The world responded in a united uproar when Avengers: Infinity Wars ended on a cliffhanger (pun intended!). Now, we’re less than a day away from the climactic conclusion of that story. Fans are consuming every piece of gossip, every snippet from the movie, and all the news they can find. The trailer for Avengers: Endgame has over 80 million views alone.
What’s really got the fan base in a tizzy, though, are those 32 cryptic character posters Marvel released. It wasn’t clear until all the posters were released that Marvel was using color to tell us who faded into dust when Thanos snapped his fingers and who was left to fight another day. Their use of color in this way made a big impact, especially when paired with minimal content and images that are cropped and zoomed in. All the focus is on the hero. The placement of the Avengers logo and title are also well-thought out. It’s reminiscent of a medical monitor checking for brain function.
The excitement built by this movie 11 years in the making and the ensuing chatter about the posters got us thinking about all the posters put out by Marvel over the years. They have craftily used design elements to thrill fans, hint at the plot, and create an aura around the movie. Here, we’ve compiled 20 Marvel posters we think have awesome designs and laid out exactly why.
Infinity War: With a story about hunting down a rainbow of gems, it wouldn’t make sense for Marvel to stick with the dark. They let every color have its moment with this poster. The design of this poster plays on the hierarchy of the characters well. Thanos looms over the rest of the Avengers, who are secondary to him and the glove, which indicates he is the dominant force in the movie. The lighting is also a reminder of that as it shoots upward leading the eye to the bad guy.
What We Love: The characters are sorted into specific colors, and though we don’t know the meaning behind placement, it is thought-provoking. For example, are they trying to say that Star Lord’s desire for power affects his thinking? Or perhaps that Captain America’s mind is made up, and he relies strongly on his own experiences and values?
Thor: Ragnarok: This is one of our favorites. For a poster that truly could have been dark—given the sinister threat of Hela’s return—Marvel broke all the rules. Thor: Ragnarok has a totally different vibe than the superhero posters before it. The reds and yellows symbolize the fire of end of times while the green is a favored color for three main characters—Loki, Hulk, and Hela. They also played heavily on the retro trend with oversaturated colors and Ragnarok typography straight out of the 80s.
What We Love: The bright colors enhance the darkness of the character images on the poster making them shadows of who they were—a feat that makes sense considering this movie changes everything for these characters. Also, the layout is a perfect bullseye, and who better to put right in the middle but the puppet string puller himself: Grandmaster.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: The first poster was more colorful than almost any before it, but Marvel upped the ante with this fun new spread. Just like they boosted the jams, they increased the vibrancy emanating from the poster. The position of the characters is iconic as it pays homage to the old Star Wars movie posters (anyone else thinking that looks a little like a badass Han Solo?).
What We Love: Baby Groot, obviously. Aside from that, the nebulous frame Marvel used to border the heroes (one they used in three other posters: Dr. Strange, Thor, Captain America: Civil War) effectively draws in the eye. We also love the hand drawn typography which adds a nice retro touch.
Ant-Man: You’re probably wondering what’s up with this poster given the bright options above. Ant-Man harkens back to the dark backgrounds of most of the other posters, but it is the effective use of an accent color in this layout that makes it a standout.
What We Love: The red pops. This is one of the only color schemes that mutes everything around it but really plays up a singular shade. From the cast list to Ant-Man’s suit to the title itself, the red is used effectively to draw the eye to the most important parts.
Spider-man: Homecoming: We’ve got two here because these posters were fun. The first is the traditional movie poster. The second is the teaser and it is much more casual with minimal content and an angular cropping.
What We Love: The bold font style of most of the other posters denotes a strength that we expect of a superhero movie. In contrast to that, the font used here is a little less formal and a little more energetic. The spray-painted Spider-man mask for an O is a fun touch. Overall, the posters, including the font, are youthful, nodding to Peter Parker’s young age in these movies.
Thor: The Dark World: We’ve got two again. The first is overtly desaturated to indicate the darkness coming. In that version, the font is white. The second is much more colorful—though still desaturated. The bright blue lightning and deep scarlet cape juxtapose black lettering still lined in gold, so you know he’s royalty. It also plays on texture without giving away too much about what is coming.
What We Love: This is the first and only time we see Marvel play with complicated textures/designs within the title font. When you zoom in, you can see that the design is symbolic of the designs used on Mjolnir and other weapons, shields, and writings from Norse Mythology.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Have you ever looked at a typeface that so denotes space travel as the one on this poster? This witty font alludes to both the retro soundtrack Star Lord loves so much and the advanced technology that permeates outer space. Beyond the typography, this poster plays on the A-line design which shows a hierarchy of characters in the movie. The A shape leads you to the pinnacle—the star of the show. It also leads you down to the title.
What We Love: The Y. Seriously. Unlike all the other letters that seemingly stand straight up, the Y looks like it is ready to jet away—a smart, simple nod to the sci-fi genre. They have also placed a slight bevel on it that makes it look almost 3-D.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier: Winter Soldier is another desaturated poster that affirms the more serious nature of the movie. This was one of the first times we really saw Marvel play with individual character posters instead of just highlighting the main superhero. They gave us brooding, ultra-modern, almost illustrative designs.
What We Love: The updated, militaristic font is bold. It is direct. And it is consistent. Three adjectives that also describe America’s superhero.
Avengers: Until Avengers, the Marvel posters were less complicated—often only having one or two additional graphical elements in addition to the characters. But the Avengers poster changed all that with a dynamic scene playing out behind the heroes. It is laid out in a U shape which draws the eye across the line-up and plays with negative space and straight lines that lead the eye down to the title.
What We Love: Our eye is drawn to many places—the explosion, Ironman’s hand, Hulk’s oversized body. We get to see an image of the heroes in action, and that tease is almost as exciting as a trailer.
