Yves Peters: Trajan in Movie Posters

A few years ago Yves Peters noticed a demand from people to know what typefaces are being used on movie posters. So he started blogging about it on the FontFeed blog.
When you start looking at movie posters all the time, you start noticing some pretty major trends. If the movie is a comedy, it will most likely include large, chubby red or blue type. If it’s a romantic comedy, the font will mostly likely be serif. Indie films? More than likely you can expect some sort of hand-rendered Helvetica or Gotham. But, Yves notes, all type aside, if there are two people laying in bed on the movie poster. You can almost be guaranteed there won’t be any action.

Photo Credit: Amber Gregory
Another thing he noticed is that there is one typeface that defies any specific category. And that’s Trajan. He also kept hearing that using Trajan on a movie poster would make a movie Oscar material. Not being one to blindly accept a statement this bold, Yves decided to see if this was actually true.

After viewing a ridiculous number of thumbnails (16,089 to be exact) here’s what he found. Warning: this was not a scientific study.

Trajan was released in 1990. This meant he needed to filter through over 20 years of movie posters. This also meant he needed to set a few ground rules

  1. Trajan was used for the original poster
  2. Trajan has to be the main typeface
  3. Each film only counts once

What he found?
There are over 400 movie posters in 20 years that use Trajan. Yves once again noticed a few trends.

  • If a popular film uses Trajan on year, the use of Trajan explodes in the next year.
  • In 1999 Adobe expanded the typeface. The use of Trajan in movie posters went up.
  • In 2005 Trajan was bundled into a few programs. Again an explosion.

Recently, Trajan was expanded to more weights and a sans version. Yves estimates again we will see a boost in Trajan

So here’s the breakdown.
Trajan has defied genre and is being used in drama, romantic comedies and horror files. Brilliantly enough, the Oscars even decided to adopt Trajan.

However, in 2006 Gotham starting to popping up in posters – really popular ones. And in an even more brilliant move than before, the Oscars jumped on the bandwagon used Gotham as their primary font in marketing materials last year.

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Yves Peters

Graphic Designer, Rock Drummer (Ghent, Belgium)

Yves Peters is a graphic designer / rock drummer / father of three who tries to be critical about typography without coming across as a snob. Former editor-in-chief of The FontFeed, he has found a new home on FontShop News. Yves writes about type and talks at conferences. His ability to identify most typefaces on sight is utterly useless in daily life.
So the real question is, will using Trajan or Gotham on your movie poster actually get you an Oscar? Probably not.

Yves edits The FontFeed, a daily dispatch of recommended fonts, typography techniques, and inspirational examples of digital type at work in the real world; and Unzipped, his blog on the FontShop BeNeLux home page. He also is an accomplished drummer with British/American/Belgian pop/rock bands Troubleman and Rosa Luxe*. Yves’ talent for being able to identify most typefaces on sight is utterly useless in daily life.

— posted by Brooke Francesi