Thursday, July 5, 2007

Rebel Samurai

I originally approached this project with the idea of creating four unrelated but complementary designs. The result was intended to be not a matched set, but four designs that didn’t step on each others toes, or imply inappropriate connections. That is, if these four films are going to be packaged together, we wouldn’t want three of them to be mauve and the other bright yellow, because that would imply there was some relationship between the first three that the last didn’t share. But beyond that, I figured to treat them all as separately as possible. So with that in mind, here’s the kind of thing I was coming up with at the beginning of the design process.

The problem was… well, there were plenty of problems with those. I have no idea why the type on Sword of the Beast seems so Star Wars, for example, and there wasn’t anything in Samurai Rebellion to justify that illustrated look other than the fact that I didn’t have a lot of photography to work with. (Ditto the Art Chantry rip-off version.) In fact, you might notice that every comp here involves just that one photo—it was the only decent shot of Mifune we had. And these are just the ones I’m not too embarrassed to show!

But the main problem was, as I was working on the designs, I was having trouble coming up with a radically different approach for each film—they all seemed to call out for some of the same things. Obviously they were all samurai films, which meant they had similar iconography to begin with, but even beyond that, each raised questions about both the notion of honor and the conventions of swordplay movies as they had been established up to that point, each had unconventional action sequences, each seemed to want varying degrees of a‘60s pop art vibe. The designs wanted to be unified.

So I began to work on comps that had more of a connection. I started off with a sort of a design-neutral direction. Maybe we could imply a connection without making too much of an editorial comment?

But no. Bleh. Too boring for movies this exciting and fun. The next attempt tried to build on some kookier elements, like bright colors and patterns that might subliminally reference ‘60s pop culture.

But that didn’t feel right, either, and it only ever worked for half the films. Samurai Rebellion and Sword of the Beast never clicked in that style. There seemed to be a distinct progression from the more traditional towards this new outlook—maybe that could be a thread to hang the design on?

Building off of an idea I originally had for Kill!—because that was such a great title and so much fun to design around—I came up with some fun, energetic treatments that focused on the type. As the films get more and more “out there,” the type gets more broken up and haphazard in its arrangement. By the time we reach Kill! the lettering has gone crazy, we’ve lost the need for a line to break up the two sections, and our colors are bright orange and yellow. I had to play with the colors a bit before finalizing everything, but basically they worked, and those are the final covers.

Which just left the slipcase cover, which is generally the toughest part of a boxed set—representing all the films without privileging any one in particular. Thankfully, here we had a strong theme with some great samurai visuals

After some last minute back and forth on the set titles—I lobbied pretty hard for Samurai! (with the exclamation point), but was overruled—we arrived here:


MacGuffin said...

I really like the way the type pops at you on this set, esp Kill! with the sideways exclamation point being an esp nice touch (that's my fav out of the set, design wise). Of the prelims you did, I really like the one for Kill!. The little samurai emblem that looks like it's actually on his clothing the way it positioned is again, a nice little touch. I think Samurai! would've been a better title for the collection.

MSB said...

I hope you have occasion someday to reuse that original all-yellow concept for "Sword of the Beast." It's very simple, but I like it.

India said...

Oh, I like these! (Note to self: Steal idea sometime. Don't tell Eric.)

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Eric Skillman said...

One of the reasons that one in particular didn't fly was that it seemed a little too similar to the recent (at the time) Criterion release Sword of Doom, designed by the fine folks of Aesthetic Apparatus. So if you like the one, you might enjoy the other.

S said...

The two tones of the same color kind of design is one of my favorites. At least, I think that's what it's called, the light and dark versions of the color. It's particularly eyecatching and works very well for a DVD set.

The only issue I have is that two (Sword and Rebellion) have backgrounds while the others don't, which creates and odd inconsistiency, in that two are more detailed than the others.

Still, I love your work, and this is no exception.


az said...

hey anywhere i can get invited to demonoid. saw ure collection there.

Eric Skillman said...


I'll admit I don't know what "demonoid" is... what of mine did you see there?