The Posters of Cinema 5

Posters by agency Diener/Hauser/Greenthal

An excerpt from The New American Cinema on Donald Rugoff, founder of the movie-theater chain/distribution company Cinema 5, and his partnership with advertising agency Diener/Hauser/Greenthal:

“Following a graphically simple, visually distinctive approach to visual marketing often associated with Saul Bass’s film credits and advertising designs, Rugoff believed in simple, recognizable logos to distinguish each project. Even for those films playing at Cinema 5 theaters from other distributors, Rugoff reserved the right to reject the ad campaigns, and he reportedly discarded 90 percent of them in favor of his own designs. Rugoff worked closely with the Diener/Hauser/Greenthal advertising agency in designing the Cinema 5 logos. Among the most memorable were a trio of silhouetted surfers on the beach for The Endless Summer (1964), an embracing couple for Elvira Madigan (1967), and, most provocatively, a hand with a scantily clad girl replacing the raised middle finger for Robert Downey’s satire of the advertising industry, Putney Swope (1969). Once an image was shaped for the campaign, Rugoff ‘wild-posted’ the ad across major cities playing the film, so that a visual reminder of the picture would appear in both ordinary and extraordinary settings.”

The online presskit for Searching For Mr. Rugoff contains a list of all the titles distributed by Cinema 5, and is a decent way of tracking down images of the posters they released over the years. Diener/Hauser/Greenthal seems to have handled most of the campaigns, with various designers and illustrators (either commissioned or under their direct employ) being responsible for the art itself (Notably, Saul Bass and Art Goodman for The Two of Us and The Fireman’s Ball, Joe Caroff for The Fireman’s Ball, Bob Peak with Cesar and Rosalie). Whether or not Lee Reedy of Dot Graphics was hired by D/H/G or Rugoff himself to handle Cinema 5’s Entertainment, Classroom and Library Catalog’s remains a mystery.

Cinema 5 Entertainment Catalog 1978 by Lee Reedy/Dot Graphics

Rick Poynor on legibility

“In recent years, type designers and typographers have poured scorn on the very idea of legibility. If legibility is merely a function of familiarity and nothing to do with any intrinsic properties of type itself, the argument goes, then it behooves the questioning designer to shake up our complacency and open our eyes to new possibilities by overturning these conventions. In a bizarre extension of this argument, it was even claimed that dramatically decreasing legibility would somehow increase the desire to read. Reluctant readers would be ‘intrigued’ by these optical obstacle courses, while the difficulties of the reading experience – the greater effort needed to gain access to the text – would ensure that they retained even more than they would reading conventional typography.

Unfortunately, there is no research study, no empirical evidence, to confirm that this is really the case. At best you could call it a hypothesis. Less charitably, it’s a self-serving hope used to justify some designers’ preferred ways of designing. […]

These comments are not intended as an attack on the inherent notion of a more ‘interventionist’ approach to graphic design, or as a denial of the stylistic possibilities – in other settings – of the typographic devices mentioned here. Nor should these criticisms be misconstrued as an argument for returning, in all cases, to earlier, more subdued styles of typography. Readability can undoubtably coexist with the radically new. […]

It’s clear that some of what designers have done to typography in the 1990s stems from a loss of faith in the text. Such designers do have a point. Every day global publishing pumps out an ocean of meaningless sludge. Some design responds to the text’s emptiness by elevating itself to the center of attention. But design cannot redeem empty text. If designers feel uncommitted to the material they have to design, perhaps they should design something else. It takes no talent to scramble a message. With off-putting typography fast becoming the norm, the designer who struggles to make something truly readable is engaged in a genuinely radical act.”

— Rick Poynor (via Graphis #319, 1999)

Aimee Mann on comics

“Drawing a daily diary, and in a low-stakes medium like a comp book really takes the pressure off. It’s not about looking great. It’s about just filling up a notebook and just getting it done.”

— Aimee Mann on her autobiographical comics (via)

Jules Feiffer on style

“Generally my approach to cartooning is to do as little of it as possible and virtually none where I can get away with it; then label the whole thing ‘style’. This has been going on for fifteen years and no one but me seems to notice the difference.”

— Jules Feiffer

Todd Haynes on old movies

“Natasha Lyonne said to me recently, ‘I don’t like watching new movies because it feels like work. I’m doing my work. I watch old movies for inspiration.’ I’m like, ‘Oh my God, girlfriend, that is so much how I feel.’ I admire people who are seeing everything new and there’s great stuff all the time, especially coming out of European cinema or Asian cinema or Latin cinema. But I live in the world of Turner Classic Movies. There’ll be movies every month that have never even been broadcast before. I’m just like, Holy shit. It’s the most remarkable resource.”

— Todd Haynes (via)

Eileen Myles on life

“You miss nothing. The world is so wide. Where you happen is a good enough life even marvelous.”

— Eileen Myles

Martin Scorsese on time

“The time you spend is really spending time. It isn’t wasting time. Then one has to find within that spending of time an allowing oneself to just not feel you’re wasting it if you’re just existing for the moment. Just exist. Look out the window and see half a tree. You know, I look up at my 1940s posters when I was growing up. These are the movies I saw.

Out of the Past I saw in a double bill with Bambi. Those are the posters that as a child, they promised me something when I went to the theater. In any event, it is how you’re spending the time. Because it really means spending it. It’s not going to come back. And so there’s a balance between allowing yourself to exist—meaning, some people say ‘rest’; it’s not really resting, it’s existing—and the other thing is a manic, manic desire to learn everything at once. Everything.”

— Martin Scorsese (via)

Peter Saville in 2007

A handful of excepts from an interview with designer Peter Saville conducted by Debbie Millman in 2007:

“I believe that communication design is for others and to others. This is an important thing tor younger or would-be graphic designers to recognize. There is a great misconception in this era of graphic design that it is a medium of self-expression. …Partly because of work by people such as myself.”


“There are a vast number of people who tell me they became graphic designers because of my record slips. I have to say, ‘I’m sorry.’ I apologize. I usually say, ‘I’m sorry about that,’ and they smile knowingly. Because it’s not like that anymore. You do not do what you want to do. And yet, this notion is rather prevalent. It’s prevalent in design education at the moment.

There are a lot of self-initiated briefs going on in design education. And this is helpful to the individual who wants to look deep and ask questions about where they want to be. But that discovery has to be structured within the context of business. It’s not art. We should really call it communications design, because graphic design doesn’t really mean anything. What is the job? The job is communications design, and that is conveying somebody else’s message to a prescribed audience. Who you are and what you think about it doesn’t necessarily come into play. The job is to articulate the message from A to B.”


“I had a channel that slowed me to do what I wanted to do, which did broker enormous influence. As soon as I made the step out of the music industry – then I was confronted with the reality of communications design. […] By 1985, I had three D&AD Silver awards, but I couldn’t do a letterhead. As much as I was flattered by the request to do a letterhead and identity for a gallery, I realized that I may be successful as a record cover designer – and people may pay us lots of money for that – but for this, I would have to go back to the beginning. I had to start from nothing and learn from the ground up.”


“I believe that good design is fundamentally oriented around truth, and once it loses its truth, you’ve lost it completely. The semiotics of good design imply that if we’ve redesigned a magazine, it is now better; that new problems have been solved; that new challenges have been addressed. In contemporary projects, we’re often not making things better, we’re just making things different. ‘It’s just different because we’d like you to buy more.’ It’s just decoration. Design is losing its essential values because it’s being used for the wrong purposes. It’s being used to sell stuff. It’s being used as advertising.

I was proud and happy to do fashion in the ‘80s when I felt that fashion was something still being disseminated to people. But now it’s like a drug. Now it’s like an addiction. You do not need a new handbag every season. You just don’t. And they’re all rubbish. You don’t need them.

The big problem for communications designers is they have to earn a living. And this is the new job. We do the handwriting for these people. I likened it recently to pop culture: It’s gone from being like acid to being like crack. Pop culture is like crack. It doesn’t give you anything. It just wants to take your money, and when you’ve run out, you can fuck off. And unfortunately, the graphic design community has become the lecherous boys of this business. It’s a big problem.”


“There’s lots of beautiful work going on, but what is it for? What is it for? You’ve got this new problem, and it’s something that can be dealt with, but not with a frigging 5,000 more graphic designers every year. I believe you must question whether or not you identify with the need you are articulating. You should ask yourself, ‘Am I doing something that is embarrassing?’

If you go around feeling embarrassed, it’s a very good signal. And you know when it feels right, and when it feels embarrassing. And this is a big, big problem for graphic designers. Because we are being asked to legitimize commerce.

The very essence of what I am trying to say is this: We must be communicators of the world. We help other people see things. This is at the heart of what we do. And of course, where you do that and how you do that must stay apace with your own life and evolution. I mean, I’m 51 years of age now! People still phone and ask me if I want to design album covers. They tell me I can do whatever I want, but it’s very difficult for me to explain that the rack of a record store is not where I wish to express myself. Go ask a 20-year-old.

For me, it’s really important to stay within the terms of your own relevance – which means don’t be permanently 18. Shift your point of engagement to that which is relative to you. Try to find work that has meaning. You have to help invest meaning into the work. And it is very difficult to invest meaning in something that doesn’t have meaning to you. And that really is the key: you’ve got to like what you’re doing, and then you do it well. You’ve got to like what you’re doing, and you have to put meaning into it for others.”

— (via)

Lynda Barry on being stuck

“When I find myself unable to draw or write, and when I’m stuck, I find that glueing bits of paper I’ve shaped with scissors into my composition notebook soothes me and helps me make something anyway. Just moving my hands and arranging shapes until they feel right together mends something in me. It feels very much like a certain kind of playing we do as kids. The pieces of paper have a feeling of entering into relationships with the other glued down pieces. It’s a kind of ‘playing house’ that puts something back under my feet. That working with images can transform not just our mood but also our disposition toward the world is a wonder.”

— Lynda Barry (via)

Charles Eames on being an amateur

From the December 1961 issue of the Irregular Bulletin, Charles Eames on maintaining a non-specialist approach to art and design:

“Struggle to maintain an amateur standing. When you become too much of a professional in one area there is a tendency to reduce the problem to a formula. You’ve been over the road before and you know that a certain type of solution is apt to come up. But more dangerous than that, you know how difficult it is to do many things in that field and therefore as you become familiar with the field, you’ll avoid the things you were fool enough to do earlier. By cutting off the things you once were fool enough to do, you really cut down the scope and development of the whole approach. You lop off the indefinable outposts of your experiences Then the amount of creative initiative, love, unselfconscious devotion and application you give to a problem begins to be limited. The amateur has the advantage. He is uninhibited, unselfconscious. He doesn’t know enough to know that things can’t be done — and he does them. He can, of course, get himself into a spot — nervously, financially — and must fight it out. It is this kind of fight that produces something positive.

Art is part of the measure the degree to which a job has been done well. We must try to create a climate in which any job has a potential of being a work of art. Just doing the job well isn’t a measure of the artistry. To function at any job as a really competent specialist is not necessarily functioning as an artist. A specialist does any job according to the book, taking into consideration all the measurable factors. To the degree to which a man functions as a specialist, he is functioning in terms of problems that have been solved. Now the artistry normally comes when he carries this concern beyond measurable factors. The relationships that are made in such cases are never the result of chance but the attitude of the artist. To the degree to which he is functioning as an amateur (an inspired, concerned, and competent amateur) he can often put himself in a position of treating a problem conceptually where a specialist can’t. Any problem that hasn’t been solved before is solved by the amateur for there is no professional. And this is a point of high creativity, a traveling without rules because there are none.”

— (via)