2001: A Space Odyssey poster

Here is a poster I’ve been thinking about doing for the past 2 years, and finally had the opportunity when I was approached by the people organizing a Stanley Kubrick exhibition at La Cinémathèque française in Paris. They had originally asked for me to submit my existing 2001 poster I designed about 3 years ago, seen here. But I always saw that poster as half finished and wanted to make something more worthy of the film. So here we go.

This poster was an odyssey within itself. I immersed myself in 2001: A Space Odyssey for a week, watching the film twice along with all the ‘making of’ footage and documentaries, researching concept art and posters online, and doing a bunch of sketching. Even once I had a concept on the go, it changed a few times as I started building my elements. I wanted the poster to have a subtle touch, hit the theme of the film, yet still have a Signalnoise flavor. It was daunting to say the least. Here are a few previous versions and sketches.

One of my favorite design elements of 2001 are the planet edges with a rising sun, so I included a lot of arches and ‘horizons’ in this one to mimic that concept. Played with a lot of symmetry as well, echoing the film. I wanted to shy away from any wild rainbow effects or showcasing HAL, those ideas seemed a bit too obvious.

All in all, a super fun design to work on. Going to get some posters made of this one soon.

56 Comments

  1. Awesome job James!!! fits the movie and your style perfectly!

  2. Lookin’ good sir.

  3. Absolutely love it! You’ve captured the film within your own unique style! Awesome!

  4. Signalnoise strikes again! This time you have hit gold. Pure, shiny, unadulterated, gold!

  5. Cameron

    Epic stuff James! Mega kudos!!

  6. Totally agree with the guys^, you’ve nailed it!

  7. Absolutely nailed it. I can almost hear Richard Strauss’ epic intro.

  8. LOVE IT! How do you make them all so fastt!!!

  9. DUDE! Go and kick some more Movie Poster ASS! HAHA!
    Your Inspiration for today (and another Movie Poster: The DAN O SAUR watchin Kubricks SHINING in about an hour on German Television!
    DanOsauR OUT!

  10. You missed a great opportunity to draw a parallel between the shape of Hal’s panel and the monolith! Why did you stray away from it in your early versions?

  11. Great to see your process. Great symmetry and subtle use of shapes and colors to bring the content to life in a simple minimal way.

  12. I like it a lot. I wonder what could happen if the monolith was merged with the background?

  13. Neal

    Nice design! It vaguely reminds me of the “Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swan” poster from the early 80’s:

    http://www.notrecinema.com/images/cache/timerider-affiche_283261_18520.jpg

  14. Stan

    Hmmm, I much prefer your original take back in 2008. This poster says “Metroid” to me, not “2001”. I’m clearly in the minority here.

  15. I have to say: this kicks ass. Reading about what went into the design makes the poster only that much better.

  16. haineux

    Loved the old design better, at first, but then decided the new one kicks major ass. Love the air line, the “flattening” of the Neanderthals and the Astronaut. I would have gotten rid of the accordion pleats in the space suit, and the red dot.

    As for “runner up #1″ — play MYST much?

  17. M. Gersting

    I love it, but I think the “ultimate trip” tag is unnecessary.

  18. Tim Checkley

    Oh wow it looks like an Apple desktop now. Just wow.

  19. i think i just about died….this is my favorite movie of all time!! aaaahhhhh!! will you be selling this? i would buy this in a heartbeat…sublime as always!!!! :D

  20. jonathan

    That is insane, great work.

  21. fdsgsdgfs

    cheesy, pandering and lame

  22. Really, really excellent. Your style is a perfect fit for the subject matter and it all comes together beautifully. I’d put this on my wall for sure.

  23. mb

    Your design concept with HAL as the sun, sans the white silhouette, would be the best. The vector astronaut and “ultimate trip” line evokes an “off” sense of decade and makes it seem more like a poster for a retroactively designed Atari video game rather than a movie. The picture of Dave retains the idea without diluting it. The silhouette is extraneous. Your original concept, while abstract, retains the right feel. I think you lost it a little bit with your selected final design.

  24. Nice poster mate :) Very cool,
    Have you seen the artist Tomasz Opasinski, He does a lot of alternate Movie Poster designs that you may enjoy, not so much your retro style, but if you were gonna continue doing Movie Posters for yourself it could be a good resource to look at :) Anyway, food for thought :D
    Great Design!!!!

  25. Mike Holmes

    Cowardly, trite, useless.

    See, the difference, “fdsgsdgfs”, is that you haven’t provided a blog that I can post that to for everyone to associate with your real name.

    Enjoy your awesome life.

