Data + Design Project

The Curious Case of the Hue Shifting Movie Poster

Tuesday 07.24.2012 , Posted by
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Since its inception over 100 years ago, a curious and clear shift has been striking the movie industry, or more exactly, the industry of the movie poster. Over the last century we have seen the posters advertising each years films, both large and small, take a decided shift in hue towards two specific colors. We might not know this without the interesting and comprehensively compiled color charts created by Vijay Pandurangan, but thanks to his inquisitive and diligent work, we can now easily see which colors have steadily gained prominence in the movie posters of today compared with those created at the beginning of popular film. There are easily two winners: orange and blue.

See Also The Lost Art of the Ghana Movie Poster

What is it exactly about these two colors that set them apart, making them a favored choice to advertise for a vast majority of new movies? You don’t have to look far to see examples of the two, in fact many new posters rely almost exclusively on the hues, leaving little but details to the other colors. In this era of carefully orchestrated market research and the resulting campaigns, a number of reasons spring rather easily to mind… but certainly these aren’t all of them. (continued below)

For one, the combination of blue and orange, unlike many other color combinations (most obviously red and green), is not associated with a deep amount of previous associations for people (unless, of course, you happen to be a Florida Gators fan). Additionally, in the world of todays Hollywood blockbusters, the color scheme goes well with the hot and cold, explosive action; often represented by blue and orange based characters in scenes dominated by the elements of air, water and fire. Lastly the dynamic color duo has a large visual impact, as they are complimentary colors residing on opposite sides of the color wheel.

All these elements, and perhaps more, represent a clear and often easy choice for movie poster designers. When all else fails, go with what works.

Check out examples of modern movie posters which exploit these powerful colors below – as image creator Just-In-Here points out, “once you see it, you’ll see it everywhere.” Then head to vijayp.ca for a look at Vijay’s interactive graphic, complete with pie charts for colors from each years posters, along with many of the titles from the sourced movies.

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Benjamin Starr

Written by Benjamin Starr



Known in some circles as the most amazing man in the universe, he once saved an entire family of muskrats from a sinking, fire engulfed steamboat while recovering from two broken arms relating to a botched no-chute wingsuit landing in North Korea. When not impressing people with his humbling humility, he can be found freelance writing, finding shiny objects on the internet, enjoying the company of much-appreciated friends and living out his nomadic nature. He is Managing Editor of Visual News. Follow his movements on Twitter:

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