Taking Father Home

I didn’t intend to end up creating the case for Taking Father Home, but it happened to turn out that way. As part of the overall UX overhaul of typecastfilms.com, every film on the site was to have a standard layout. This layout includes a flat perspective image of the front cover of the DVD. Without any DVD art for Dear Pyongyang or Taking Father Home, I decided that it might be worth it to spend an hour to come up with a mockup for the covers as a temporary placeholder.

As I was flipping through stills from the film, I found the image of the boy staring at the lone tree particularly haunting and compelling – I just knew it had to be in the design somewhere. I also knew that the identity of this film and the prime marketing position of it is rooted in the fact that it is an independent Chinese film – one portraying Chinese bureaucracy in an unflattering light, making it doubly unique.

The original concepts of this design almost assembled themselves. The nostalgic, timeless feel of the photo begged for a textured paper background with Chinese calligraphy. The calligraphy is rendered as though it stains the page, to give it even more of an aged feel, and also to de-emphasize its importance on the page so as to not compete with the title.

After seeing the initial mockup, the client actually requested I design the final DVD cover. I reflected on the project as a whole, and realized that the single image of the boy at the tree may, while haunting, may not actually reflect the spirit of the film. As I watched the film again, I noticed that the majority of the film took place in the city, and the boy was rarely without his ducks – indeed, the Chinese on the cover literally translates to “the boy who carries ducks on his back!”

Thus, I felt it necessary to at least come up with a second design to consider. I spent an hour or so creating an illustration based on a still from the film I found particularly poignant, and attempted to build it into the design.

Had I started with that design, I may have liked it. I found, however, that it simply was not as compelling as the image of the tree. What’s more, it didn’t make three-dimensional sense with the paper texture as a background (it looks as if the boy were standing with his face against some oddly textured wall), and I had fallen in love with the paper and its interaction with the Chinese text.

With the cover aesthetic selected, I moved on to implementation. The client wanted festival laurels on the cover, as well as several quotes from reviews. Finding a good balance between minimalism and aesthetic versus marketing and advertising was no easy task, but I’m satisfied with how it turned out.