Typography is often overlooked when discussing design, especially for something as visual as a film poster. But although there are usually few words on a poster, how these words are displayed can have a significant impact on the reader.

Well-chosen typography adds emotion, drama and personality to a poster, and can ultimately make your film more memorable and watchable in the mind of your intended audience.

Perhaps words aren’t so cheap after all.

It’s just the font, right?

So, what exactly is typography? Simply put, typography is the craft of arranging typefaces (families of fonts) to ensure they are legible, readable and visually appealing on the page.

As well as the letters themselves, typography encompasses spacing, line weight and orientation, to subconsciously embed a mood and a message in the mind of the reader. There has even been a study showing that larger font sizes can have the ability to elicit stronger emotional connections.

Like a lot of great design, it is an almost invisible art – you usually only consciously notice the typography when it just feels ‘wrong’.

The medium is the message

It seems clear that film poster design must take a considered approach to typography to ensure maximum impact on the viewer – and consequently, to help build a film’s audience.

In the last few decades, the typeface ‘Trajan’ has risen up to become a go-to for Hollywood poster design. Whilst it has its benefits – a clear, classic look quickly conveying the idea of an ‘industry standard’ (even when perhaps the film is not) – it is becoming clichéd and less powerful as a result.

Fortunately, there has been an explosion in available typefaces in recent years, means that there is more opportunity for variety than ever. Harking back to the ‘golden era’ of hand-painted movie posters, each film now has an opportunity to convey and pull in audience members with its unique and memorable personality.

Below is a breakdown of some effective examples of typography used in recent posters:

Bold and blocky

This style is very commonly used with sans serif fonts. This clean type communicates a modern feel and the all-caps, thick lettering is strong and impactful. It promises a film that is direct and no-nonsense.

Logan, I, Tonya & Get Out poster examples

Thin and sophisticated

Thinner lettering looks much more delicate and refined, suggesting a more intellectual film – something that is going to make you think long after you leave the cinema. 

Arrival, Phantom Thread & La La Land poster examples

Script and flow

Script typefaces are much more fanciful and decorative, and can be used to suggest a traditional fairy tale story, or even something more offbeat and original. They can suggest a fantasy or romanticised world – though whether its one you’d want to visit is up to you!

Lady Bird, Beauty and the Beast & Us poster examples

Slide into the action

Action films commonly use text set on the diagonal to suggest the momentum and dynamism of the narrative. The sense of movement indicates action and adventure, alongside a fast paced story.

The Fast & The Furious, Tenet & Hanna poster examples

Free and easy

Most posters utilise text on straight lines (mostly horizontal, but sometimes vertical). Curved or twisted text evokes difference and lets the viewer know they may be in for an unusual ride! It’s a great signifier of a more original story, aimed at a niche audience.

Tideland, Primer & Bigfish poster examples


The digital focus of modern design means that is increasingly easy to customise your typography with additional visual elements. This can be as varied as creating an ‘eighties’ look for ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ or adding a pictorial element to the text as in ‘Boss Baby’, but I think it works best when it works to communicate part of the narrative as in the design for ‘10 Cloverfield Lane’ – where the long lettering shows the tunnel underground.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, Boss Baby & 10 Cloverfield Lane example posters

Word and image

Another contemporary technique is to blur the line between the text and the image. This can be as simple as the partially obscuring the text in ‘Gone Girl’ or as bold as ‘The Martian’ where the text appears straight over the image.

This altered relationship between title and image can also be seen in posters such as ‘1917’ where the poster image can only be viewed through the text, focusing our attention simultaneously on the image and the text. This style works best for short titles only.

1917, Gone Girl & The Martian poster examples

Words are but pictures of our thoughts.

John Dryden

This selection of styles conveys the skill and artistry that goes into good poster typography. It’s great but – as mentioned in the introduction – in a way, invisible.

But if you can, imagine for moment these posters using typography from another popular product. Picture ‘1917’ using the Pringles typeface, ‘Arrival’ branded like Coca Cola, or ‘Beauty and the Beast’ in the style of a Colgate packet.

I know, right?

These (hopefully) ridiculously images should give you an idea of just how important typography is and the vital role is has to play in telling a film’s story and selling it to an audience.

Typography gives you a lot of choices.

Choose wisely.

For graphic design services for your indie film, drop me a line at adam@strelka.co.uk.