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Designing Winter Nights

Since The Toby opened in 2009, we have held a Winter Nights film festival in January and February. This winter the theme for our Winter Nights 2012 series is Technicolor.

Design is generally a pretty subjective endeavor, so when starting a new project I like to do a little research into the subject in order to guide the generation of formal elements. Fortunately Technicolor offers a wealth of visual elements to play with, but the methods and appearance of color film varies a lot depending on the time. The earliest versions of color motion pictures involved three separate rolls of film—black, cyan, and magenta—that were layered together in order to produce the color projection. It’s a very distinctive look, and is wholly different from the colors you see in The Godfather: Part II, the last American film made using Technicolor’s dye transfer process. The early three-strip technique provided inspiration for the initial Winter Nights designs, involving a large and somewhat abstract W made from shaded cubes to reference a frigid, icy winter.

While working on this abstract and wintry version, we also pursued a more literal direction using film as the starting point. Keeping the W, this solution retains the grainy texture that characterizes many of those older movies. While each had its merits, ultimately we decided to go with the film-centric version for this year’s series, and a final version was created that made very clear the series’ relationship with film, as well as including the Technicolor theme in the graphic.

Using film stills in a campaign for Technicolor movies is a no-brainer, but this was not as straightforward as one might think. In the 1940s, Technicolor threw out a large volume of color negatives after the studios didn’t reclaim them, and unless they’ve been re-mastered those movies are now only available in black and white. Fortunately, we were able to find some great color images from Charade and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. The beauty of these movies speak for themselves when you see them, and in order to try imparting some of that drama and motion in print pieces, I relied on careful crops.

One particularly seductive image of Marilyn Monroe offers plenty of details to highlight—Marilyn’s face, her eyes lightly closed, could be mistaken for being asleep when viewed alone. The diamond bracelet and thick gray fur are a glimpse of luxury, sensuality, and elegant excess. The full image, my favorite among Marilyn’s publicity shots for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, shows the actress dressed in red, wrapped in fur, and draped in diamonds. Her open mouth, even more red than her dress, completes a frozen moment of ecstasy, and was the perfect image to use for our Winter Nights banner.

Filed under: Design, Marketing, Public Programs, Uncategorized

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