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Scanable Topics - Take One

Scanable Topics - Take One

Mike Lenhart

For a long time now, I’ve been a scanner. I find many things in my world, mainly printed, that I just have to keep for possible future use. So, I scan them and file them away. Granted, I am sort of a saver, hoarder if you will, but I always feel I will need these items at some point in the future. Many of them I don’t and I forget about them. But, I thought that, in order to use them and do something with them, I’d write a series of entries on the various things I’ve scanned and tell you about them. This time it’s all about classic movie poster art.

A while back, I had a calendar that came with 12 monthly 11 × 17 posters of movie classics from the ‘30s to the ’50s. I got this calendar not only for the visual and artistic beauty, but also for some education. It’s nice to have some art to look at in a given month, other than the date.


These posters were really pretty and communicated a lot of information in one sheet. They were colorful, visually stunning, and graphically represented information about the film so the intended audience would go and see it. Remember, these posters were rendered by hand in those days and needed a different kind of talent than we have today. If you look closely at these hand-done works of art, you may see minor flaws or overprints in the ink, but these are part of the overall beauty of the posters.

These works of art had to conform with the standards of the day, such as proper name placement of the stars, studio, director, name of the film, etc., while maintaining balance and continuity, especially if there were a series of posters. At times, the posters were a little more risque and didn’t follow the norm, but we all know what sells.

Look at the movie posters of today. They’re all computer-generated and meant to appeal to an entirely different culture. Yes, I know that they’re a heckuvalot more detailed and intricate than those of yore, but they’re just not the same. A lot of us, including yours truly, would be put out of business if these computer-based designs weren’t the norm. But, wouldn’t it be nice if we had more of a throw-back to the movie posters of the ‘40s like "Singin’ in the Rain" and “’Til the Clouds Roll By”? It would be nice if movies were made like those these days, but that’s another story.


So, my suggestion to graphic design professionals, both young and seasoned (old), is to take time to look at the old-school drawings and posters, pre-computer, to see the beauty and imagine the execution of them. They may inspire you in your own work. Heck, it may also get you to see some of these old classics again for the first time. They’re a nice diversion from the special effects and violence in the movies of today. A good showtune is never a bad thing.

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