A Midsummer Night’s Dream

— Poster Design 
1 Week
Poster Design

The goal was to create a poster for the Seattle Shakespeare Company’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”.  In my research, I was struck by how much all the posters for a Midsummer Night’s Dream were largely similar. For a play that has such unique magic to it, everyone was using the same symbolic language — Bottom’s donkey head, flowers, moon. I wanted to push against that in my work, and create a poster that expressed the heart of the play in a refreshing way.

I re-read the play before I began sketching. Shakespeare’s work is famous for its ability to contain multitudes of readings and concepts — so I had to pin down what I got from the play and speak to that in my design. For me “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is about delirium, magic, and the fluidity of reality. Love is one of the main topics of the story — and there is lot of playfulness around how love can blind people. We also have characters magically tricked into loving someone they didn’t before, or seeing someone through a charmed lens. Titania falls for the ass-headed Bottom, Lysander spurns Hermia for Helena, and so on — all from the mischievous actions of Puck under the direction of the spiteful Oberon. Meanwhile there is a constant theme of Night vs Day — like two mirror images of reality, the world of the fairies and the world of humankind both existing together like two sides of the same coin. This lead to an sketched idea of a face that had two different halves. One eye open, flowered, and awake — and one eye closed in sleep. Portraying just a face was in part inspired by memories of seeing sculptures of the face of the “Green Man” forest deity at a farm I worked at on Vashon Island. It was the simplest distillation I could find for the web of ideas I drew from my reading experience.

I chose to draw upon the history of Polish film posters as inspiration for this project. I thought the dark whimsy and surreality of that work was a great fit for the tone of the play and how I was reading it. The colors I chose evoke moonlight, and a hyper-real or surreal forest palette.

I wanted the expressive, painterly qualities of the Polish posters — so I worked in Procreate on the iPad to make full use of the brushes and textures I had available. I layered highlights upon highlights above the deep emeralds and blues underneath to get the effect of moonlight on forest boughs. I wanted the lettering to also be loose, expressive, painterly, and fanciful — so I made my strokes energetically with a fat brush. I chose to include a beloved quote from the play “Lord what fools these mortals be” because it so perfectly captures the comedy and spirit of the play. The quote placement also helped reinforce the dichotomy between the two halves of the face.