So, imitation is still the sincerest form of flattery, right?
My approach to the Olivier's Shakespeare project, which was a repackaging of several already-designed packages that didn’t relate to each other at all, was basically to pastiche as many different kinds of design as I could think of that might have anything at all with Shakespeare. Consider this my own small contribution to the conversation about plagiarism started by Jonathan Lethem recently. (Most of the imagery came from Hamlet, since, let’s face it, that’s the most “Shakespeare” of all Shakespeare, and also because Olivier’s the most recognizable in the Hamlet stills—no hunchback or anything.)
So, there was the “Penguin Classics” version:
The Pentagram/Public Theater/Shakepeare in the Park version:
The old school Criterion version:
And finally, a couple 50’s paperback-ish versions:
Somewhat to my surprise, the Public Theater comp was the favorite. I was surprised because I’d pretty much done that one for fun—the “downtown” vibe didn’t quite match up to my impression of Oliver, who’s got a rep as a much stuffier, more traditionalist interpreter of Shakespeare. But for whatever reason, that’s what resonated with everyone. So, great. But there were still a couple aesthetic problems. First, the black-white-and-red look had to go; we just do that too often at Criterion and everyone is (rightly) sick of it. Second, I wasn’t quite happy with the type—it felt kind of sloppy. So I moved some pieces around, slapped on my (now on the road to being overused) Night and the City texture over the top, and came up with this:
Meh. Okay, but pretty bland. Too much dead space around Olivier’s head, for one thing, and shunting him over to the right isn't helping matters. Also, it needed a little more dimensionality—maybe two tones? I found I was getting a nice brownish red color from successive multiplied layers of my favorite paper texture, so I incorporated that.
Better. But man, those little Yorick skulls in the circles are a lousy idea. I searched around for other “theatrical” imagery, and stumbled on the idea of curtains. Luckily, I happened to have some nice photography of curtains handy from the recent Yi Yi photo shoot. So I photoshopped those all to hell and pasted them in to frame Olivier’s face. And voila!
It didn’t really occur to me at the time, but this whole project is cobbled together from bits of past projects, isn’t it? I don't think there's a single original idea in there, but I think the end result (while still owing a lot to Pentagram) pretty much stands on its own. Or is that just wishful thinking on my part?