Evolution & Characterisrics of Turkish Movie Poster
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Poster design in Turkey began to develop with the declaration of the Republic as to prove the fundamental interconnection with economic and therefore the political and social structure like graphic design started to develop with the industrial revolution.

Since the Ottoman Empire was closed to outside, and hence did not deal with commerce or industry, there was no tradition of making commercial posters. The only posters of entertainment that can be found are consisted of largely typography in Arab script, which were sometimes decorated with ornamental borders and clip-art illustrations (Altintas 6). The republic brought with itself the posters, mainly of social and cultural content to inform people about the cultural and social changes. Also there were posters advertising consumer goods as well as the entertainment posters of national theatre and Turkish cinema.

MUNTEKIM VALIDE---click for a larger image

Like Turkish melodrama itself, the posters for melodramas were mixture and under the influence of so many design disciplines like firstly German and French, and later Hollywood, Italian, Mexican, Indian, and Egyptian posters. The posters of this period were generally imitations or re-presentations of foreign originals. It might be the result of the lack of time that comes out with serial production, the lack of technical possibilities, and the effect of European and American culture on visual arts. The poster of first Turkish film in sound, Istanbul Sokaklarinda (On the Streets of ðstanbul, Muhsin Ertugrul, 1931) was under the influence of the typical geometrically simplified style of Art Deco, illustrates a stylisation of a scene, which was directly taken from the film itself (Ozkal 75). But its design and illustration may be considered as successful taking into consideration the possibilities of those times, when compared to other works of the same period produced by hand due to the primitive technology.


When we observe Turkish movie poster history we come across several stages of graphic design: typographic posters of old alphabet, monochromatic posters, posters with illustration, posters with photography and illustration, photographic posters, and posters with caricaturistic illustration. These stages are closely related to the technical possibilities and hence the conditions of their time. The well-known Turkish film poster designers and illustrators are Mithat Agakay, Erol Agakay, Firuz Askin, Mehmet Bal, Kemal Borticin, Cemal Dundar, Ibrahim Enez, Munif Fehim, Karlotti, Bedri Koraman, Oral Orhon, Cetin Ozkirim, Mehmet Tekdal, Remzi Türemen... Some of them were not graduated from a design school, but very much experienced in illustration and advertising.

The movie posters of 1960s and 1970s were created taking into consideration the studio owners', producers', stars', directors' wishes and hence the audience's assumed expectations about the arrangement of the composition (the positions and sizes of the names, photographs etc.). Promotion was crucial for both the film producer and the theatre owner because they were very much involved in the marketing process, which was the most important part of the film production.

KADER kAPIYI CALDI---click for a larger image

For the promotion large theatrical displays commonly called "circus fronts" which were not necessarily in rectangular shape but in various shapes were painted while fliers (50- 100 thousand per region, 500 per theatre), brochures for festivals or competitions, and lobby cards were printed as well as posters. Of course some directors like Hulki Saner, Metin Erksan, Muzaffer Arslan, Nevzat Keser were also directly interested in the poster designing process. B–ke mentions seriously that the last word about the poster design belonged to the tea-house keeper who was uneducated but a real audience himself. Sometimes the directors, theatre owners, or stars wanted the details of movie poster design to be added to the film contract, as an item.

During the poster designing process, firstly the synopsis was given to the designer. Producer or director explained what he wanted exactly from the designer taking into consideration the popularity of the stars, target market, and censorship (Erol Agakay mentions because he wrote "Ince Memet" as the title of the film ðnce Mehmet, he was adjudicated for promoting an ideology, but for erotic posters he was rarely bothered). Then the photos were taken or chosen among the recent ones or the illustration was prepared. Typography was added afterwards in the print house.

CIRCUS FRONT---click for a larger image

One of the oldest printing techniques of posters used in Turkey is the cliche (kalke) system in which the original was prepared by hand for each four colours; red, yellow, blue and black separately. The zinc plates of four originals were printed above each other on a single sheet. The illustrators prepared the plates by pistole, crayon, and hand written typography. Sometimes this caused flawed posters to occur. But even after photography began to be used in poster design, illustrations were preferred for their dream-like affect. According to Dundar, the illustrator of many movie posters as well as book and album covers; "the photography machine can only capture what exists and what is real but by using illustrations a non-existing event, abstract mood, feeling may be expressed". With the improvement of the techniques like that of photography, photo offset, and colour separating during 1955 and 1958 the photographic posters become more popular for film production corporations and print houses like Apa, Can, Emel, Eray, Mimeray, Kral, Pulhan, Renk, Yilmaz... Of course it has also something to do with the illustration price. But still if a poster was needed before the film was finished as to persuade the theatre owners, or photos were not suitable to be used in a poster then illustrations of the scenes of recent movies or the illustrations of stars' photos taken during creation of film were used. In 1970s and 1980s when the humour magazines and caricaturists like Oguz-Tekin Aral, Bedri Koraman were very popular, the caricaturistic illustration technique used in comedy film posters was sufficient to convince the viewer that the movie was comedy. The comedians' identity, caricaturistic physical appearance and acting style constructed the style of these posters.

