The Graphic Design Realization

Back in 1998 in a movie theatre that doesn’t exist anymore, I looked at a movie poster. It’s the moment I realized there is such a thing as graphic design. 

Batman (1989)

As a Batman fan—more so a DC Comics fan—the poster captivated me. I remember staring at the poster in the movie theater for a long time. It’s a great piece of design, but all I knew at the time was that it was exceptionally captivating. 

The movie poster has the Batman logo, which looks sort of like an oil painting, but to this day I’m not sure how what medium it is. Also, all of the logo isn’t displayed on the poster—the logo is enlarged with the edges cut off on the left and right. And there’s a simple, understated date at the bottom of the poster informing all when the movie is going to be released.

Looking at the poster, I know this poster succeeded in communicating that a big movie event was coming and it wasn’t going to be a cheesy take on the Batman franchise. But I was perplexed as to why the movie poster had succeeded so well. 

A series of questions grew in my head: Why was the logo enlarged? Why not show all of it? Why is the only text the release date for the movie? Why not add more colors? Why gold and not yellow as it’s commonly used in the comic books?

That’s when I had the simple revelation that this poster could have been designed a different way led me to realize that the packages and products we interact with in our society don’t have to be designed in the way they are presented. 

Before this poster captivated me, I had assumed packaging and branding was a natural extent of a product’s origin. That the packaging, the logo, the movie poster and so on were shown this way because how they were supposed to look. 

It’s a silly thought thinking about it now, but that’s what I had thought till then.

And this line of thinking led me to find out “graphic design” and that there were schools that taught this sort of thing. 

It’s been many years since that moment and I’ve recently acquired a mint quality poster. The poster that started my path on graphic design and ultimately Web design is now framed and on display in my office. 

It’s a reminder of that one moment many years ago that my world expanded and I realized what I wanted to do with my life.

What about you? When did you realize there was such a thing as graphic design?

3 thoughts on “The Graphic Design Realization

  1. Hi Chris

    Great post. I hadn’t a clue about graphic design as a real live career until I was nearly 20. When I was a kid I used to keep pictures, ads, bits of packaging that I liked and I didn’t even know why. I’m sure my family didn’t know why either. It was when I was doing a degree in physics and I.T. (which I wasn’t much good at) and someone gave me a copy of something called “Photoshop” — this was version 4 and I used to spend hours playing with it when I should have been studying. I was completely oblivious to the fact that people got paid to make stuff with this program. Anyhooo, I finished my degree and got a job in an I.T. company, that’s when I started web design. A couple of years later I went back to college and did a masters in design (not because I needed it for work but because I wanted to learn more and I suppose feel legitimate). Since then I’ve been doing a lot of graphic design work along with web design, but I’m spending most of my time now teaching design which I love. 

    Sorry for rabbiting on, but your post was really interesting and I felt many of the same things you described.

  2. I remember playing a game called, I think, Tycoon. You got to buy out companies and get their little logo cards. I loved those little logos — how they really expressed what the company did and stood for in a little 1″ square space.

    My high school actually had a year long art class called “Art in Advertising”. We learned the methods of persuasion, fonts, logos, and basic design. Some of our projects were to use type to express a word (mine was “frozen”), design a book cover, design a record cover, create a commercial on video tape. This was back in 1984 so we did all our lettering and spacing by hand, using type manuals. One of my buddies worked for the local hot-shit signmaker, so she had used one of those font printers (on a clear plasitc roll about 3–4 inches wide). After doing it all by hand, we all loved the idea of a font machine. Imagine how excited I was to see a Mac two years latter at college!

    I never took another graphic design class. I got interested in software design, and so went the psychology route, instead.

  3. My intro into graphic design wasn’t until I started web design in grad school (PS 6) — I learned both simultaneously. With web design somewhat restrictive, being able to design for different media (print namely) is freeing and liberating. 

    I particularly love simplicity. Apple nails the concept. Their use of negative white space promotes a sense of ‘open possibilities’ with their products, and I really admire their strong stance against clutter (cough, MS, cough).

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