The Poster

panta rei dans lullaby

Video - Panta Rei Danseteater 'Lullaby'

Norwegian dance company Panta Rei Danseteater, late last year, conducted a little experiment whereby three dance makers created two pieces with the same name based on the same idea, featuring three male dancers and two musicians, to see what the outcome was.

June 2nd, 2016

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by Article19

The internet and social networks may be a big part of dance marketing these days, for better or worse, but one thing all dance companies still use is the printed poster and, its landfill little brother, the flyer.

Designs on these things haven't changed for decades. Mostly this is down to theatres. Present them with a promotional poster for a dance event that doesn't have a dancer on it and they will throw a hissy fit the size of Texas.

So, here in TheLab™, we thought it might be interesting to see what we could come up with using a very different design brief for some current touring productions.

What if you were only allowed to use a limited color pallet, no dance photos, minimal graphics, uniform typefaces. What if there were no logos, no branding, no nothing, just simple, clear, concise design.

Well, the results are down below. We covered five touring companies; Jasmin Vardimon Company, Candoco, Scottish Dance Theatre, Motionhouse and Hofesh Shechter [Dance Company].

To see the graphics in a larger, clearer version then take a look at our Flickr page and use the light-box feature.

Because of the dramatic difference between screen and print resolution we've updated with a small sample of the designs at full size (for the screen). When printed (which they won't be) the design would obviously be much larger than your screen.

[ Hi-Res on Flickr ]

Jasmin Vardimon Company '7734'

Candoco Dance Company 'Renditions'

Hofesh Shechter [Dance Company] 'Political Mother'

Scottish Dance Theatre 'The Life and times of girl A'

Motionhouse Dance Theatre 'Scattered'

[ Hi-Res on Flickr ]

  • Nicky

    Erm just a sec here - all of the companies you mentioned in your first posting don't actually need need marketing / poster design advice. They all do a a great job of attracting audiences from fantastic marketing and design. Why not use amazing dance shots, it's our business and unlike most marketing campaigns we don't have to use stock photo's!!! Dance publicity has come a long way. Don't knock it.


    P.S. Article 19 - I think your posters were rubbish!

  • We're not offering advice, we're putting forward a design exercise to prompt discussion, we're not pitching for work.

    You also fail to address issues around audience fatigue with similar design/promotion strategies, small companies and independent dance makers who have no access to high end photographers, cost issues, etc.

    Also, it's an exercise, don't take it personally.

  • Nicky

    I just get bored of hearing that marketing professionals are not doing their jobs properly, it's hard getting 'buy in' of ideas from all parties involved, including venues who prefer the safer design options.

    I also as you do get bored of hearing dance companies make excuses for not getting audiences. You can acheive excellent results when you do a bit of creative thinking and use more obscure visuals and cinematic strap-lines etc.

    I'm was also trying to inject some positivity, the companies that you named have had some beautiful poster campaigns and I'm proud to be working in this industry. I'm sick of all the moaning.

    I'm not sure if audiences are fatigue'd with marketing strategies I think that they don't want to pay £15 to see work that they are not sure if they are going to like. A lot of dance products at the moment are samey and lack substance plus there is still an issue with dance companies not describing their work clearly e.g. what is it about - really?

    Maybe it's less about design and more about the relationship between the product and the design.

  • The companies chosen we're picked completely randomly, not because of any specific issue we might have with their designs or marketing campaigns. After all, design is as much a subjective matter as dance work itself.

    We also realise that marketing the arts is, most of the time, a thankless task. It would however be interesting to see the outcome were the design and marketing strategies for a particular tour/company to take a left turn at the traffic lights (if you will).

    It is of course, easier said than done.

  • Kema

    @ArthurMoakes and Chantal
    I honestly think it has more to do with plain marketing and making accessible work, as has been proven in small/medium Manchester performances at the Contact Theatre, Green Room, Urban Moves.
    You need to touch your audience in some way a very beautiful A1 poster isn't going to pull everyone out. In Manchester most dance artists teach dance at some level and they invite the people they teach plus mates, family etc and you get your audience in.
    Plus the work mustn't alienate people as one of my choreographer mates always says, "If he couldn't invite his mum's mates to his performance without having to explain it, then he doesn't see the point of making it."
    If we are being too arty farty we won't get an audience, who wants to spend £12 and a Saturday night doing "conceptual critical analysis" of a dance piece that was suppose to be seen for enjoyment.
    You don't see people at The Proms making notes for after the performance do you.

    Finally @Chantal
    David Hughes was The Swan in AMP Swan Lake 1st Tour I know Adam Cooper did learn the role too. It p****s me off that no one seems to mention this fact it's as if Adam Cooper was the only person to do it!!! Saw him in Manchester in the 90's fantastic.

  • Chantal

    @Kema I was specifically referring to the early posters with Adam Cooper because of the impact they had in attracting audiences. It'd be great to see some of the David Hughes posters though, if you can link to any?

