Reverse Designing : Breaking down inspiration


Whats this all about ?  

Visual learning may I call it. Something I strongly believe in ever since I stepped into the arena of graphics and design. With no formal training in using Photoshop and other raster tools, I still managed to pull off posters like these. Simply because its not rocket science, but understanding your inspiration. At the end of this post I don’t promise you, that you’ll be an awesome artist, but I do promise  that your channel of inspiration will definitely be routed better. Sometime back I  bumped across the final destination 5 poster in the newspaper. Really amazed by the idea behind the design, I wanted to try and re create it. So there was my first step into the making of this post. You will further see that was successful to some extent in re making it from scratch and adding a little of my own style to it. It only motivated me to try some more movie poster and so it happened. How did I manage it. How did I successfully potray the same message without a tutorial. You are just about to find out.

NOTE: The images appear small. Click them to enhance the view. Once it opens in another page click it again for a detailed view. Sorry about the trouble.   


My first attempt at this poster. I have previewed the original and OFFICIAL poster for the movie on the left with my version on the right. As you see both look different but similar. How did I do it.


I carefully observed the Original poster. The basic idea behind its design. Understand the main and sub components that build the idea in the design. Here key factors being the bridge transforming into a skull. Major and most important aspect that links both are the idea of it falling into the sea portraying the concept of death via the skull image. Now figure out the sub components. Here the couple on the edge of it, the suspension tower and also the bent and twisted railings along the edge with the debris. Once you have your components sorted, next get them. Its always good to have a good set of stock images ready to work with. Once you have your basic components ready, its time for the molding and blending.


Now that you have your stuff cut out. Move on to the process. How do you think it was made. My first guess – Skull wrapped with the bridge image and may be a 3D modelling tool used to add depth and perspective. I yet don’t know how right I was. But this is how I did it. First I got my main components ready. Picked an image of a skull. Now how do I get the road to fade out into a skull? With no book to play by, I just go for it. Set and place my skull image. Clean it up. No unwanted details, only bold and distinct edges and highlights maintained. I immediately grabbed some cracked mud textures and broken concrete slabs images and began overlaying them. Step by step blending, filling and cropping each image to fill in. I managed to atleast give the skull a concrete and cracked texture. Now I played with various wraps and perspective tools to try and bend the head of the skull to make it appear as if it were flat. My point here – Go with flow. Trial and error method. What’s the CNTRL+Z for? I played with various blend modes, perspective tools till I reached a satisfactory level of similarity. Always look out small loops that will give you a start. After I layed it out, I added dept to the eye sockets by simply enabling emboss and shadows. Simple tricks and I skipped the 3D aspect out. My idea didn’t deliver a 100%, but what the heck, I got me 50% similarity and yes I used my head and built my own work flow. Its times like these when a lack of a step by step snapshot assisted tutorial , that you really open your BOX. Channeling your current knowledge with imagination is also learning. For Ex: I realized that by changing the blend mode of the cracks to Overlay, I achieved a small depth. May not be the thing for this project but may be for the next. This is how you need to look and decode the work flow of an artist. Just give it a shot. No worries, you are not failing at any point. All you are doing is building your thought process and sharpening your creativity based on imaginations and visualization.


Come on facts here. Even if I gave you a detailed tutorial of how I did it, each one of us is going to have a different results anyways. My point here – Take advantage and throw your style out here. As you may see, I sorted out the skull and road, but debris? I clipped and cropped a few broken buildings, walls, dirt, pipes and wrapped then and merged them to create my own debris. Copying the same debris in different locations only re sizing and changing the orientation helped me create more debris. Adding the tower and the sea was no challenge. Here’s the twist I took it 1 step ahead by adding a few falling vehicles rather than a couple at the edge. Not only that, I gave it a misty background and rough sea. I completed it out by adding a vintage touch and some grunge textures to the over all product to add some personal style to it.


My personal favorite. Just because I deviated completely from what the original poster was. This case study offers a whole new path of  visual understanding.

Ok. Why so much difference? Well I wanted to in this case. Reasons I never replicated it were.

  • Well, I felt too many elements were involved.
  • There was no main focus in the poster.
  • It portrayed a kind of story immediately (not a bad thing, but nor a completely good idea).
  • Way too much of aligned text and image.
  • Unwanted fillers.

Let me explain in comparison to what I did. In view of my first point. Too many elements. Minimalism is the need of the hour. Having so many main features of the movie sequenced in a kinda storyline didn’t make sense to me.  Hang on, adding my third point here is that, What the original poster conveys is the basic idea.A guy, a chick, lots of apes and world war in the making. Not fitting for me. I personally believe any poster should have just the right amount of disclosure. Hide it and reveal equally. What I did was eliminating point 2 No focus, I just picked two aspects Rise and Apes and built my concept on it.  Also the font I created, I offset the words to build my own movie title. Imagination here too. Believe me I used 4 different fonts for the same header at the bottom. Adding a gradient and a little dept gave it a metal dull and look that delivers a punch.  I let the ape be the main focus of the poster and allowed the concept of the revolution by the evolution flow out in the little planet like imagery I added below the ape.I didn’t add any Bokeh effect but added some flares for highlights and also a glossy glass shard cover over the entire image. Kind of a personal touch. Some times it takes way more than decoding to do something. You have to learn to build out of the box with or with out your comfort tools and tricks. This poster gave me confidence that YES I can visually build an idea and effectively deliver it on a digital canvas.

I really hoped this helped you guys. I must insist when I say this – I AM NOT CRITICIZING  THE   ORIGINAL ARTIST ON THEIR WORK. THIS SOLELY MY PERSPECTIVE OF THEIR WORK. I may be wrong for some, may be right. Its everyone’s way of looking at art. Remember you don’t need books and formal training for a masters in creativity and visual learning, stare and stare till it starts talking. And when it does its time you get those brushes ready.