Visual Language Assignment 1 – Design Analysis

While perusing the web for interesting graphics, I came across this retro rendition of a Monsters. Inc. poster.  The choice was simple.  Not only was I immediately struck by the visuals, causing me to linger on this image far longer than any others than I had found up to this point,  but Pixar films have a special place in my childhood heart.  This one in particular owns quite a bit of real estate.


Artist: Tom Whalen. Found at:


Grid Analysis


The blue lines break the image into equal parts.  Each rectangle divides the image into an equal chuck (excluding the border).  I thought it’d be interesting to see what, if any, features fell along these evenly distributed sections.  It turns out that vertically, the image is broken up extremely precisely according to the grids.  With Mike’s (the small guy in front) eye falling precisely in the center of the image.  It makes sense that the center coincides with the top of his eye to show his gaze is upward.  This seems to cause the eye to track upward to Sully’s eyes (the blue guy), which happen to fall exactly along the upper quarter of the image.  His eyes track up to Boo (the girl on his shoulders).  Her eyes are focused right at the you, causing the viewers focus to linger on her eyes for a moment while you process what you’ve seen so far.  The eye is then free to wander around the upper quarter to notice the other eyes, which direct you back around and down the page.

Anyway, back to the grid. Horizontally, the image isn’t as evenly distributed as it is vertically.  The blue lines (which represent equal chunks) don’t see to line up with major character features.  By drawing grid lines based on major features of the characters, patterns do emerge, though.  The green lines represent this irregular grid.  Mike’s eye, you can see, is the same width as Sully’s face, and almost the same size as the girl’s head (including hair).  This gives the character’s equal weight, even though they are staged front to back.

A subtle, yet very clever addition, is the camouflaged image of Randyll throughout the upper half.  His face is squarely in a section of the grid.  While the three obviously visible characters are the stars of the show, Randyll plays the key role of the villain, and his presence is perhaps just as important as the other three, yet the fact that he’s barely visible speaks to his nature in the film.

Color Palette

monstersinccolorpaletteThe color palette is remarkably consistent throughout the poster.  There are 4 main colors, visible at the bottom of the image.  The artist uses a singular blue throughout the image to represent Sully’s fur, the hair on Boo’s costume, Mike’s iris, and a few other items scattered throughout.  It’s amazing how this one specific blue is able to work in so many different context’s throughout the image.  The same can be said of the brown used for Sully’s shadow, Boo’s hair, the background where the text is.  It’s all the same brown.  It speaks to the artists attention to detail and creativity to leverage so few colors in so many different contexts.

While the consistency of the color selection is impressive, the actual color choices seems equally important, as it gives the poster a sort of retro-futuristic look to it.  The movie itself is much more vivid in color, yet this color palette presents a different view.  It rings of nostalgia.  The colors feel old.  Washed.  Like they’ve been exposed to light for too long and have started to fade.  This all contributes to the already strong sense of nostalgia I have looking at this poster.


The’s not much text here, but obviously the most important text is the name of the movie.  The sub-heading reads “we scare because we care”, a nice tagline that’s pulled directly from the film.  But the text is almost trivial.  In terms of hierarchy, I think it’s more interesting to examine the visual elements, which I spoke about earlier.  The movement of the eye around the page.  It starts with Mike’s wide eye and tracks up.


Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 11.34.28 AMScreen Shot 2015-09-08 at 11.43.28 AM

Running the MONSTERS, INC. type through what the font produces a pretty close match with a font called Reforma Grotesk Medium – which can be seen right next to it.  It’s not exact, but it’s the closest match I could find.  If you look at the “R”, you can see it curves in a slightly different way than that on the poster.  More importantly, are the two typefaces (the main text and the subtext) consistent?  To be honest, I cannot tell.  Running both through Whatthefont was difficult due to the fact that I couldn’t find a high res version of the poster.  So it didn’t produce any usable results.  They don’t feel the same, though.  The spacing of the letters is adjusted to ensure the two lines begin and end within the same rectangular grid.  The weight of the letters is significantly different as well, with the main text being much bolder than the subtext.  It doesn’t strike me as terribly consistent, but it also doesn’t bother me too much, as the text is perhaps the least important feature of this poster.

Negative Space


The use of negative space allows the characters to pop out of the background.  With the foreground covered, we can see that the only thing occupying the negative space is the faint outline of Randyll.  A touch that implies his subtle importance in the story.  It’s a good way to fill otherwise dead space and give it meaning, rather than just a bland background designed to make the characters pop.


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