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Large Format Printing: A Scary Ouija Board Poster

I was out at a movie theater installing a standee this week, a large flat-card (an approximately 5-feet by 8-feet image on an easel structure) promoting an upcoming film. On my way out of the theater, I noticed a table with stacks of small posters, presumably for moviegoers to take home. I thought this was a novel idea. I found one that appealed to me and brought a part of the “moviegoing experience” back to my home as well.

The Design of the Poster

The take-home poster is approximately 30” wide by 5” tall. It’s very wide and squat, just like a huge bumper sticker. The front of the poster is primarily black: a dense, matte black that seems to soak up all surrounding light. Since the focus of the poster is the new movie Ouija, the dense black, which is highlighted with a gold plenum (the plastic, heart-shaped Ouija board reader with the clear round window for reading the letters on the board) and roughened, light green type for the title, seem to echo the sinister tone of the movie.

Furthermore, the typeface, color scheme, and imagery of the poster all bring back vivid memories of the spooky fortune-telling item from the 1960s.

The Technology Reflected in the Poster

When I look at the poster under a loupe, this is what I see:

  1. The back of the poster is a thick piece of acetate, very similar to the large format backlit signage I’ve seen in department stores. A layer of white ink noticeable around the edges of the black coating (visible through the loupe) suggests that the designer had added a ground of white to the clear or frosted acetate, both to intensify the black, gold, and green tones printed on the surface of the acetate and perhaps to diffuse the light if the poster were to be backlit.
  2. Close observation reveals the minuscule scatter dot pattern of either stochastic screening or inkjet printing. Given the plastic substrate, I would presume it is an inkjet product. That said, I asked myself how such a printed product could be cost-effectively produced. After all, for such a long run, I would assume that custom screen printing would be more efficient than inkjet. Then I had a thought. If this small poster were laid out (step and repeat) in huge numbers on a large sheet of acetate and then trimmed down to the approximately 30” x 5” dimensions, the operation would then presumably be quite efficient.
  3. As much as I tried to peel off the poster from the backing, I could not do so. From this I would surmise that the product is all of one piece. Instead of a paper or vinyl poster attached with adhesive to an acetate carrier sheet, the inkjet printed acetate sheet is the poster. Granted, this would make it hard for a moviegoer to mount the poster. It really would need to be inserted into some kind of light box (such as the backlit poster cases at movie theaters) to be optimally displayed.

The Poster as a Marketing Item

What makes this interesting to me is the comprehensive nature of the marketing campaign. I went online and found a video promotion for the Ouija film. Using modern make-up techniques, the promotional company had created a prosthetic device for the psychic reader. After the plenum moves around the board on its own (which is scary enough), landing on the letters “R,” “U,” and “N,” the psychic reader’s eyes actually bug out, and she says “Run!” Of course, the client sitting for the reading (presumably just a passer-by) screams for dear life. It’s scary and effective, and the poster I picked up at the movie theater allows me to bring home some of the magic (or terror). Tying the (multi-generational) Ouija board icon to the colors and typefaces of the poster, and then reinforcing the memories from the 1960s with the pressing question of whether or not “it’s just a game,” makes for a memorable experience. It creates “buzz” for the upcoming film using multiple touch points via multiple media (film, Internet, and poster).

What You Can Learn From This

Here are some thoughts for your own promotional design work:

  1. If possible, start with images or concepts that are well known, preferably over several decades. The Ouija board touches people brought up in the 60s, 70s, 80s, and later. It actually goes back much further as well, touching on Spiritualist practices of automatic writing. In short, the more well known the icon, the better. Dream images and concepts with roots in the unconscious, such as the ability to predict the future, can be exceptionally powerful.
  2. Use colors and typefaces that reinforce the tone of the design piece: particularly its underlying theme or concept. Use surface texture (dull or gloss coatings) to reinforce the theme as well.
  3. If at all possible, provide something the reader or viewer can take home with them, something physical. Every time I see this poster, I’ll get a chill. Screen printed cups, hats, calendars, and pens depend on this marketing concept, but be creative in your work. A print book or a large format print poster your clients can take home may be even more memorable.

2 Responses to “Large Format Printing: A Scary Ouija Board Poster”

  1. Posters can really speak a thousand words and extend reach to a targeted audience. With today’s available technology it would be very easy to come up with poster designs that are really remarkable.

    • admin says:

      First of all, thank you for your comment. I totally agree. And posters are also cheap to produce. In addition, they can be both graphic art and fine art (think about the Toulouse Lautrec dance posters). Over the years, posters have also been used to make political statements that have had a profound effect on the world. I think posters are economical, versatile, and powerfully effective.

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