An independent archive of typography.

Black Swan movie posters

… and the award goes to La Boca for daring to use illustration and unconventional typography.

Contributed by Stephen Coles on Feb 15th, 2011. Artwork published in .

The Oscars air in two weeks. Four of the ten Best Picture nominees were promoted with Gotham, perhaps the successor to Trajan as the movie poster default — a torch passing that I gladly welcome. But this isn’t another post about typeface ubiquity. This is about the rule-breaking posters for “Black Swan” by UK firm La Boca.

If only actors, agents, and studios would let go of their inane photographic (star’s head must occupy 50% of poster) and typographic (star’s name must appear before all other names and be X inches high) requirements, we would see more posters like these — distinctive campaigns that are true to the films they represent.

Yes, “Black Swan” did get the obligatory mugshot treatment, but La Boca was allowed to sidestep conventions for their series of international teasers.

My favorite of the posters features Britannic, a Stephenson Blake design from 1901. This kind of high contrast, closed aperture, turn-of-the-century sans serif (like Radiant and Globe Gothic) is rarely used these days, especially in movie advertising. Even without the illustration, it takes the viewer to another place. Acier BAT, a Cassandre revival (see also Bifur), is similarly striking. Having not yet seen the film I can’t say if “Black Swan” relates to the Futurism movement, but this art transports you in a way that standard posters don’t.

The other star here is Mark Simonson’s Mostra, the most complete digital font interpretation of Italian Art Deco posters and advertising. Designed in 2001, Mostra was a caps-only face with a three styles of letters. In 2009 Simonson released Mostra Nuova which added a lowercase and OpenType functionality.

Looking to grace your wall with one of these beauties? Unfortunately, the full-size posters are not available for purchase, but Fox Searchlight is selling the art on hoodies and mouse pads. I hope they wise up soon and offer the work in its original state. It sounds like knockoff shops are already in the game.

See also: The Guardian Film Blog on the posters, ScreenFonts (Yves Peters’ monthly movie poster review)


  • Britannic
  • Acier
  • Mostra Nuova




Artwork location

9 Comments on “Black Swan movie posters”

  1. These are delightful! I got turned off Britannica as I overused as a teen when I 'discovered' digital type, and as a version was standard with Windows (3.1 I think! I know we had an IBM 286!) I used it a bit for school assignments etc. Not a face I'd ever think to go back to, but it suits these really nice illustrations. Mostra looks fantastic as well! It's probably closer to my taste.

    The thing I love most about these posters though is actually the illustrations, sorry type! :-)

  2. These are beautiful, but I don't think they'd be successful as movie posters. I think seeing an actual photo of the star is still a very powerful thing. Don't get me wrong, I would love to hang them on my walls, but I'm sure there must be a way to produce nicer movie posters while still preserving their effectiveness for driving people into theaters.

  3. No way Sacha! These are amazing movie posters, and so much more memorable. Put these side by side with Natalie Portman's other recent movie, "No Strings Attached". Which one are you going to be remember a year from now? The one with her and Ashton Kutcher half dressed in a bedroom? Blech. No way.

  4. These posters are fantastic. I love them. Very old school theatre. Perfect way to bring a ballet to the movie screens!!!

  5. These feel like too much of a pastiche for me. The illustrations themselves work, but the typography takes them back in time, when actually they deserve to feel modern.

  6. Joao Peres says:
    Feb 20th, 2011 1:19 am

    These are beautiful, awesome pieces of design. In terms of driving people to the cinemas or not it is a bit hard to tell since every movie poster out there uses overly retouched photographs showing the stars. So it's kind of difficult to predict how effective something like this would be.

    Big credit to La Boca for having some balls and doing something different. As graphic designer, it really inspire me too see something like this.

  7. Shannon says:
    Mar 1st, 2011 3:56 pm

    I love these posters. To me, they're evocative of some of the great Polish movie poster designs - most certainly, "true to the films they represent," while still claiming a creativity and originality that is truly stunning. It is so refreshing (and I agree, Joao - inspiring!) to see something different.

  8. Dazbert says:
    Mar 1st, 2011 7:44 pm

    James Warfield says they deserve to feel modern, but I disagree: they deserve the dignity of a time when things didn't need to wear overblown versions of their hearts on their sleeves.

    Sacha says they are not great movie posters. For me, they made me really want to see the film. The regular Portman poster didn't sell it to me at all, whereas these make it seem special. From what I've been told, the film may not live up to these posters.

    Fantastic work, and a great write up from Fonts In Use.

  9. I completely agree with Linh. They are much better than any poster with the actors faces on it could be because they are really artistic. There should be more designs like this!

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