Designing a Silent Film DVD Cover: Inspiration

Sooo, in case you haven’t heard, I am working on releasing a silent film on DVD. Any good DVD needs a cover and since this is not a topic that gets heavily covered, I thought I would share the process.

The film in question is Kidnapped and it was released near the end of the Edison studio’s life. Movie advertising was becoming a true art in the 1910s but Edison’s ads were… meh.

As my goal was to create a DVD cover that looked like a real period piece from 1917, I knew I would have to look for inspiration elsewhere.

I mean, the Conquest ads are not awful but they’re also not really super dynamic for a DVD cover. So, I took a peek at the competition.

I mean, Universal was putting out ads like this.


I licensed an original still to serve as the centerpiece of the cover and then set to work.

My first order of business was research, research, research. I studied 1917 movie ads until I was cross-eyed but I made some discoveries. First, ads of the time used some hand-color. Note the rosy cheeks on the ladies in these Metro ads.

Next, stripes. Goodness, these ads look like somebody skinned a barber pole!

And there’s some beautiful vintage text treatments.

I was particularly drawn to this ad for a Lois Weber film:

Now THAT’S what I call text art! That tomato red so beloved by advertiser of the time is present but so is a very becoming shade of plum. I approve! In fact, I approved so much that I decided to steal it.

In our next exciting episode, I’ll talk about how I combined my discoveries and influences, the process of coloring a black and white still (ooo, controversy!) as well as antiquing the design.

(All clippings courtesy of the Media History Digital Library.)


Like what you’re reading? Please consider sponsoring me on Patreon. All patrons will get early previews of upcoming features, exclusive polls and other goodies.

6 Replies to “Designing a Silent Film DVD Cover: Inspiration”

  1. Congrats on Kidnapped. I am looking forward to seeing it. Preparing an effective DVD cover can be quite a challenge ( My day job is graphic design, so I know the pitfalls), but you appear to be up for the challenge. You have found some great sources of inspiration to work from. Good luck and have a fun time working on it.

Comments open for 90 days. Comment policy is found in the sidebar menu.