Dear Pyongyang

As with the design for Taking Father Home, in implementing the changes to the Typecast Films site, I was in need of a DVD cover for Dear Pyongyang. The original mockup didn’t take more than about an hour, and was intended to look something like a page out of a particularly patriotic scrapbook. The film itself is centered around the relationship between the filmmaker and her father, and the photograph was perfect for that representation. The father stands firm with his back rigid, and little Yonghi seems to be awkwardly attempting to cuddle with him. I quickly drew the flag, beat it up a bit, and overlayed it upon a cloth texture, masking out a bleached area for the title text. It was a rough job, but I did like the overall concept.

It wasn’t until much later that I was actually tasked with the design of the DVD cover. Drawing inspiration from book covers from 1960s Japan I had been looking at, I drew a bold vector image showing the father in full military uniform, and Yonghi standing behind him holding a North Korean flag. Assembled directly from stills from the film, I felt that it was the most minimal design I could create that still conveyed the meaning of the film. I conducted a quick test, asking friends and family what they guessed the film was about, and each was able to correctly identify that the film was about the complex intersection between family and duty.

As I considered ways to implement the drawing, I recalled that a great deal of the film was centered around the care packages sent from Japan to the filmmaker’s brothers in Pyongyang. The vectors look great laid over cardboard, and decorated old Japanese postage.

After checking in with the client, it became clear that the stark outlines of the vectors conveyed a feeling of foreboding, and they were hoping to take the design in a direction that better represented the nostalgic feel of the film.

I returned to the original photograph, but decided to attempt to combine it with mail instead of a scrapbook page. I found some vintage Japanese photo paper, created a texture of it, and found that it worked quite well with the warm colors in the photo.

In order to give the cover the feel of a piece of mail, I set to work creating a postage stamp. Designing a patriotic and propagandistic stamp based on North Korean art was quite possibly the most fun I’ve ever had on a design project to date – politics, propaganda, and vectors! Wee!

Fuzzing the edges of the stamp and laying it over the photo paper looked fantastic. Seeing it half over the photo gave the magic happy feeling that comes with creating a design that you just know the client is going to love.

The initial layout was intentionally sparse. Taking lessons from my previous experience with Taking Father Home, I fully expected the client to request a bevy of reviews and film festival laurels on the cover. Even if that wasn’t the case, I enjoyed the texture, and thought that the blank space allowed for more attention to be paid to the stamp and the photograph.

The client requested a larger title and significant emphasis on the laurels, so the final design feature both on either side of the photo. The stamp was combined with the title rendered in a typewriter-esque font for a brilliant representation of a piece of mail, and the cover was complete.

The back cover was much easier this time around, having working knowledge of the details required on the back of a DVD. The stills weren’t quite high-resolution enough to feature in the same fashion as Taking Father Home, so I assembled them into a film reel in order to display them smaller, but in a way that still reflected the content of the film.

  • Israelihoosier

    Great work here!!