Sunday, September 20, 2009

White Dog

I wrote this one a while back, actually... not sure why I didn't post it at the time, but here it is now:

As I recall, the initial meeting to discuss the brief for White Dog lasted for hours, as we worked our way through all the various interpretations of this controversial film: is it an unjustly censored masterpiece? A well-meaning but ham-fisted allegory? A bold political statement against racism? A formulaic horror film with delusions of significance? A visionary film that transcends its genre? A nominally anti-racist film that exposes the underlying institutional racism of the filmmakers involved? Opinions were voiced, arguments offered, the whole thing was a rigorous intellectual endeavor. At the end of it all, just as everyone was getting ready to head back to their respective desks, I wanted to get one last point of clarification:

"So... as far as the design goes: big scary dog, right?"

"Oh, yeah. Totally."

So "big scary dog" it was. I was excited about trying to incorporate something like the flat color style I'd used on those Randy Bandits records, so I set to work drawing big scary dogs. Here's the first batch I sent around:

(Re: colors: the white/black/red combo seemed immediate obvious, but I threw those brownish ones in there because sometimes people around here can get burnt out on black/white/red designs. Luckily, we didn't have to go that direction: if there was ever a film that demanded the black/white/red color scheme, this is it.)

Those last two (and okay, a little bit the first one, too) were quickly derided as looking too much like labels for microbrew beer bottles. (And who wouldn't want to crack open an ice cold White Dog after a hard day at the office? Microbrewers of America, call me!) I liked the drawing in #1 the best, (though admittedly the type is weak), but the producer liked the composition in #2, but wanted to see it with some of the snarling energy from the (otherwise lousy) drawing in the last two. So I set about drawing in some snarl to #2, and tried a few new title treatments while I was at it (a couple of which are really bad in retrospect):

I also tried a few variations on that first drawing, but to no avail. (I'm still quite fond of that last one with the red title in the lower right corner, actually.) I did ultimately sneak it onto the menus, though--score one for stubborn designers!

Anyway, we were all set to go with this one:

But then it turned out that there were some legal issues that limited the size of the title treatment (specifically, the size of the credit block on the back cover had to be a certain percentage of the title treatment, which would have taken up literally the entire back cover if we'd sized it according to the title on our cover of choice, which meant, in effect, that the title treatment had to be shrunk down to accommodate the credit block.) I tried resizing the title on the existing cover, but it just didn't work:

So we needed a new solution. Luckily, I had another drawing handy, one we had been planning to use as the booklet cover, to play up the good dog/bad dog dichotomy in the film. Plus, the dog coming out of the blank field of white has a nice, creepy effect that fits the film well. We decided the transition from good dog cover to bad dog booklet made just as much, if not more sense than the other way around, so we preserved the original cover on the insert booklet (free from legal requirements) and used this as the DVD cover (a fine solution, I think!):

(By the way, if you're a Fuller fan but a White Dog skeptic, try watching the film with the chroma turned all the way down (i.e. as a black & white film)--you'll be shocked at how much it starts feeling like classic Fuller once you're not distracted by all the '80s pastel jumpers and whatever.)


Dan Z said...

I like the simplicity in the one everyone ultimately went with. Nice and bold.

It's different but reminds me a bit of the "Throne of Blood" dvd cover (the graphic quality).

Tommy Atkins said...

Wow, I've been wondering about the cover art struggles for this release and was happy to find this article. Could you share more about the legal requirements of cover type versus credit block type on a box's reverse? I had no idea there were requirements about that . . .