Professor Tom Kovacs and Hungarian Movie Poster Design

I would not be a Graphic Designer if it was not for Professor Tomas Kovacs. No, literally, I would not be.
The school of Graphic Design at the University of Illinois is highly competitive. Maybe 100-200 applicants apply. And at that time they only accepted around 30 to the program.
I did not get in the first year I applied. I actually didn’t get in the second year I applied. But there is an appeals process, and I resubmitted my work to Professor Kovacs. 
He must have saw something in me that the review board didn’t see the first time, because he admitted me to the program
Born in Budapest Hungary, he is a Professor Emeritus in Graphic Design at UIUC. A highly skilled and talented graphic designer, but he excelled in poster design.
Deeply inspired from the rich graphic and poster design traditions from his native Hungary, he taught us the power of combining type and image for evocative visual communication. Many of our assignments centered around poster design. We watched Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams, then had to reinterpret them in our own visual style.
In film’s golden era, Hungarian artists had to do the same thing for books, movies, and plays from the States since they would not get the original press materials. This often led to hand painted and drawn posters that eclipsed the original US source material.
The Rainmaker
Compare the typical melodramatic original poster to the Burt Lancaster/Katherine Hepburn classic The Rainmaker, to the beautiful Hungarian woodcut interpretation
The US version goes for hollywood schmaltz and plays up the passionate love story, while the Hungarian version tells more of the story of the con man who comes to town promising he knows how to make it rain.
Star Wars
While the US poster for the original Star Wars movie is quite famous and iconic in its own right, The Hungarian version, with its hand drawn and painted approach focuses much more on the sinister and evil elements of the Empire in episodes IV-VI,  especially Darth Vader
2001 A Space Odyssey original poster is also iconic in its original form, but it focuses more on the fascination of future space technology, using realistic illustration.
The Hungarian Interpretation, uses blue duotone stills from the movie, with intense contrast of red and yellow accents, focusing much more on the humanity and the experience of Dr. David Bowman. It’s stark and emotional, rather than the more flat and technical aspects of its US counterpart.
Cleopatra
Liz Taylor’s big budget, critical failure Cleopatra couldn’t be saved by a Movie poster. This time we have the reverse, while the US Movie poster utilizes a painted scene from the movie, using a faux cuneiform  style typeface
The two Hungarian version of the movie uses duotones and black and white stills, photo montage and Swiss/International style typography and layout for a much more compelling, modern approach. It doesn’t focus on the melodramatic love story once again, or u, but focuses on the power of Cleopatra as a woman and leader.
I encourage you to google more of your favorite movies, and see the inventive solutions Hungarian poster artists came up with to their US equivalents. 

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *