The Hot Retro Design of the “Burly Q”

When I go browsing in our local vintage shops I always check out the racks of flyers and promotional cards for various local bands and businesses. Sometimes I find a graphic design treasure, and last weekend that treasure was a half-page, two-sided promo card for a movie called Behind the Burly Q which is coming out on DVD next spring.

The card, which I suspect is also the DVD cover, has the look of an aged poster from the period in the 40s and 50s when Burlesque was at its height, which makes sense as the film is a documentary history of Burlesque from its origins in Vaudeville to the reminiscences of surviving stars of the era. The design is pretty bold in its use of creative paper yellowing and texturing. It’s not perfect, but it does get the look of cheap high-acid paper which is a couple of decades old about right. The font choices are pretty good with a clear awareness of the kinds of fonts available for cheap letterpress printing 50 years or so ago.

What I think stands out most is the use of overlapping graphic elements, with photos and blocks of text arranged where they share space but still stand on their own and remain distinct enough to read or view, all in an overall design which doesn’t seem too crowded or unbalanced – especially on the front of the card, much less so on the back.  Bringing all those elements together into a coherent whole and making them work together takes a special eye, and  I’m a little envious of how well it’s done here, as it’s something I often have trouble with myself.   I tend to be afraid to use odd angles and asymetrical placements, afraid that the final result won’t have the balance which it ought to.  So I’m keeping the “Burly Q” card around for reference to remind me to be bold in my placements and not fall back on too many predictable positioning.

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