The working process

By Panu Kontkanen — 

Design a poster

Poster for the play “Lokki”

Panu Kontkanen



The background


Ryhmäteatteri is the oldest independent professional theatre group in Finland. Within its 40-year-old history Ryhmäteatteri has had numerous amount of both classics and premieres by new Finnish authors on their stage.


The play “Lokki” (Tshaika; The Seagull, written in 1896) by the Russian writer Anton Chekhov [Anton Tsehov in Finnish] (1860 – 1904) is without a doubt one of themost well-known and beloved plays throughout the history of theatre. It is generally considered to be the first one of Chekhov’s four major plays.


“The play centres on the romantic and artistic conflicts between four theatrical characters: the ingénue Nina, the fading leading lady Irina Arkadina, her son the experimental playwright Konstantin Trepylov, and the famous middlebrow story writer Trigorin.”


- Wikipedia for the keyword ‘The Seagull’




The design


Because of both Ryhmäteatteri’s heritage and especially the play’s nature I wanted to approach the project with certain amount of respect. And altogether, when it comes to design, I believe in strongly linear, rather minimalistic and harmonic design with a lot of rhythm to it. I also like to leave the story open for interpretation.


Because “Lokki” is a tragicomedy I wanted the poster to have dark, oppressive feel to it and that’s why I chose to have a picture of a shore on a cloudy day as a background. The horizon is a reference to eternity – the things that happen in the play will haunt the main characters for the rest of their lives.


The water also refers to the pond whereby most of the action happens. It is also the living environment for seagulls. I decided to have the seagull in the pictureas a silhouette because of  the unidentifying factor and also, as we all know, black is the color for grief.


I chose the font “Edwardian Script ITC” both as a reference to the past and to the setting of the play: “Lokki” is one of the most important classics throughout thehistory of theatre and it is very important to acknowledge and realize its historically Russian nature.


Calligraphic font is also a reference to childhood: in the play both Nina and Trepylov are taking their first steps in the world of adults.


The title ‘Lokki’ is controlling the whole space being placed in the middle of the poster. It is placed by the rules of Golden section and by being placed like that it brings a lot of rhythm and harmony to the poster. The rest of the texts are placed to surround the title in a harmonic and rhythmic way.


When choosing the colors for the texts I decided to have as a main color for the texts a color which is rather different from the images in the poster: a color with certain amount of warmth to it but yet it still had to have some coldness as well. I found out that red with a twist of pink feel to it worked out well. The result also functions as an effective color in the poster.


Because of its effective nature I decided to have the title in the pinkish red mentioned, and I also used the same color to point out the other two most important key factors in the poster: ‘Ryhmäteatteri’ and ‘Ensi-ilta 3.4.2008’. In that way I answer the three key questions “who?”, “what?” and “when?”. Coloring them in the same color also points out the rhythm and harmony of the design.


Because I want to keep my designs strongly linear I decided to mention just two other important things about the play in the poster: the writer Anton Chekhov and the director Laura Jäntti. At this point I also wanted to bring out some more rhythm and harmony so I decided to color them in a different color than the other texts. Because I already had one effective color I decided to head back to the color world of the images in the poster so I chose to use black.



The making of the poster


When I had all the pieces together I started to work on the design with NodeBox. At first I did a rather rough miniature sketch in where I brought a background image. The second step was to bring in the title of the play. I had to find the right size, right coordinates and the right angle for the title. After calculatingthe things mentioned I placed the title in its place and worked with the color of the text.


After the title was ready I placed the texts ‘Ryhmäteatteri’ and ‘Ensi-ilta 3.4.2008’ with the same method as when working on placing the title. The step after placing them was to place the texts ‘Anton Tsehov’ and ‘ohjaus Laura Jäntti’ again with the same method as earlier.


After the texts were placed and colored correctly I continued on placing some special marks. Because of its nature the font “Edwardian Script ITC” doesn’t have neither the letter ‘ä’ nor emphasis marks for its letters I had to build them up. I did them simply by using both oval and rectangle scripts.


After the special marks were placed I brought in the silhouette of the seagull. I had a targa image of a seagull so I was able to have the background of the image transparent in NodeBox. I placed the silhouette in its place with the same method used placing the texts.


When the miniature sketch was done I simply had a new NodeBox project with the actual size for completed poster. I brought in the code of the miniature sketch and recalculated the numeral figures to get the scaling right. At this stage I also did some tweaking for the poster to get the final result more accurate.