The San Francisco–based creative team Century, cofounded by Jason Hardy and Steve Knodel, is no stranger to working with Criterion, having designed our Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema set, as well as the current form of this very website. The latest of our editions to include Hardy and Knodel’s visual signature—our rerelease of The Cranes Are Flying, available now—is yet another testament to their ability to make a bold impression while also expressing the emotional subtleties of the work at hand. Below, Hardy describes the process of conceptualizing and fine-tuning that went into the final Cranes cover image.
When we first began working on the cover art for Soviet director Mikhail Kalatozov’s The Cranes Are Flying (1957), we focused on three aspects of the film that felt like rich territory for design exploration.
The first was Sergei Urusevsky’s innovative cinematography. Urusevsky’s work has a feel all its own, and though many of the techniques he employed were revolutionary, his images always work in the service of the drama, never overshadowing it. Another obvious source of inspiration was Kalatozov’s approach to telling the story, in which two lovers are separated by World War II. It is intense, layered, and heartbreaking. The intersecting paths and missed connections of the characters, the struggle to remain hopeful and the cruelty of fate, combine to make for a rich, complex film. And finally, there was Veronica (Tatiana Samoilova), who emerges as a resilient source of strength and optimism.
When Criterion art director Sarah Habibi first briefed us on the project, she put forth the idea of using multiple images to weave the different characters and locations together in a dramatic way. We needed to establish the backdrop of war, while maintaining a focus on Veronica. We thought that a collage-style approach would help us achieve that balance, so we started out by combining graphic elements, imagery, and typography in different ways.
Capturing Arsenic and Old Lace, in One Macabre Image
To capture the spirit of Frank Capra’s dark screwball classic, Criterion enlisted a longtime collaborator to create an image that combines the influences of Old Hollywood illustrator Jacques Kapralik and legendary pen-and-ink artist Edward Gorey.
The Artistic Synthesis That Gave Bloom to Our Exotica Cover
For this new illustration, Spanish artist David de las Heras combined his signature use of bold colors with the lush style of French postimpressionist Henri Rousseau, a key visual influence on Atom Egoyan’s 1994 film.
David Plunkert Shares His Passion for Color and Shape
The graphic designer behind our covers for Diabolique and The Tin Drum takes us inside his Baltimore studio and his idea-driven creative process.
Artist Sean Phillips on His Many-Sided Craft, from Comics to Criterion Covers
The man behind the artwork for Sweet Smell of Success, In the Heat of the Night, and several other Criterion editions discusses his career in narrative comics and the inspiration he draws from illustration styles of the past.
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