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CASE STUDY

Branding Oscar

TO CELEBRATE ITS 80th ANNIVERSARY, AMPAS asked SwârtAd to include key art from all its Oscar winners in one commemorative poster; but we thought it was time to break out of the grid utilized for our previous Best Picture posters. This curvilinear design emerged from Alex Swart's concept sketch. For that opportunity and all the others, we'd like to thank the Academy.

FRATERNAL TWINS—O-S-C-A-R casts contrails of Awards history in this Best Picture poster (left). For its sibling—the official Academy Awards® poster (right)—and related outdoor graphics, SwârtAd turned the vertical bands gold.

We want Beethoven.

With that empowering creative brief from Academy executive Ric Robertson, AMPAS clearly didn’t want a minimalist design for their official poster. But what visual elements could be analogous to the master’s music? Beethoven’s dramatically orchestrated 9th Symphony inspired the blue Oscar profiles cascading in the background. His 5th opens with four unforgettable notes, which suggests the descending 2-0-0-1 motif in the foreground of our design.

I just put the lights where I want ’em!

That's what legendary Hollywood photographer George Hurrell exclaimed after Alex Swart said, “Nobody lights like you do, Mr. Hurrell.” Years later, with his widow’s permission and the Academy’s blessing, SwârtAd extended Hurrell's evocative photo of an Oscar statuette and used it as the foundation of a new Best Picture poster.

It's something that's never been done before and sure to become a collector's item from Hollywood.

—Robert Osborne

It sure wasn’t like anything Alex Swart had ever designed before. Newly arrived in L.A., his Oscar journey (which later continued at SwârtAd) began with this first Best Picture poster. And the always gracious Mr. Osborne was right—the first run of 50,000 posters sold out!

OSCAR NOUVEAU AND DECO TOO. When AMPAS Executive Director Bruce Davis asked us to imagine an Oscar poster from the pre-Academy Awards era, our response was an Art Nouveau portrait (left) entitled L’humanité d’Oscar and an Art Deco concept (right). While not all ideas go to finish, it was still fun to explore those historical design movements. Yet, our homage to the Dutch design collective De Stijl (next slide) was produced as cross-promotion between The Oscars and Diet Pepsi.