I wrote a piece about movie poster typography for the Telegraph.

Ow, my eyes! Could this be the ugliest lettering ever seen on a movie poster? The Bling Ring is Sofia Coppola’s latest film, starring Emma Watson as the ringleader of a bunch of fame-obsessed teens who burgle the houses of Hollywood celebrities. From a design point of view, this is promising material: after the definite article, we have two short alliterative words to work with – BLING and RING. Surely, with this title and subject matter, a modicum of razzle-dazzle would be not just permissible, but urgently required to evoke the lure of the glittering celeb lifestyle…

Please click on the poster to read more…
I debated whether to try and back up my wittering by mentioning in the piece that I have a BA Honours degree in Graphic Design from Central School of Art & Design (ie before it merged with St Martin’s) but in the end decided it would have sounded too much like bragging. (Whereas mentioning it here on my blog, of course, is nothing of the kind.) In other words, I trained as a designer and studied typography, typesetting and printing – Hot Metal, naturally, which as you can imagine has stood me in enormously good stead since the print revolution of the 1980s.

And just to make sure it wasn’t just me, I asked some friends who have worked as professional designers for nearly 40 years for their opinions on The Bling Ring poster – and they all agreed it was horrible.
But I think it’s also worth mentioning that two of my fellow film writers at the Telegraph – Robbie Collins and Tim Robey – disagree with me, and (though they both kindly said they enjoyed my piece) think the poster’s fine. Robbie tweeted:

Love it. Brash and carefree. I suspect that font’s going to start turning up everywhere, like Futura after The Social Network.

And Tim tweeted:

She’s definitely going for crowded-on-purpose. I don’t know. It has energy. I kind of like it?

the offensiveness of it is a deliberate poke in the face.

Whatever a “right” typeface is, you can be fairly sure the SCs of this world will reject it.

I’d been hoping the piece would spark a lively debate about poster typography. It failed to materialise in the Telegraph‘s comments section, but I was pleased to see Twitter stepping into the breach.

I much prefer the French poster. Maybe it’s the yellow. Typeface is still ugly, but the whole thing is a lot zingier.




  1. Never having been to St Martins College, (I seemed to lack the necessary ‘thirst for knowledge’.)

    It looks like it was done by a school leaver, who finally allowed the key to the Letraset draw, found all the good sheets had been used up.

    Even more, if you crop the poster below the title, it looks like something ripped straight out of the ‘Littlewoods’ catalogue* circa 1979?

    The synopsis reads like it should be a basic exploitation film, aimed at teenage girls to fill the gaps between whatever comic book adaptations are lined up for the summer season, but with an ‘R’ rating it might struggle.

    (*Back in the day when Internet shopping came in the form of a very big book made of dead trees.)

  2. ummmmmm I love it.

    What I don’t think you give it credit for is the way that – like a chequered flag – it catches your eye (surely THE important consideration). Black and white and scattered in that way…. it’s highly likely to demand a passer-by’s attention.
    After that, I don’t know. Then you let the chicks and the dude tell you the rest. Appropriate for the movie? No idea. Coppola is a ‘wrong is right’ kind of girl, no?

    I’m a trained and experienced graphic designer and I love the font and this treatment.
    Brash, crisp, stoopid…. wealthy LA.

  3. Hi, thanks for your comments. Seems like it’s either love or hate, so I guess the poster has polarised opinions and triggered a discussion, which means it has done its job.

    Ceeg – you’re right, I must grudgingly admit it is eye-catching. I still find it hideous, though!

    • In fact, the yellow version of the poster – which I saw several times this week in Paris – is much easier on the eye. Still a horrible typeface, but title is easier to read, everything looks brighter and more fun.

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