How Movie Posters Have Changed In The Last 98 Years [Infographic]

From 1914-2012, things have gotten a lot more blue.

It seems silly when Pantone announces the new color of the year, but their basic premise is correct: Our tastes in colors change over time. Consider the green refrigerators and yellow countertops of the 1970s vs the stainless steel appliances of today. Be it in paints, inks, fabrics or linoleums, color sink into our collective consciousness.

Vijay Pandurangan was interested to see how colors played out in one of society’s most time-honored advertising traditions, the movie poster. So through some clever code, he snagged 37,000 posters from an online image database, sorted them by year (1914-2012), counted the color pixels in each poster and then mapped each color’s frequency in a simple horizontal strip.

Click to enlarge.

What he generated was a fascinating timeline, a way to quickly scan the trends of Hollywood marketing in terms of nothing but color. If there’s one thing to gather from his project, it’s that posters have definitely gone more blue. Today, about half of all poster colors are blues, versus, what, 10% or so in the beginning of the century?

Pandurangan points out several potential reasons for this shift, like that the hand painted posters of yore featured unrealistically orange skin tones, balanced by the more balanced flesh tones of photography. But when I see that almost perfect 50/50 distribution between orange and blue in 2012, I can’t help but consider this post from Slashfilm that points out how orange/blue combination posters have taken over the industry, their complementary wavelengths popping in our eyes like fireworks. Maybe there aren’t a whole lot more blue posters than there were before…maybe there are just a whole lot more orange and blue posters than there were before.

Click to enlarge.

If you like the infographic, be sure to check out the interactive version on Pandurangan’s page. You can click on each year and see a pie graph breakdown. And for however lousy most of these movies may actually be, everybody loves pie.

See it here.

[Hat tip: boingboing]

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4 Comments

  • RedKabbalah

    1924 had no movie posters i suppose, or some scripting error not able to fetch the posters from that year ...

  • Ben Young

    It would be intertesting to compare US film posters with their UK versions to see the colour differential. Research a while back suggested adding blue to the cover of a magazine in the US would bring increased sales but that in the UK tdoing so tended to dent sales.