Doctor Strange: The world-bending Doctor Strange needs a poster that does the same. The graphic artist for this poster used symmetry and grid to develop a dynamic kaleidoscope that goes inward toward Strange. Sharp angles from all four corners also draw the eye center. Look deeper and you’ll see that all lines point toward the doctor, as if to say this movie revolves around him (and of course it does!).
What We Love: At every glance, we see something new. The cityscapes reflecting in ocean water that run over into more cityscapes. Tall buildings. Historic landmarks. The windowed roof of the Sanctum. It’s just a thrill to look at.
Black Panther: There are so many cool elements to this poster. The way the buildings rise up out of the ground as great technological feats. The pattern in the background with different Wakanda-inspired designs that symbolize the tribal patterns of Africa. The perfect symmetry on both sides and the traditional hierarchy of characters. The poster is reminiscent of art deco from the 20s with the negative space and patterns.
What We Love: The W shape alluding to Wakanda that surprises you when you see it.
The Incredible Hulk: Meant to harken back to Lou Ferrigno’s Hulk, Marvel set the imposing figure as the majority of the background. They included the cityscape behind it, but did they really need to? It’s all about the green monster here. One interesting note is the lighting. All lights shine on the title—the helicopters point downward, and it appears the title is illuminated by a spotlight. They really wanted you to focus on the name.
What We Love: The size difference between Banner and Hulk make it look like Hulk is as tall as the New York buildings. The imposing figure in the background is juxtaposed perfectly next to the dejected-looking Banner.
Thor: The background of this poster for Thor is the dark color we are used to. The shadowed figures of the other characters blend in perfectly while their brightly enhanced eyes stand out. There is a bit of desaturation on this poster, and the lighting all draws into Thor, the title, and the impact of the hammer. This poster is also one of the few in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that uses serif fonts which hint at the timeless Scandinavian mythology that provide the inspiration for this comic.
What We Love: The shattering of stone behind Thor adds a dramatic texture. The eyes of supporting cast have been highlighted providing a clue about their disposition.
Ironman: Another dark colored background allows for the characters to be the stars of the posters. The steep angle layout provides a dramatic sense of movement and motion. The typography is super bold and sturdy which makes it feel like metal—a perfect choice for the man in the iron suit.
What We Love: Whereas most Marvel posters are filled with textures, images, and other graphical elements, this version of the very first Marvel movie is simple and clean.
Captain America: The First Avenger: Here we have two examples again, and while they do have elements that tie them together like the gritty texture, they are unique in other aspects. The first is bold in colors and yet mysterious as dust clouds come up through to partially obscure the soldiers. It is chaos amid a looming baddie. The second is overtly patriotic and evokes the old war propaganda posters from WWII. It has illustration effects, and everything points to both the Captain and a love for the U.S.
What We Love: In its first break with dark backgrounds, Marvel gave us a pop of color and drama with this poster.
Captain Marvel: Surprisingly, Marvel didn’t play up the retro 90s setting of this movie in the poster. Instead, they opted to lean heavily on Captain Marvel’s branding—the colors and symbol that define who they are. They also went super modern with heavy digital effects, color overlays that let you see the background without it intruding upon her space, and a very dominant, solo figure in the foreground.
What We Love: By placing Captain Marvel center and giving her all of the focus, they highlighted the importance of her to the MCU.
Avengers: Age of Ultron: Here we again see the U shape that leads the eye back and forth between the characters. Their downward looks and direction of most weapons are not too obvious, but definitely leading toward the title.
What We Love: If you look, the texture on the poster is very similar to those from the first Captain America which conjures the Captain America: First Avenger feel. The placement of Cap at the forefront and larger than everyone else tells us he’s a major player.
Ant-man and the Wasp: In most of the Ant-Man and the Wasp posters, Marvel uses the diagonal graphic which is an excellent way to create movement. The angular grid also plays on the Wasp with an inset honeycomb graphic.
What We Love: The two heroes’ brands are incorporated together for the ideal team through the yellow to red gradient of the angled shaft of color. It is a perfect balance to the title and the juxtaposition of the two heroes.
Deadpool: Okay, we know he isn’t technically part of the MCU (and neither is our next poster), but Deadpool is still from Marvel, and who doesn’t love an anti-hero? The teaser poster for the new Deadpool movie is hilariously opposite of all other Marvel posters. There he sits, soft and impressionable, looking toward a bright future—pretty much the opposite of the reality of the hero. In the official poster, they effectively use negative space to draw your attention directly to Deadpool, and they leave out supporting characters because it’s all about him.
What We Love: The subtle dig at the rest of the superheroes on the teaser along with the way they have incorporated the title of the movie into his sweater. The simplicity and quirkiness of the official poster that tells us we’re going to get to see the comedic anti-hero of the comics we came to love.
Venom: Here is another hero with issues. The fan favorite anti-hero has a sordid history with saving lives and also taking them. This is perfectly represented in the horror-esque poster for the movie. On the right is Eddie Brock backed by a white background indicating the good side. On the left is the alien Venom backed by black indicating darkness. The black tendrils creep over Eddie’s face so that he is seemingly becoming more Venom than Eddie.
What We Love: The desaturated “good” side implies a more serious tone in this first of a series, and we love how they’ve juxtaposed the blue on his collar with the blue in Venom’s eye.
Looking at movie posters can be a good way to start thinking about your brand—especially the Marvel posters which have over a decade of being unified through colors, fonts, shapes, and other graphical elements. Each superhero has a brand identity that is instantly recognizable—and this is something companies should lean on too.
Creating a standout design that impacts its target audience and incites a reaction is the purpose of graphic design. This is true across industries through logos, advertisement campaigns, and brand identity.
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