across the chest of the mannequin rather than hanging above it. Finding a way to incorporate it more with the image would pull it all together into one cohesive whole and allow the design to stand on it's own as a sort of living, 3D artifact from the film. Like some surreal headshot.
I went back to the traditional design and then worked on a couple new title treatment options across the breast.
I really liked the small title treatment, almost like a small metal pendant sewn into the mannequin.
From here all I had to do was add a bit more flowers, clean up some of the rough edges, and add a border. And wa-la.
My first poster of the new year and a very strong piece to lead with.
Follow along with my Poster-A-Day progress over on Instagram or purchase prints of this design on Society6. Thank you for supporting my work and I hope you continue to watch this body of work grow.