Blog Post 2 Olaoluwa Oyenuga

An area of graphic design I would like to see in the next edition of Graphic Design: A New History would be a section discussing the contributions of modern social media ephemera and its relationship over time to the practice of graphic design.
With the introduction of a myriad of social media platforms also came a new forum for creating and sharing many types of ephemera online, ranging from adverts, event promotions, viral videos and memes, to religious propaganda and various translations and adaptations of news media. Many of these platforms emphasize content creation encouraging users to create eye-catching content in order to secure the attention of their viewers/followers. Because of the intensely visual nature of social media, the compound result of this new media environment is a “deprivatization” of graphic design.
Many regular social media users without any formal education in visual design are creating (and at times, in various ways, even critiquing) design solutions to suit their online needs. In the earliest periods of this development, most online ephemera were quite crude in their design and people rarely created such ephemera themselves, rather most were simply re-posted severally so that the original author became practically untraceable (think family WhatsApp group chats or those reshared Facebook posts) – with the exception of advertisements created by actual brands, organizations and companies. These designs often used basic or non-existent structure, decorative typefaces and/or jarring combinations of typefaces, colors, and graphics (Many of these ephemera have evolved to become what we recognize as the modern meme). However, what these ephemera often lacked in their aesthetic, they made up for in their loud and direct message.

Figure 1 Author unknown, Date unknown; A generic re-shared social media post.

With time more users have begun to create their own content, especially with the advent of more truly “ephemeral” platforms and features such as Snapchat and Instagram stories. These apps/features allow users to create content that is deleted 24-hours after sharing, unlike regular profile posts which stay visible indefinitely unless hidden/deleted. The Instagram story feature especially has significantly developed since its introduction, adding more tools and features to allow users to be more creative and to make unique designs by combining any of the in-app features. As a result of these new forms of social media it seems lay people are developing a more refined sensibility for visual communication and graphic design; users are becoming increasingly selective with how they use in-app and out-of-app design tools to create aesthetically pleasing and unique designs to express themselves online. As a result, these designs (while typically quite personal in content and audience) are becoming more refined in their structure and even levels of meaning, taking cues from pop-culture and even psychology.

Figure 2  Lexie Carbone, 2019; Instagram stories often have a collage or scrapbook aesthetic as a result of the constraints of the feature (and possibly also the point of stories), especially when created in-app.

The evolution of social media ephemera is even beginning to have an effect on how companies advertise both within these apps and on other platforms, and I believe it can be argued that the trends of social media ephemera are having an effect on the professional practice of graphic design. This is a relationship that can be explored, however briefly, within a new edition of the textbook. Within the social media sphere, there appears to be a microcosm of graphic design development. While this may be perceived an insignificant phenomenon, we know that historically graphic design has been shaped repeatedly by changing popular trends among its consumers, therefore I believe this area is evolving to be a strong influence in the development of modern graphic design, and one that should be addressed and studied by design institutions and likewise within a major textbook like Graphic Design: A New History.

Illustrative Movie Posters by Ola Oyenuga

Nowadays there seems to be very little innovation in the realm of movie posters. The same compositions, color schemes, poses and graphic treatments are recycled, and circulated all around the movie industry. Especially in Hollywood, there’s a high chance that any recent movie poster you see is an unoriginal remake of an tried and established poster format. This makes film posters – in my opinion – an increasingly boring and uninspired example of graphic design today. It’s intriguing to ponder why this is the case.

Ethan Anderton, 2011. (Check This Out: Hollywood’s Most Common Trends in Movie Posters | FirstShowing.Net)

However, there’s a specific style of movie posters which, while not completely original, is almost always unique and never fails to hold my attention. This is the illustrated style. Posters illustrated by the hand of an artist, usually incorporating illustrated typography as well. A modern example of this sort of poster would be Stranger Things’ classic poster illustrated by Kyle Lambert, or more recently the poster for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood illustrated by Steve Chorney . These posters posses a an enchanting quality to them largely because of the of painstaking detail in the illustration and the amount of time and attention that surely went into their production. Illustrated movie posters were most popular from the early 1940’s when fantasy films rose to popularity in an effort for the movie industry to recapture the attention of the public that now had Television screen for entertainment., up until the 80’s at the advent of computerized special effects (History of Movie Posters | FFFMovieposters.Com). Some of the most iconic illustrated movie posters are that of Star Wars and Indiana Jones by Drew Struzan. These posters posses a charm that is almost universally recognizable.


Kyle Lambert, 2016. (Kyle Lambert – Stranger Things – Poster)
Steven Chorney, 2019. (Movie and TV)

Drew Struzan, 1997. (Www.DrewStruzan.Com)

The illustrated movie poster is making something of a comeback today. Relatively few productions today patronize artists to illustrate their posters, those that do are usually deliberately trying to express a retro or nostalgic style, films such as Baby Driver or Read Player One which have either an aesthetic/theme that hearkens back to the older generation or that try to capture a nostalgic period. Or Deadpool which uses it for satirical intent. But regardless of the reason for employing this style of film poster, the effect is grand, effectively breathing life and expresses a uniqueness and fantastic wander that would make one at least curious to see what such a film might be about. Especially when placed next to the repetitive film posters of today, this style is truly one of a kind.

James Goodridge, 2018. (James Goodridge Illustration)

Citations

Artist Steve Chorney on Crafting Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood’s Poster & More | The Credits. https://www.motionpictures.org/2019/08/artist-steve-chorney-on-crafting-once-upon-a-time-in-hollywoods-poster-more/. Accessed 14 Feb. 2020.
Check This Out: Hollywood’s Most Common Trends in Movie Posters | FirstShowing.Net. https://www.firstshowing.net/2011/check-this-out-hollywoods-most-common-trends-in-movies-posters/. Accessed 14 Feb. 2020.
History of Movie Posters | FFFMovieposters.Com. https://fffmovieposters.com/history-of-movie-posters/. Accessed 14 Feb. 2020.
History of Movie Posters | FFFMovieposters.Com—. https://fffmovieposters.com/history-of-movie-posters/. Accessed 14 Feb. 2020.
James Goodridge Illustration. https://jamesgoodridgeillustration.com/illustrations.html. Accessed 14 Feb. 2020.
Kyle Lambert – Stranger Things – Poster. http://www.kylelambert.com/gallery/stranger-things-season-1-poster/. Accessed 14 Feb. 2020.
Movie and TV. http://www.stevenchorney.com/#Movie_and_TV. Accessed 14 Feb. 2020.
Www.DrewStruzan.Com. http://www.drewstruzan.com/illustrated/portfolio/?fa=large&gid=1182&pri&gallerystart=1&pagestart=1&type=pri&gs=1. Accessed 14 Feb. 2020.