Why do movie posters use credit fonts that are hard to read?

  • Many contemporary movie posters typeset the credits in an extremely thin font:

    Example movie poster extract

    Is this just out of convention or is there a particular reason for deliberately making the credits hard to read?

    I'm new to ux.se and I do hope that this is on-topic here -- I read the FAQ and, as I understood it, generic UX question, which are not directly related to human-computer interaction, are on-topic as well.

    I believe it's a historical holdover/convention mostly dictated by hollywood lawyers and agents.

    Yes, this is an on-topic question, and a very good one if I may add. I have no clue in who's interest it is to make information illegible.

    I would discuss it as a topic of computer vision... if it is off-topic here may be moved to another SE site. The question has quite a point anyway.

    Star Trek: Into Darkness?

    @Gusdor: Precisely. ;-)

  • JonW

    JonW Correct answer

    7 years ago

    It's a legal compromise really.

    From an article on the New York Times:

    The design of modern billing blocks illustrates the tension between two intersecting interests: studios want uncluttered marketing materials, and industry organizations want their members prominently and fairly credited.
    Thus, it is neither accidental nor for aesthetics that the text in most modern billing blocks is tall and highly condensed. To ensure that billing block credits are legible, the Directors Guild of America (D.G.A) and Writers Guild of America (W.G.A) require that their members' names are at least 15 percent of the size of the type used for the artwork title. (i.e., the name of the movie, as set in the main body of the poster). If the artwork title has words of varying size, the height of every letter is measured and an average calculated. The D.G.A and W.G.A also mandate that the credit titles (e.g., story by or directed by) be no less than half the size of the names to which they refer.

    So really, in the face of legal obligations this is probably the best they can do. Still just about legible, fulfills the legal requirements to have the key names prominent while also not compromising the aesthetics of the poster artwork too much.

    Unfortunately the source article linked to is an image rather than a text so not very accessible. I've transcribed the most relevant element of it above.

    Disregarding the spirit by following the agreement to the letter. Never fails, right? ;)

    @Izkata "to the letter"—I see what you did there.

    Interesting. I find it strange that they are required to include the credits on the promotional cover, as that's what the end of the movie is for, not the promotional poster.

    ... and this is the sad history of how the legalese killed UX.

    @Braiam I wouldn't say so really. UX involved taking many things into consideration to come up with a solution. We have to consider business requirements, budgetary limits, user needs, aesthetic and branding, and technical restrictions. Coming up with the optional user experience based on these factors (and more) is where the skill of our profession comes in.

    It's a similar reason credits at the end of TV programs tend to speed past so quickly. The people being credited have secured their right to be listed, but the networks don't want to eat into advertising time by showing them slow enough to read.

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