This brief is asking me to design a set of promotional print materials for a youth theatre club’s production of the Mike Leigh play Abigail’s Party. The play is set in the 1970’s and the expectation is for the design to reflect the feel of the decade. I need to produce an A3 portrait poster, an A5 landscape double-sided flyer, an A6 newspaper advert for the production and an A5 programme cover. The style and theme of the promotional design should maintain continuity across all the materials.
“Youth Theatre Club” “Abigail’s Party” “Suburban” “1970’s” “middle class aspirations and preoccupations”
Questions I would ask the client:
- Does the theatre club have a logo I need to incorporate into the design?
- Do any of the materials need to be printed in black and white?What information needs to be included in each design e.g dates, times, places, production names?
- Are there any details of sponsorship that need to be included?
- Should the poster include photographs of the cast members in character?
As this is a youth theatre club the target audience is likely to be primarily family members and family friends from a wide age range. The promotional material will also aim to attract members of the wider local community. The design will need to be eye-catching and it should tempt people to not only look at the promotional materials but also book tickets for the production. I think a successful design will be versatile and work well across the different design sizes. It will also give a suggestion as to what type of production the audience could expect should they buy a ticket and will aim to communicate the emotion and genre of the play. The design also needs to answer all the audience’s practical questions and deliver the important details of the show in a clear and succinct manner.
•Acquaint myself with the play and its themes.
•Research design styles, colours and typography from the 1970’s.
•Research examples of theatre production posters from the 1970’s and in recent years.
Abigail’s Party is a play by Mike Leigh which was written and devised for stage and television. It follows an evening in a 1970’s house where five neighbours have gathered for a drinks party. Beverly and her husband Laurence are the hosts and the party is attended by Angela and Tony, a couple, and Sue, a divorcee who lives next door and whose 15 year old daughter Abigail is holding her own party the same evening. The play is a situational social satire and throughout the course of the narrative the aspirations, conflicts, desires and fears of the characters are explored through different interactions and events. Tensions in Beverly and Laurence’s marriage are evident throughout and she flirts obviously with Tony, fuelled by alcohol and her desire to have the upper hand in both her marriage and with her neighbours. Tensions escalate as Sue becomes increasingly anxious about her daughter’s party and Beverly and Laurence’s bickering and one-upmanship continues. The evening ends in disaster when Laurence suffers from a heart attack.
I made some notes about the play’s themes and characters.
The Youth Theatre Club are keen for the designs to have a 1970’s feel so I needed to carry out some research to find out a bit more about the style of the decade.
It is a decade of design that is commonly referred to as ‘tacky’ and ‘garish’ and criticised as ‘the decade that taste forgot’. The design style of the 1970’s was playful, experimental and hedonistic, reflecting the ideas of idealism, radicalism and social change that were prevalent during that time. It was the era of bright, bold and clashing colours and a burst of prints, textures and patterns. 1970’s patterns were almost always repetitive and had great depth and complexity. They are largely composed of geometric and floral shapes.
The 1970’s colour palettes were comprised of muted, earthy tones and characterised by hues of greens, browns, yellows and oranges.
I created a Pinterest board of 1970’s design inspiration which captures patterns, colours, typography and posters from the decade.
1970’s graphic design can be defined by its bold and attention seeking typography. Balloon style lettering, geometric glyphs, hard lines, outlines and swashes were all commonplace. Type had a three dimensional quality that was made possible by developments in type setting techniques during the decade which gave designers more freedom to experiment with type.
Letraset type designs from 2973
from the book Trademarks of the ’60s & ’70s by Tyler Blik
A collection of fonts used in the 1970’s and more modern typefaces influenced by the style can be found at:
My final piece of research was to look at posters for theatre productions. I collected a selection of examples from the 1970’s:
- Full Circle, Apollo Theatre 1970
- Czech Studio Ypsilon Theatre, La Traviata 1972
- Rozel Music Gardens, The Organist Entertains
- Finishing Touches, Apollo Theatre 1973
I then found some existing promotional posters for productions of ‘Abigail’s Party’ put on by other theatre companies.
Patrick Argent’s fascinating article ‘Exploring the Art of the Theatre Poster’ helped with thinking about how to communicate emotion and purpose through the medium of the poster. I will use the following quote to inspire questions when I am critiquing my ideas and developing my design.
“The poster epitomises the essence of the play, interprets the director’s often particular and idiosyncratic vision of a script, intrigues and beguiles the audience, and persuades – all in a single image.”