Faux Minimalism

Never confuse minimalism with derivative reduction. Minimalism requires originality.

They were all the rave last year and the trend is ongoing but on the decline. These “movie posters,” that are “minimalist,” as they’re described.

Except they’re neither minimalist, nor would they sell a movie enough to make them qualify as “movie posters.”

Derivative and reductionist, these “posters” miss the very point of making movie posters: to create intrigue and interest in an upcoming movie. Instead, a huge lot of them rely on actually spoiling a movie. Consider: the following posters for Alien, Die Hard, District 9, Donnie Darko, Inception, and Misery:

Each one of these depict a pivotal moment in the film, so much so that they spoil the movie. The chestbuster emerging from Kane, the pain of John McClane walking on wounded feet, the merging of DNA in District 9, Frank the Bunny getting the bullet in the eye; these moments are part of the expository act of the film itself. To reveal these in promotional movie posters would leave viewers waiting for that moment, instead of being wowed at the time the moment happens. More so with Inception, whose dream-within-a-dream motif was kept under wraps through the entire promotional cycle. Lastly, consider: would your reaction be as visceral towards the hobbling scene in Misery if you already saw posters of a broken ankle?

These posters aren’t minimalist; they’re literalist. They miss the whole point of graphic design (which is, as is everything that has the word “design” attached to it, to fulfill a specific goal and to meet a specific need). A truly productive graphic design and movie poster project would be to create a poster for a hypothetical film, one that hasn’t screened yet, and one that you haven’t even seen, because the graphic designers who make these posters? That’s what they have to deal with.

Additional commentary:

Joe Clark notes: they work great in online thumbnails. Other graphic-design formats – including bedrocks of human civilization like body copy in books – work so badly online that you never see them. While Alexandra Lange rails against 60s retromania in addition to these posters. Good; my next post will be an attack on Instagram and retro filters.


All images lifted from this big list of fifty minimalist movie posters. I like about two of them. Originals for: Alien, Die Hard, District 9, Donnie Darko, Inception, and Misery

Posted on: October 3, 2011 at 12:31 pm under: Design
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