This is a design & typography critique of the Public Theater's "Bring In Da Noise, Bring In Da Funk" poster by Paula Scher I did at the University of Technology, Jamaica, during my undergraduate studies.
Although non-verbal, colour is powerful and can express and transmit meanings and messages that elicit different people’s reactions. The three primary colours used in the design include yellow, black and red. Yellow, often seen as a cheerful, playful and optimistic colour, is used as the background of the image.
The theory behind yellow is that it’s the most visible colour from a distance, and it communicates an energetic and joyful atmosphere. There is a section on the poster that says, ’BRING IN DA NOISE, BRING IN DA FUNK! ‘and a man dancing, reassuring the viewer that it will be entertaining. The black used for most of the copy establishes a strong contrast between light and dark, making it possible for people to read quickly.
Red represents strength and power, but because of its heavy meanings, red is used conservatively on the poster. The designer uses red as an accent to highlight additional information and to draw attention to lines such as “MEMBERSHIP IS EASY!”
The designer also seems to be employing the rule of thirds to make the tap-dancing man more visually appealing by moving him more towards the left instead of leaving him dead centre. The position also allows readers to imagine that the man is dancing as well. Using a black and white image also creates a distinct contrast between the man and the background, which is good for visibility.
Typography is ‘the study and “process” of typefaces’. The designer used several fonts to list all the shows available at the Public Theater. The main heading ‘The Public Theater’ takes up most of the page real estate and for good reason since that’s the company’s name. The size of the logo also does a great job of building hierarchy since it stands out amongst the chaos of ‘dancing’ text.
The copy, while looking like a massive jumble of words is useful in highlighting the energy of The Public Theater. However, it runs the risk of confusing a passer-by. A driver wouldn’t stop their car just to decipher the poster nor would someone stand in the middle of the road to read what it’s saying.
Sometimes less is more, and I think the designer went overboard with the text.
However, Paula Scher did manage to expertly match the fonts, pairing short and tall fonts, big and small, slim and fat. The font variation creates hierarchy and contrast, which I believe makes it easier to read. However, considering that it’s a text-heavy design, it doesn’t follow the design principle which states that the reader should be able to look around without getting lost or distracted quickly.
I guess when you've been designing as long as Paula Scher, it’s better to forgo the rigid design rules and push the boundaries of graphic design to produce something truly amazing.