running words around
design education and visual communication
authored by chris m hughes

To Boldly Go Retro

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

This week, Paramount unveiled two new movie posters for J.J. Abrams' upcoming film of Star Trek. The pieces feature intimate monochrome closeups of Chris Pine as James T. Kirk and Zachary Quinto as Spock. The film is much anticipated, and the visuals look pretty awesome:

Spock and Kirk posters for Star Trek (2009)

Out goes the futuristic and vaguely camp sheen of just about everything the franchise has ever done, and in comes a gritty retro look that suggests something fresh and yet menacing, almost noir-ish. Pine looks not unlike a young Jack Nicholson, whilst Quinto's semi-stunned pensive glare is uncannily like Leonard Nimoy.

What makes these posters so compelling is that they tap into one of our biggest psychological needs - not just to know what's going to happen in the future, but to find out what happened in the very beginning. This is why retro, in whatever form it takes, is always so appealing. What happened first is the source of all our religion, most of our science, and a sizeable portion of our culture. So for trekkies, what happened before the original series is the most powerful myth of them all, and this is what the designer(s) of these posters is exploiting.

Its a valuable lesson to fledgling graphic designers. Knowing your audience is everything. And knowing how to strip things back to the bare bones (sorry Dr McCoy) lets the imagery do the talking. It's a great way to conjure up refreshing visual ideas.

Funny how going back is sometimes the best way forward. Or as Spock might put it - illogical, but fascinating.