  26. Josh

    Awesome. I liked that you avoided the cliches that were all too obvious. Been hearing about it since Friday, and it seemed well worth the effort my friend.

  27. Josh

    Btw the way, did you ever get you stolen art work off the web?

  28. Gully

    Centered, vertically symmetric compositions are not your friend. Its a crutch, force yourself to try more dynamic compositions.

  29. Strikes again ;) really nice concept.

  30. Radness. The ‘ultimate trip’ bit really bugs me though…reckon doesn’t need it and it draws to much attention to itself.

  31. Jon

    Gorgeous.

    I’d kill for a desktop wallpaper version …..

  32. Excellent! Your work is better day by day! Congrats.

  33. Hey James, Great work again, I can’t say that I have seen the film, but I would have liked to see the bottom of the main square blend into the bottom. Another note – I love your sketches, even though they are just line strokes, and quick concepts – I think they look fantastic

  34. james (Author)

    Thanks so much for all the lovely comments, everyone! Seriously humbled, you have no idea.

    There are a couple of points I wanted to reply to specifically regarding the design, some great points a few people brought up via the comments regarding elements of the design. Here we go:

    “The ultimate trip” tagline – A few people brought this up as being bad, but there’s a reason it’s in there and a bit of a story behind it. When 2001 was first released in theaters back in 1968 it did rather poorly for a number of weeks. The posters sported the tagline “An epic drama of adventure and exploration”, which is pretty dry. After a few weeks, a resurgence of younger people started seeing the film for its psychedelic fantasy . . . it was more of a ride then a movie. The posters were changed to sport the slogan “The ultimate trip” to appeal to this younger hip audience who might “consume consumables” before the film. I find this story pretty funny, which is why I chose to include that slogan even though it is a bit stupid.

    Symmetry – I’m planning on writing a post about my excessive (and rather subconscious) use of symmetry in my work, but wanted to reply directly to it here first. 2001 as a movie uses a lot of balanced shots and symmetry, Kubrick did this on purpose probably because it was a lot more difficult then a standard shot. I really wanted that idea to be echoed in this poster in particular so even though I use symmetry way more then I probably should, in this case it was deliberate . . . not just preference. :)

    I really appreciate the feedback, everyone. Thanks so much.

  35. Patrick

    Awesome! O___O

    Will a high-res version of this ever be available? Or maybe even a poster to order?

  36. One more poster for me to order! Really great design!

  37. Jim

    Any chance of getting some higher resolution version to upload at themoviedb.org for those of us who use home theatre PC software?

    http://www.themoviedb.org/movie/62

  38. Nick

    Please, I must know how to obtain a copy. Please.

  39. Sideshow

    James – there is no doubting the quality of work is certainly there. Thanks for sharing. It had to have been a blast getting this out of your system. But I must respectably say you tried way too hard on these. There is just too much going on. In your quest to tell a story, you went away from emotion and intrigue (the main pillars of the film) to in-your-face, I’ll hold your hand with obvious storytelling direction. Where’s the mystery? The mystique? The next problem is illustration-style silhouettes mixed in with photos just doesn’t work in this context, no fault of your own. Oil and water here. Lastly, the image of Dave that you used is way too familiar, seen for years on all video and media (http://goo.gl/HLe5l) and it’d been best to use something way less familiar. An interesting still from the movie that we havent immediately seen.

    All in all, it’s a common problem experienced when you try to honor what you love, it often gets distorted by too much of what’s right in front of you versus embracing the background noise of what makes the film work as seen through your style.

  40. Rafael Claycon Schmitt

    Really nice work, congrats!

  41. I agree, but it seems to have been a semi-official tagline for the movie, and I’ve seen it in other posters for the film. It might’ve helped drum up publicity in 1968 (certainly a good year to employ that sort of phrasing) but in 2011, it just sounds dated and ridiculous to me.

  42. Desktop Wallpaper is an excellent idea

  43. Please one hint, James: the spots at the black bottom are hand drawn?
    Definitively, i want that poster!!

  44. Nibiru

    Looks like Sideshow scrolled right passed the actual finished piece and started critiquing the mockups, because none of his/her comments apply to the final poster.

  45. Matthew W. S. Bell

    Umm, yeah, are you selling these?

  46. your sketches look really nice, what kind of technique did you use?

  47. really, really, really awesome!

  48. Nice, I like the process from sketch to final.

  49. Hoping to see this in the Signalnoise store!

  50. Ivar Edding

    Must….have…poster…..!!

  51. Great Poster! Where can I buy?

  52. Nono

    Oo it’s so great.

    Do you plan to sell some of 2001 poster on Signalnoise store ? (plz ! *begging you*)

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