DEVLERIN ASKI---layout---click for larger iamge

Because films with well known stars were not in need of great posters as the films with unknown actors and actresses, neither illustrative nor photographic Yesilcam melodrama posters convey a symbolist approach or surprise in terms of design. According to Agakay the colour red was the most popular colour among Yesilçam melodrama producers because it expresses love and passion like no other colour can do. On the other hand there was no evident intention of using other colours symbolically. In fact nearly all posters conveyed the synopsis, superimposed images like fighting men, sexy women, guns accompanied with the portraits of the actors and actresses and similar typography. Because the form essentially refers to the content, when there is no such interesting or new material for conceptualisation within the movie the form of the poster also becomes of the same kind. Nevertheless small number of exceptions exists while sometimes an interesting concept causes an extraordinary poster to occur.


There is also another factor that effects the creators of the film text and hence posters: the audience. A huge percentage of the audience of Yesilcam movies in 1960s and 1970s consist of uneducated middle or lower-class women, the people of shanty towns in cities and the small towns' people. So the content of the most movies were constructed according to this society of low economic and educational standards. Therefore the movie posters of 1960s and 1970s were less regulated by specific figures of expression and meaning involving different media and techniques of visual treatment. Yesilcam melodrama posters were designed according to the society's structure, interaction, way of living and as they changed, the movies, concept of romance, and therefore the marketing attitudes and design of movie posters changed like it can be observed in the emergence of sexualization within the movies and posters through 1975- 1980. Ozguc names this period as "the time of 'toilet writings' or 'wall literature'" while Hicyilmaz describes the movie posters of this time as "agitation and demolisher of social system".


The films and the posters for theatres in different regions of Turkey vary in their narrative and the style in order to catch the audience. For example, in Adana; Southern region; since the audience was mostly formed by men, the movie's end was turned into a pathetic one while erotic scenes were added both to the movie and the poster. In Ankara; Middle region; since the movie goers were mostly families or cultured people, and in Samsun; Black Sea region since the audience were mostly the women and people having evident conservative values, films and posters for these regions were often redesigned accordingly. When a Turkish film was decided to be shown abroad, or a foreign film was to be promoted in Turkey, the images and the text within the design of the poster were changed taking into consideration what the audience was expecting.


Yesilcam had created its own movie poster style like the way it constructed its distinctive melodrama tradition. So Turkish melodrama poster 1965-1975 should be handled separately from Turkish graphic art of those years. Within the production process of Turkish melodrama posters, there was working system distributed among the illustrators or the print house workers in terms of bringing the illustration, photography and the typography together. The poster was worked out like a patchwork of all the contributors. When today's movie posters of Turkey are observed, right along with the conceptual or symbolic attitude, still the stars' image or the synopsis of the movie depicted on the poster might be seen. But the mentioned attribute of production process within the melodrama posters left its place to a serious arrangement of all graphic devices in relation to each other. And that means other than seeing movie poster design as a mixture of visual and verbal devices, Turkish graphic art of today handles the design of a poster as the harmonious combination of the visual and the verbal through a certain style determined by the graphic designer or a team of designers.


Agakay, Erol. Afiste Yasayan Turk Sinemasi 1951-1986. Istanbul: Mimeray, 1986.

---. Personal interview. 23 July 1997.

Altintas, Yurdaer. Posters From Turkey. Istanbul: Grafikerler Meslek Kurulusu, 1992.

B–ke, Azmi. Personal interview. 23 July 1997.

Dundar, Cemal. Personal interview. 13 October 1997.

Hicyilmaz, Ergun. Personal interview. 12 October 1997.

Ozguc, Agah. Personal interview. 7 October 1997.

Ozkal, Ozlem. "The Use of Visual Idea in Illustrated

Entertainment Posters and Approaches in Turkey." Diss. Bilkent University, 1992.