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  • If you're sitting in a movie theater during previews, and you see this ….

  • you know to expect a comedy movie.

  • If you see thisyou know it's gonna be action.

  • Make the letters a little skinnyand boom.

  • It's sci-fi.

  • You know this one's gonna have fast cars...

  • This one's gonna have Michael Cera…. … and this one's gonna be a rom-com.

  • You don't even need the music to know it.

  • But what about this?

  • This typefaceTrajanis probably one of the most popular movie poster fonts ever.

  • You can see it in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Double Jeopardy, Letters from Iwo Jima,

  • It's everywhere.

  • So how did it get there?

  • I'm Yves Peters, I am a graphic designer who has been writing professionally about type and typography since about 10 years.

  • Yves has looked at a lot of posters.

  • And a few years ago, he started to notice a trend.

  • I started clicking, clicking, clicking, and didn't know where I started because I ended up looking at about 16,000 posters.

  • Yeah, well, I look at about 100 posters per month and I've been doing this series since 2006…

  • It's a lot of posters every year.

  • He noticed that the use of Trajan rose significantly in the last couple of decades.

  • But why?

  • In 1989, designer Carol Twombly adapted inscriptions from Roman emperor Trajan's column into a digital typeface.

  • It was made for Adobe, so it was a part of the software that a lot of people were starting to use to make posters.

  • A couple years later, it made its movie poster debut hereforctor Babenco's At Play in the Fields of the Lord.

  • After that, it was on The Bodyguard, and Scent of a Woman.

  • Then it was on three 1993 box office hits.

  • By 1994, it was everywhere.

  • It's originally used for epic movies, movies about people that overcome difficulties, like the big war epics and so on.

  • But then you see gradually that it becomes the standard movie font.

  • It's like the Arial of movie posters.

  • So people need to churn out a poster really quickly, and they just pick Trajan.

  • Eventually, that overuse started to change the kinds of movies that were used the typeface.

  • You don't see it as much on the big productions anymore.

  • It's become the typeface of horror movies, B-movies, and also the straight-to-video ones.

  • So you'll see that a lot of posters are for the lesser movies that want to pretend they are better than they actually are.

  • The rise and fall of Trajan illustrates the downside of digital typeface.

  • The convenience of swapping fonts is a huge shift from the old movie poster days when hand-painted typefaces or "lettering" was an art that was specific to each movie.

  • So what you see behind methis is more like the pre-blockbuster thing... pre-genres, pre-standard stylesand that's why you will be hard-pressed to find two that are similar.

  • That doesn't make today's genre-specific typography bad design.

  • These visual clichés make it possible to communicate tone and plot details to an audience incredibly efficiently.

  • And there's a certain art to that.

  • People get nostalgic about the old era of movie posters, when everything was still done by hand and still very unique.

  • But you could compare it to music, where some people say, "nothing good was produced since the Beatles."

  • But then there are people who say there's nothing good since Mozart.

  • Fair enough, but there's many other interesting things that are being produced now.

  • There's just much more.

  • But there's still a lot of very good poster design happening.

  • It's just, you need to know where to look.

If you're sitting in a movie theater during previews, and you see this ….

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B1 US Vox typeface trajan poster clicking typography

How one typeface took over movie posters

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    Evangeline posted on 2021/05/14
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