  • Kema

    Hi Chantal,
    It wasn't the posters that drew me to the Swan Lake, I saw the amp nutcracker and liked that plus mates from down south were dancing up north, so I thought I would support them.
    To be honest the best flyers and posters by far are for Richard Alston and I never go and watch cos the choreography is never as good as the posters.
    Adam Cooper was just good marketing because his "break" from the Royal Ballet was headline news.

  • Chantal

    I have to agree with Alex about the design mostly being defined by the company and not the theatres themselves.

    I've had several discussions about this topic over the last few years; most people argue that the flyer/poster should reflect what the company does, i.e. dance - however this runs the risk of people seeing it and thinking "oh, dance, pass".

    Although I know that your images above are just sample mockups, I do think shows could (and would?) benefit if the flyers and posters focussed more on being eye-catching and less on the dance content. Eg, publicity for Michael Clark's shows at Barbican and Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake (especially the original posters with Adam Cooper). If it grabs non-dance people's attention, they'll probably be more intrigued by the imagery, and more likely to check it out further if it's not screaming "DANCE!!" at them.

    Of course, this is all irrelevant if the sole purpose of the flyers and posters is to summon the normal dance crowd...

  • Arthur Moakes

    Touching upon something very interesting here. Alex the simple reason that we struggle to bring audiences to dance is simply because it is of little interest to those outside of the form, and all the pretty rambert style poses you can capture will not make people enter your theatre. Dare I say it but dance renders itself to be a slightly insular, elitist form most of the time. Its therefore no suprise that dance is behind on poster and image design, as it falls behind in every other aspect. If you pick up a dvd box must it have a picture of a laughing face to know its a comedy? or even a camera reel in case you wasnt sure it was even a film.

    I grow tired of stroppy little dance world people harping on about how no-one cares about the form. They dont because you all choose to keep it that way by understanding nothing that is going on in the wider arts worlds, design especially.

    What about metaphor and symbolism finding its way into dance image design. Could the use of a bold striking font on its own not evoke the power and physicality of what we are representing in the work. Must we have a literal dancer to sell dance? Are we that daft? I think maybe dance marketing people need to go back to marketing school, post 1970/ 1980's and gain new insight into the evolution of marketing strategy. Marketing firms in dance are some of the most laughable and out of touch you will ever find. In fact these people could only ever work in dance, because they would be too out of touch and unqualified to join a credible media agency representing an up to date form.

  • You make some interesting points but if you're going to call people names then have the bottle to use your own name. Before you start with the "what's your name then" blah blah our phone number is 0131 208 1845, we'll be happy to chat with you and our Editor will be more than happy to argue with you.

  • Arthur Moakes

    Sorry just seen this, bit confused by your comment about calling people names. I dont recall doing this in my post. I was pretty much in agreement with what you started here and simply added some further thoughts, personal frustrations. I didnt name names or attack anyone in person.

  • Alex

    Interesting topic this - however I think you're probably a little off when you say that it's theatre's who request that dance companies have dancers on print. As someone who's worked in marketing for both venues and dance companies the one plain simple fact is that it's hard enough bringing an audience in for dance full stop but the one thing that does seem to be effective is showing the dance on the print. It allows people visually to straight away have at least a stab at what they might see on stage. Also I'd have a real problem that these posters offer nothing about the respective individual identities of the companies - if I see CanDoCo's logo on a poster it helps draw my attention in as I know I've seen there work before and I like it - in the instant that most people have to see marketing materials that could be crucial.

    That's not to say that these sort of posters may not have a place somewhere though. They remind me of the limited edition art prints that you find at many gigs these days - not used usually to directly promote the event but sold at gigs as a collectible momento of the evening that represents it in a more artistic way - rather than the factual information that you have to include on a successful poster.

  • indeed, and this is just a simple design exercise, a whole "what if" using completely different aesthetics from what we normally see.

  • David

    Nice to see you're trying to do something different but the execution is way off.

    These posters are barely legible - a poster should advise on location, date, time in a clear manner otherwise there really is no point, it's just a boring exercise in photoshop rather than a considered design that serves both a functional and aesthetic role: posters are about increasing awareness of an event and hopefully inspiring an audience to buy tickets. This doesn't happen here.

    If we are to look at them from a purely visual perspective as they have obviously been made, design wise they are reminiscent of a dated american television poster aesthetic, they feel uninspired, typographically juvenile (read mass-market US television) and if you have any kind of visual impairment, you're going to have a hard time making out any of the text.

    Poster fail :(

  • Wow, somebody needs to get out of the bitter barn and play in the hay. Typography illegible, not at A1 old couch, hence the term "poster". But, all exercises begin with a first step so, c'est la vie.

  • david

    Most people don't view posters from <1m away guys. When discussing visual impairment, I meant that the low contrast would be difficult for those with imperfect vision and arts institutions and their advertising should be inclusive...but I agree with you, it's good to question these things and debate is always useful.

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