Modernist Poster Analysis



(image found online)

The layout of this image, by AM. Cassandre,  makes use of strong verticals and diagonals to guide the eyes throughout the image. The eye of the main subject matter grips the viewer and you must forcibly wrench your gaze away to view the rest of the image. Circles (and implied circles) contrast with the stylised and textural skin, this creates a series of focal points the eye bounces to and from. One point perspective lines travel towards ear, directing you towards the head. The strong vertical on the left prevents the intense diagonals from taking you off the page to the left. The curve at the top of the head keeps the eyes contained in the image and slopes down towards the open mouth. The diagonals are constructed in a way to keep the eyes trapped in a loop from the ear circle, the eye and the implied mouth circle (screaming mouth attracts attention). The use and exploitation of human psychology in regards to the gaze of the eye and the screaming mouth helps to keep the viewer looking at the image. They can’t help but wonder why this figure appears to be in either pain or intent on shouting some wordless exclamation.

The colours themselves are rather desaturated and the warm ochre gradient compliment the cool eye, helping it to stand out, especially since they are complimentary colours. The dark background seems like a cold void, this is enhanced by the colour relativity caused by the warm skin. In turn, the background causes the skin to appear warmer, especially by the more saturated jaw. The aforementioned jaw and face are separated from the rest of the head and neck by darker colour, especially near the jaw where more texture implies more intensity and a wild and unshaven quality. The strong brown vertical bar, almost like a bar from a cage, is cooler than one might expect. It provides an almost dull barrier that the viewer doesn’t want to cross and so keeps the audience focused on the main subject matter and text.

Due to the visuals of a human screaming out, jutting his head up and back with his jaw out, it would seem as though something is causing him or her pain. The striking gaze of the eye staring at the viewer helps supplement this affect. The strong lines moving into the black hole of the character’s ear seems to symbolise information or knowledge that is streaming in. The lamp-like shapes hanging off the strong brown vertical element can be interpreted as just that; objects used to shed light upon a matter, or they could be viewed as a stylised and abstracted ‘i’ repeated several times. If so, these lamps might appear to be information symbols being fed into the person’s ear from the strong vertical, which represents a powerful company, organisation or even society, of which continues to evolve, expand and develop as time passes by.

The strong, bold text is more fired than inserted into the character’s head, which communicates a forceful feeling. The change from black to ochre ensures that the text is always readable and in high contrast which almost guarantees it will have a high place on the visual hierarchy. The type’s kerning is closely spaced, promoting a claustrophobic quality. The text above the L’ INTRANS is underlined, the line itself almost slicing off the top of the character’s head, further pushing forward the conversation on communication and information. The space between the words are somewhat regular, although slightly pushed apart. The large bold “L” nearly creates several tangents with the perspective-like lines that shoot towards the ear. These tangents, and their near-touching nature, promote a sense of un-comfortability that the character no doubt shares.

The image looks as though water colour or gouache was used with tape and physical shapes to paint around to create the strong, clean diagonals, verticals and circles. The image is composed of a collection of simple shapes merged together to create a head. Tape or a custom stencil was most likely created to be able to achieve the washes and gradients that are evident in the image. Colour, or chromo, lithography was most likely used to accurately capture the colour gradients and complexity of the texture. The texture itself helps to communicate the organic inspiration of the main subject matter, as well as the intensifying chaos caused by the character’s exclamation and the surrounding dark void, threatening to swallow up not only what is on the poster but perhaps the viewers themselves.


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