Illustrating Film: A Matter of Distilling Images to the Very Basic

Movies have so much detail put into them, especially the great ones. Everything is carefully considered and planned: from an actor’s performance, camera angles and script writing, to props and scenery. Graphic representations of movies have to remove detail. They have limited physical space and don’t have the extra dimension of time to provide all the depth that a movie can. This means that designers have to be very selective with what they include in a graphic that represents a movie. Some designers have taken this reduction a step further and distilled their imagery down to the very basic. They include just enough detail to show the viewer what the topic is – and often let the viewer guess the movie the illustration represents. The commentary that these graphics provide is often taken as much from what has been removed as from what has been included. Infogr8 has done a great job of this in their bite-sized reports on the data behind the British Academy Film Awards. Their illustrations distill the characters and movies down to their essence, focusing on prominent facial features, important themes, or even character traits. Film awards ceremonies also bring out new fashion spectacles, especially for the female nominees. In Oscar Dresses, Mediarun takes a similar approach of simplifying each dress to it’s core qualities, showing off the things that made it recognizable.

Oscar Dresses: Every Dress Worn By Best Actress Academy Award Winners

  The movies themselves are probably the most challenging to reduce to imagery. There is so much that goes into a movie, simplifying them down to a single image can result in a gross underrepresentation of the depth of the original. Still, single images can be a great way to look at the crux of a film. Beutler Ink’s infographic The Best Pictures does a great job of representing each movie with a small, iconic illustration.

  Movies are major drivers of our culture, and it’s great to see designers playing off the medium, helping to document the impact they have all had.   Drew Skau is Visualization Architect at and a PhD Computer Science Visualization student at UNCC with an undergraduate degree in Architecture. You can follow him on Twitter @SeeingStructure

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